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Overview

Photo montage of field locations and specimens.
L to R - Row 1: Field work at the Pilot Knob iron mine, Missouri. (Photo: C. Johnson, USGS); Zinc ore from the Sterling Hill mine, New Jersey. (Photo: C. Johnson, USGS); Ore from the Sterling Hill mine luminescing under ultraviolet light. (Photo: C. Johnson, USGS); Row 2: Sedimentary rocks of the Ivotuk Hills, Alaska. (Photo: C. Johnson, USGS); The Red Dog open pit mine in northwestern Alaska, a major zinc producer. (Photo: K. Kelley, USGS); Microscopic view of massive sulfide ore from the Greens Creek zinc-lead-silver-gold mine, Alaska. (Photo: C. Taylor, USGS); Microscopic view of skarn minerals associated with the Sterling Hill zinc deposit, New Jersey. (Photo: C. Johnson, USGS); Row 3: Heap leach operation at the Standard Hill gold mine near Mojave, California. (Photo: D. Grimes, USGS); Vanadium-rich rocks of the Gibellini prospect, Nevada. (Photo: C. Johnson, USGS); Preserved samples of ore-forming fluids within a quartz crystal; note vapor bubbles and daughter crystals. (Photo: G. Landis, USGS)

The core mandate of the Mineral Resources Program is to inform decision-makers on matters related to mineral resources on the Nation’s lands, including the consequences of mining and consequences natural weathering. To fulfill this mandate, genetic and geoenvironmental models must be developed for the various types of mineral deposits based on the best-available scientific understanding. This Project integrates several geochemical tools—stable isotope geochemistry, noble gas geochemistry, active gas geochemistry, single fluid inclusion chemistry, and fluid inclusion solute chemistry—in studies of the processes that form mineral deposits and the processes that destroy them during mining or natural weathering. Research is directed toward fundamental scientific questions or, in collaboration with other Mineral Resources Projects, toward case studies of individual deposits, deposit types, or districts. The ultimate objective is to improve the scientific basis for mineral deposit models, and thereby improve the accuracy of assessments of the Nation’s mineral wealth. The tools supported by this Project are applicable over a broad spectrum of Earth science research, so the Project also performs reimbursable work for other Programs consistent with the mandate of the USGS Science Strategy to leverage USGS skills in integrated studies that examine the Earth as a whole. This Project succeeds a similar Project that was summarized in U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1343.

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Stable Isotope Laboratory

Photo montage of mass spectrometers, mine portal, scientists in the field.
Clockwise from left: Isotope ratio mass spectrometers in the Stable Isotope Laboratory (Photo: C. Johnson, USGS); Filtering process water at the Lone Tree gold mine, Nevada (Photo: R. Rye, USGS); Portal at a historic cobalt mine in the Modum District, Norway (Photo: C. Johnson, USGS); Sample collection for a grizzly bear monitoring program (Photo: S. Farley, Alaska Department of Fish and Game).

Stable isotope geochemistry involves isotopic analysis of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, and sulfur. These elements are abundant in common minerals and rocks, and they are the building blocks of most geologic fluids (surface waters, magmatic waters, hydrocarbon fluids, and others) and most biological compounds. Geologic metal deposits are in most cases precipitates from hot fluids. Stable isotope measurements can help to determine the source of the fluids, the sources of dissolved constituents, physicochemical parameters of ore formation such as temperature, and the trigger for metal precipitation. Stable isotope analysis can also reveal the broader geologic environment of ore formation, an essential part of any mineral deposit model.

The Stable Isotope Laboratory is located on the Denver Federal Center within the Crustal Geophysics and Geochemistry Science Center. This facility is the descendant of a USGS laboratory that was established in the 1950s when the field of stable isotope geochemistry was in its infancy. Building on a long history, the laboratory covers a broad array of analytical capabilities and has a wealth of accumulated experience in isotope applications spanning Earth science research.

The Isotope and Chemical Methods Project is the main supporter of the Stable Isotope Laboratory and the main recipient of the Laboratory output. However, substantial support also comes via a partnership with the USGS Fort Collins Science Center that involves research on biological resources and water resources. A Fort Collins Science Center Research Biologist is embedded full-time in the Laboratory.

