Crustal Geophysics and Geochemistry Science Center

Integrated Methods Development Project

Geochemical Methods - Characterization and Extraction of Solid-Phase Metals

Subtask Objectives

This subtask will seek to improve three important topics in that will improve relevance and reliability of geochemical data. The topics considered include: 1) improved methods to simulate biological extraction of trace metals from geologic substrates, 2) calibration and validation of microanalysis by electron probe microanalysis (EPMA), and 3) evaluation of processes of sulfide mineral formulation in riparian areas.

The subtask objective is to develop protocols for selecting and evaluating results from electron probe microanalysis. This effort will refine operating conditions and establish detection limits for trace elements and explore varying operating conditions to conduct surface and whole-volume analyses. Refined operating conditions would optimize instrument utilization and maximize return of appropriate information for intended use by scientists.

Planned Work

Research focus will continue to elucidate exposure pathways and material parameters as they relate to human and ecosystem health. This research investigates the interface between minerals and human and ecosystem health by examining both bioaccessibility and biodurability of geogenic or naturally occurring earth materials using simulated biofluids. Geogenic sources of earth materials have received little attention with respect to their potential to adversely affect human health. We anticipate finalization of Fluoride method development.

Characterization of suitable microanalytical reference materials will continue. Sample preparation and handling procedures will continue to be developed to allow for consecutive scanning electron microscope (SEM), EPMA, and electron backscatter diffraction (EBSD) analysis of embedded grains in epoxy. Additionally, continued testing of air sampling devices and sample preparation for chemical and morphological characterization of dust and fire ash will continue.


Abstracts and Presentations

  • Adams, D.T., Koenig, A.E., and Lowers, H.A., 2010, Apatite revisited: The role of anisotropy in apatite analysis: Microscopy and Microanalysis, 16, (Suppl. 2), pp. 1212-1213. doi: 10.1017/S1431927610054784.
  • Breit, G.N., Tuttle, M.L.W., and Cozzarelli, I., 2007, Using δ34S and δ18O of sulfate to resolve multiple processes affecting sulfur in alluvium beneath a riparian area, Oklahoma: Geological Society of America Abstracts with Program, v. 39, no. 6, p. 481. View Breit GSA abstract.
  • Lowers, H.A., 2009, A multifaceted approach to particle analysis: Microscopy and Microanalysis, 15, (Suppl. 2), pp. 510-511. doi: 10.1017/S1431927609099188.
  • Lowers, H.A., Aleinikoff, J.N., and Mazdab, F.C., 2008, Combined EPMA and SHRIMP analyses of xenotime to interpret the geochronological record: Microscopy and Microanalysis, 14 (Suppl. 2), pp. 1278-1279. doi: 10.1017/S1431927608081580.
  • Morman, S.A., and Plumlee, G.S., 2010, In vitro physiologically based extraction tests of volcanic ash from diverse volcanoes: Cities on Volcanoes 6 – Tenerife, Spain 2010.
  • Rusk, B., Lowers, H., Koenig, A., and Blake, K., 2008, Relationships between quartz chatodoluminescence and trace element distribution in hydrothermal quartz: insights into hydrothermal processes: 33rd International Geological Congress, Oslo.


  • Breit, G.N., Tuttle, M.L.W., Cozzarelli, I.M., Berry, C.J., Christenson, S.C., and Jaeschke, J.B., 2008, Results of the chemical and isotopic analyses of sediment and ground water from alluvium of the Canadian river near a closed municipal landfill, Norman, Oklahoma, Part 2: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2008-1134, 35 p.
  • Donovan, J.J., Lowers, H.A., and Rusk, B.G., 2011, Improved electron probe microanalysis of trace elements in quartz: American Mineralogist, 96 (2-3), pp. 274-282. doi: 10.2138/am.2011.3631.
  • Gray, J.E., Plumlee, G.S., Morman, S.A., Higueras, P.L., Crock, J.G., Lowers, H.A., Witten, M.L., 2010, In vitro studies evaluating leaching of mercury from mine waste calcine using simulated human body fluids: Environmental Science and Technology, 44 (12), pp. 4782-4788.
  • Lowers, H.A., and Bern, A.M, 2009, Particle size characterization of water-elutriated Libby amphibole 2000 and RTI international amosite: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2009-1242, 3 p,
  • Rusk, B.G., Lowers, H.A., and Reed, M.H.,2008, Trace elements in hydrothermal quartz: relationships to cathodoluminescent textures and insights into vein formation: Geology, 36 (7), pp. 547-550.

Contact Information

Heather Lowers
Box 25046 MS 973 Denver Federal Center
Denver, CO 80225-0046
Phone: 303-236-1184
Email: Heather Lowers

Suzette Morman
Box 25046 MS 964 Denver Federal Center
Denver, CO 80225-0046
Phone: 303-236-1205
Email: Suzette Morman

Geoffrey Plumlee
Box 25046 MS 964 Denver Federal Center
Denver, CO 80225-0046
Phone: 303-236-1204
Email: Geoffrey Plumlee

The use of firm, trade, and brand names is for identification purposes only and does not constitute endorsement by the U.S. government.

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