Plenaries

Each morning, the science program starts with plenary lectures by eminent scientists. Confirmed speakers are listed below.

Eric Oelkers Eric Oelkers, EAG President
How can geochemistry save the world?

Monday 14th June, 08:45
The world faces numerous challenges going forward. The resources of many essential elements will be depeleted over the next 10 to 100 years. Many of the remaining deposits are located in environmentally senstive locations. The carbon concentration of the atmosphere has been increasing dramatically over the past few decades; this increase has been linked to global warming. The combination of limited petroleum resources and higher energy demand lead to an oil price spike in 2008. The twin concerns of global warming and increasing oil prices lead to an explosion of bio-fuel production using land that could otherwise have been used for food production. Land pressure and a large increase in the cost of phosphate resulted in a dramatic rise in food prices and increased starvation worldwide. As an alternative to expensive and environmentally damaging petroleum, nuclear energy has again become a popular option, reopening the question of nuclear waste storage. These global challenges form the greatest opportunity for geochemistry since its development as a distinct disipline. Our field holds the key to finding and exploiting our remaining resources in an environmentally secure manner, and managing pollution, water, carbon, etc. The key to playing our vital role in addessing these challenges lies in properly communicating to the public their severity and how we can help address them.


John Parise John Parise, Professor of Geosciences & Chemistry, Stony Brook University
Opportunities at Light Source and Neutron Facilities

Tuesday 15th June, 08:30
X-ray sources and pulsed neutron sources are getting brighter. In the case of x-ray sources peak brightness has risen increasing by several orders of magnitude in the last few years, spot sizes are approaching several nm and beam coherence is increasing. Although the gains in peak power in neutrons are modest by comparison, the coming on stream of SNS (and Japan and Europe sources eventually) in combination with Montel-like focusing optics will allow studies of smaller samples at more extreme and relevant environments at these sources as well. Together these developments in x-ray and neutron beam conditioning are opening up whole new areas of research in scattering, spectroscopy, and imaging studies of earth materials and processes that were not possible a decade ago.


Don DePaolo Don DePaolo, Director, Center for Isotope Geochemistry, UC Berkeley
Carbon sequestration geochemistry

Wednesday 16th June, 08:30
It is widely recognized that geologic sequestration of CO2, when combined with economical means of capture, may be critical to reducing net CO2 emissions to the atmosphere over the next century while maintaining energy supply for a rapidly developing world. But what does it have to do with geochemistry? Many expect that the trapping of CO2 in subsurface rock formations (mainly sandstones) will be accomplished primarily by physical means such as low permeability capping formations (shales) or pore scale trapping due to surface tension effects. Geochemistry is viewed as secondary, but actually is important to ensuring efficient and safe long-term storage.


Susan Brantley Susan Brantley, Professor of Geosciences, Penn State University
Bedrock to Soil: Where Rocks Meet Life in the Critical Zone

Thursday 17th June, 08:30
Why can’t we predict the rates of weathering or erosion of bedrock a priori? The rates of these processes affect such important phenomena as soil formation, nutrient release to ecosystems, C sequestration in soils, and toxin release or uptake into regolith. At present we cannot in general predict the depth or chemistry of regolith because we lack the observations and models that might allow such predictions. Furthermore, the processes that control weathering and erosion, even at the base of the Critical Zone (CZ), combine chemical, physical, and biological phenomena that are hard to decouple. In the United States and elsewhere around the world, natural observatories – Critical Zone Observatories -- have been established to investigate how water and gas interact with bedrock, regolith, sediments, and biota to define the Earth’s surface.


Jérôme Chappellaz Jérôme Chappellaz, Director of Research, CNRS, France
Gast Lecture: Greenhouse Gases and their Isotopes in Firn Air and Ice Cores

Friday 18th June, 08:30
For a better understanding of natural feedbacks between global climate and greenhouse gas biogeochemical cycles, it is important to document what happened in the past. Ice cores and polar firn air provide a means to reconstruct polar temperature as well as atmospheric composition. Over the last two decades, I contributed with my international colleagues to decipher past greenhouse gas concentration changes, focusing notably on atmospheric methane. Thanks to the success of European deep drilling operations in Greenland and in Antarctica (notably EPICA Dome C), and following the extraordinary adventure of Russian scientists at Vostok station, we have been able to reconstruct the evolution of CO2, CH4 and N2O mixing ratio changes back to 800,000 years before present.