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Stable Isotope Laboratory — Capabilities

USGS Stable Isotope Laboratory
Equipment and staff of the Stable Isotope Laboratory located in the Crustal Geophysics and Geochemistry Science Center, Building 21, Denver Federal Center (Photo: C. Johnson, USGS)

The Laboratory includes five mass spectrometer systems, several vacuum extraction lines, and a Ni-vessel extraction line for fluorination analyses. The mass spectrometers are as follows:

  1. Finnigan MAT 252
  2. Micromass Optima with Multiprep Device and CE Instruments NC 2500 Elemental Analyzer
  3. Micromass Optima with HP 6890 Gas Chromatograph-Combustion System
  4. Thermo Finnigan Delta Plus XL with TCEA and Gas Bench II Devices
  5. Thermo Finnigan Delta Plus XP with Thermo Scientific Flash 2000 Elemental Analyzer and Gas Bench II Device

Analyses performed routinely are listed below. Numerous other types of analyses are performed less frequently.

Carbon-13/carbon-12:

  • carbonate minerals
  • organic carbon, oils, and graphite
  • compound specific carbon
  • dissolved organic carbon

Deuterium/hydrogen:

  • hydrous minerals
  • organic hydrogen
  • water, including fluid inclusion water

Nitrogen-15/nitrogen-14:

  • inorganic nitrogen salts
  • organic nitrogen

Oxygen-18/oxygen-16 and oxygen-17/oxygen-16:

  • carbonate minerals
  • silicate and oxide minerals
  • sulfate minerals
  • organic oxygen
  • water

Sulfur-34/sulfur-32:

  • sulfide and sulfate minerals
  • organic sulfur
  • dissolved sulfate

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Stable Isotope Laboratory — People

Craig A. Johnson, Research Geologist and Project Chief
Email: cjohnso@usgs.gov
Profile: http://profile.usgs.gov/cjohnso

Craig A. Stricker, Research Biologist (affiliated with USGS Fort Collins Science Center)
Email: cstricker@usgs.gov
Profile: http://www.fort.usgs.gov/staff-details/1073

Cayce A. Gulbransen, Geologist
Email: cgulbransen@usgs.gov
Profile: http://profile.usgs.gov/cgulbransen

Richard J. Moscati, Physical Science Technician
Email: rmoscati@usgs.gov

Matthew P. Emmons, Student Trainee
Email: memmons@usgs.gov

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Stable Isotope Laboratory — Selected Publications

Fundamental Processes of Ore Formation

A salt diapir-related Mississippi Valley-type deposit: the Bou Jaber Pb-Zn-Ba-F deposit, Tunisia: fluid inclusion and isotope study:
2016, Bouhlel, S., Leach, D.L., Johnson, C.A., Marsh, E., Salmi-Laouar, S., and Banks, D.A., Mineralium Deposita 51(6), 749-780.
doi:10.1007/s00126-015-0634-8

Depositional conditions for the Kuna Formation, Red Dog Zn-Pb-Ag-Barite District, Alaska, inferred from isotopic and chemical proxies:
2015, Johnson, C.A., Dumoulin, J.A., Burruss, R.A., and Slack, J.F., Economic Geology 110(5), 1143-1156.
doi:10.2113/econgeo.110.5.1143

Geochemistry and mineralogy of a silica chimney from an inactive seafloor hydrothermal field (East Pacific Rise, 18°S):
2015, Dekov, V.M., Lalonde, S.V., Kameov, G.D., Bayon, G., Shanks, W.C., III, Fortin, D., Fouquet, Y., and Moscati, R.J., Chemical Geology 415, 126-140.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chemgeo.2015.09.017

Wall-rock alteration, structural control, and stable isotope systematics of the high-grade copper orebodies of the Kennecott district, Alaska:
2014, Price J.B., Hitzman, M.W., Nelson, E.P., Humphrey, J.D., and Johnson, C.A., Economic Geology 109, 581–620. doi:10.2113/econgeo.109.3.581

 

Deposit type and associated commodities, chap. G–2:
2013, Slack, J.F., Johnson, C.A., and Causey, J.D., in Descriptive and geoenvironmental model for cobalt-copper-gold deposits in metasedimentary rocks, Slack, J.F., ed., U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2010–5070–G, p. 9–19.
doi:10.3133/sir20105070G

