The goal of GEOTRACES is to identify processes and quantify fluxes that control the distribution of trace elements and isotopes (TEIs) in the ocean, and to establish the sensitivity of these distributions to changing environmental conditions. While the distribution of numerous TEIs will be mapped by a large team of GEOTRACES PIs along this transect, their distribution cannot be properly interpreted without concurrent measurement of tracers capable of providing rates of internal TEI cycling processes and fluxes at boundaries and across interfaces. Naturally-occurring radioisotopes of the Uranium-Thorium series are well suited for studying the sources and sinks of TEIs on time and space scales necessary to interpret lateral and vertical TEI distributions.
In this project, a research team from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the University of South Carolina at Columbia will carry out measurement of a suite of uranium/thorium series radionuclides on the US GEOTRACES cruise to the Eastern Tropical South Pacific (ETSP) Ocean. This radiotracer suite will include shorter-lived 234Th and 228Th as well as the radium quartet (224Ra, 223Ra, 228Ra, 226Ra), which together allow the quantification of rates of horizontal and vertical transport and mixing, as well as removal at ocean boundaries, surface export, and subsurface remineralization.
Broader Impacts: The PIs have actively involved undergraduate and high school students in their prior NSF-funded projects, with two having won awards at ASLO meetings in recent years. The trend will continue with this effort, along with the inclusion of an international guest student who will work on analytical improvements for measuring particulate 228Th. In addition, two WHOI-MIT Joint Program students will be involved using this project as a major part of their PhD theses on Th and Ra isotopes. Contributions to the data management side of the results from these 6 isotopes is eagerly awaited by the modeling community, where there is a lack of multiple thorium isotope data sets on these basin scales for parameterization of the cycling of all particle reactive and biologically active TEIs.