 

Geochemical characteristics, chap. G–11:
2013, Johnson, C.A., in Descriptive and geoenvironmental model for cobalt-copper-gold deposits in metasedimentary rocks, Slack, J.F., ed., U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2010–5070–G, p. 105–112.
doi:10.3133/sir20105070G

 

Carbonate margin, slope, and basin facies of the Lisburne Group (Carboniferous-Permian) in northern Alaska:
2013, Dumoulin, J.A., Johnson, C.A., Slack, J.F., Bird, K.J., Whalen, M.T., Moore, T.E., Harris, A.G., and O'Sullivan, P.B., SEPM (Society for Sedimentary Geology)
Special Publication No. 105, p. 211–236.

 

Phosphorite-hosted zinc and lead mineralization in the Sekarna deposit (central Tunisia):
2012, Garnit, H., Bouhlel, S., Barca, D., Johnson, C.A., and Chtara, C., Mineralium Deposita 47, 545–562.
doi:10.1007/s00126-011-0395-y

 

Genesis of the Touissit-Bou Beker Mississippi Valley-type district (Morocco-Algeria) and its relationship to the Africa-Europe collision:
2012, Bouabdellah, M., Sangster, D.F., Leach, D.L., Brown, A.C., Johnson, C.A., and Emsbo, P., Economic Geology 107, 117–146.
doi:10.2113/econgeo.107.1.117

 

Sulfur, carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen isotope geochemistry of the Idaho cobalt belt:
2012, Johnson, C.A., Bookstrom, A.A., and Slack, J.F., Economic Geology 107, 1207–1222.
doi:10.2113/econgeo.107.6.1207

 

The Spar Lake strata-bound copper-silver deposit formed across a mixing zone between trapped natural gas and metals-bearing brine:
2012, Hayes, T.S., Landis, G.P., Whelan, J.F., Rye, R.O., and Moscati, R.J., Economic Geology 107, 1223–1250.
doi:10.2113/econgeo.107.6.1081

 

Beyond black shales—The sedimentary and stable isotope records of oceanic anoxic events in a dominantly oxic basin (Silurian; Appalachian Basin, USA):
2012, McLaughlin P.I., Emsbo P., Brett C.E., Palaeogeography Palaeoclimatology Palaeoecology 367–368, 153–177.
doi:10.1016/j.palaeo.2012.10.002

 

Are modern geothermal waters in northwest Nevada forming epithermal gold deposits?
2011, Breit, G.N., Hunt, A.G., Wolf, R.E., Koenig, A.E., Fifarek, R.H., and Coolbaugh, M.F., in Steininger, R., and Pennell, W., eds., Great Basin Evolution and Metallogeny, Reno, Geological Society of Nevada, p. 833–844.
ISBN:978-1-60595-040-2
http://www.gsnv.org/publications/?catid=Proceedings

 

A new model for Co-Cu-Au deposits in metasedimentary rocks—An IOCG connection?: 2011, Slack, J.F., Johnson, C.A., Lund, K.I., Schulz, K.J., and Causey, J.D., in Proceedings of the 11th Biennial Meeting of the Society for Geology Applied to Mineral Deposits, Antofagasta, Chile, September 26–29, 2011, Barra, F., Reich, M., Campos, E., and Tornos, F., eds., Universidad Catolica del Norte, v. 11, p. 489–491.

 

Ages and sources of components of Zn-Pb, Cu, precious metal, and platinum group element deposits in the Goodsprings district, Clark County, Nevada:
2011, Vikre, P., Browne, Q.J., Fleck, R., Hofstra, A., and Wooden, J., Economic Geology 106, 381–412.
doi:10.2113/econgeo.106.3.381

 

Distal signatures of Late Ordovician oceanic anoxia—New data from a classic epeiric ramp transect:
2011, McLaughlin, P.I., Emerson, N., Witzke, B., Sell, B., and Emsbo, P., in Miller, J.D., Hudak, G.J., Wittkop, C., and McLaughlin, P.I., eds., Archean to Anthropocene: Field Guides to the Geology of the Mid-Continent of North America: Geological Society of America Field Guide 24, p. 259–284.
doi:10.1130/2011.0024(12)

 

Lithogeochemistry of the Devonian Popovich Formation in the northern Carlin Trend, Nevada:
2011, Hofstra, A. H., Christiansen, W.D., Zohar, P.B., and Tousignant, G., in Steininger, R. and Pennell, W., eds., Great Basin Evolution and Metallogeny, Reno, Geological Society of Nevada, p. 63–96.
ISBN:978-1-60595-040-2
http://www.gsnv.org/publications/?catid=Proceedings

 

Origin and evolution of fluids associated with the Cerro Quema Au-Cu deposit (Azuero Peninsula, Panama)—Evidence from microthermometry, O, H and S isotopes:
2011, Corral, Isaac, Cardellach, E., Corbella, M., Canals, A., and Johnson, C.A., in Barra, F., Reich, M., Campos, E., and Tornos, F., eds., Proceedings of the 11th Biennial Meeting of the Society for Geology Applied to Mineral Deposits, Antofagasta, Chile, September 26–29, 2011: Antofagasta, Chile, Universidad Catolica del Norte, v. 11, p. 449–452.
http://www.researchgate.net/publication/233777046_Origin_and_evolution_of_fluids_associated_with_the_Cerro_Quema_Au-Cu_deposit_%28Azuero_Peninsula_Panama%29_evidence_from_microthermometry_O_H_and_S_isotopes

 

Geochemical and stable isotopic data on barren and mineralized drill core in the Devonian Popovich Formation, Screamer sector of the Betze-Post gold deposit, northern Carlin Trend, Nevada:
2010, Christiansen, W. D., Hofstra, A. H., Zohar, P.B., and Tousignant, G., U.S. Geological Survey Open File Report 2010–1077, 11 p.
http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2010/1077/

 

Geology, geochemistry, and genesis of the Greens Creek massive sulfide deposit, Admiralty Island, southeastern Alaska:
2010, Taylor, C.D., and Johnson, C.A., eds., U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1763, 429 p.
http://pubs.usgs.gov/pp/1763/

 

Introduction and overview of the U.S. Geological Survey—Kennecott Greens Creek Mining Company cooperative applied research project at the Greens Creek mine:
2010, Taylor, C.D., and Johnson, C.A., U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1763, p. 3–7.
http://pubs.usgs.gov/pp/1763/

 

Geochemistry of hanging-wall metasedimentary rocks at the Greens Creek massive sulfide deposit, southeastern Alaska:
2010, Johnson, C.A., Taylor, C.D., and Leventhal, J.D., U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1763, p. 163–182.
http://pubs.usgs.gov/pp/1763/

 

Sulfur and lead isotope characteristics of the Greens Creek polymetallic massive sulfide deposit, Admiralty Island, southeastern Alaska:
2010, Taylor, C.D., Premo, W.R., and Johnson, C.A., U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1763, p. 241–282.
http://pubs.usgs.gov/pp/1763/

 

Geology and origin of epigenetic lode gold deposits, Tintina gold province, Alaska and Yukon:
2010, Goldfarb, R.J., Marsh, E.E., Hart, C.J.R., Mair, J.L., Miller, M.L., and Johnson, C.A., U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2007–5289–A, 18 p.
http://pubs.usgs.gov/sir/2007/5289/

 

In situ sulfur isotope analysis of sulfide minerals by SIMS—Precision and accuracy, with application to thermometry of ~3.5 Ga Pilbara cherts:
2010, Kozdon, Reinhard, Kita, N.T., Huberty, J.M., Fournelle, J.H., Johnson, C.A., and Valley, J.W., Chemical Geology 275, 243–253.
doi:10.1016/j.chemgeo.2010.05.015

 

Testing the limits of Paleozoic chronostratigraphic correlation via high-resolution (<500 k.y.) integrated conodont, graptolite, and carbon isotope (δ13Ccarb) biochemostratigraphy across the Llandovery–Wenlock (Silurian) boundary—Is a unified Phanerozoic time scale achievable?:
2010, Cramer, B.D., Loydell, D.K., Samtleben, C., Munnecke, A., Kaljo, D., Mannik. P., Martma, T., Jeppsson, L., Kleffner, M.A., Barrick, J.E., Johnson, C.A., Emsbo, P., Joachimski, M.M., Bickert, T., and Saltzman, M.R., Geological Society of America Bulletin 122, 1700–1716.
doi:10.1130/B26602.1

 

Hydrothermal zebra dolomite in the Great Basin, Nevada—Attributes and relation to Paleozoic stratigraphy, tectonics, and ore deposits:
2010, Diehl, S.F., Hofstra, A.H., Koenig, A.E., Christiansen, W., and Johnson, C., Geosphere 6, 663–690.
doi:10.1130/GES00530.1

 

Co-Cu-Au deposits in metasedimentary rocks—A preliminary report:
2010, Slack, J.F., Causey, J.D., Eppinger, R.G., Gray, J.E., Johnson, C.A., Lund, K.I., and Schulz, K.J., U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2010–1212, 13 p.
http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2010/1212/

 

Evolution of ore deposits and technology transfer project—Isotope and chemical methods in support of the U.S. Geological Survey Science Strategy, 2003–2008:
2010, Rye, R.O., Johnson, C.A., Landis, G.P., Hofstra, A.H., Emsbo, P., Stricker, C.A., Hunt, A.G., and Rusk, B.G., U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1343, 43 p.
http://pubs.usgs.gov/circ/1343/

 

Sulfur- and oxygen-isotopes in sediment-hosted stratiform barite deposits:
2009, Johnson, C.A., Emsbo, P., Poole, F.G., and Rye, R.O., Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 73, 133–147
doi:10.1016/j.gca.2008.10.011

Ore textures and isotope signatures of the peridiapiric carbonate-hosted Pb-Zn deposit of Bougrine, Tunisia:
2009, Bouhlel, S., Leach, D.L., Johnson, C.A., and Lehmann, B., in Smart Science for Exploration and Mining, Proceedings of the Tenth Biennial Meeting of the Society for Geology Applied to Mineral Deposits, Townsville, Australia 17-20 August 2009, Economic Geology Research Unit, James Cook University, p. 409–411.

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Environmental Consequences of Mining and Natural Weathering of Ore Deposits

The fate of cyanide in leach wastes at gold mines—An environmental perspective:
2015, Johnson, C.A., Applied Geochemistry, 57, p. 194-205.
doi:10.1016/j.apgeochem.2014.05.023

 

Weathering/supergene processes, chap. G–10:
2010, Johnson, C.A., and Gray, J.E., in Descriptive and geoenvironmental model for cobalt-copper-gold deposits in metasedimentary rocks, Slack, J.F., ed., U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2010–5070–G, p. 99–104.
doi:10.3133/sir20105070G

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Supporting USGS Strategic Science Beyond Mineral Resources

Reproductive allochrony in seasonally sympatric populations maintained by differential response to photoperiod: implications for population divergence and response to climate change:
2016, Fudickar, A.M., T.J. Greives, J.W. Atwell, C.A. Stricker, and E.D. Ketterso, The American Naturalist 187, 436-446.
doi:10.1086/685296

Wood decay in desert riverine environments:
2016, Anderson, D.C., C.A. Stricker, and S. Mark Nelson, Forest Ecology and Management 365: 83-95.
doi:10.1016/j.foreco.2016.01.023

Comparing efficacies of experimental, theoretical and in-situ stable carbon isotope turnover rates to determine timing of Dunlin (Calidris alpina arcticola) migration:
2015, Doll, A. R. Lanctot, C.A. Stricker, and M.B. Wunder, The Auk 132: 408-421.
doi:10.1642/AUK-14-227.1

Individual specialization in the foraging habits of female bottlenose dolphins living in a trophically diverse and habitat rich estuary:
2015, Rossman, S., P.H. Ostrom, M. Stolen , N.B. Barros, H. Gandhi, C.A. Stricker, and R.S. Wells, Oecologia 178: 415-425.
doi:10.1007/s00442-015-3241-6

Isotopic insights into biological regulation of zinc in contaminated systems:
2015, Wanty, R.B., L.S. Balistieri, J.S. Wesner, D.M. Walters, T.S. Schmidt, F. Podda, G. De Giudici, C.A. Stricker, J. Kraus, P. Lattanzi, R.E. Wolf, and R. Cidu, Procedia Earth and Planetary Science 13: 60-63.
doi:10.1016/j.proeps.2015.07.014

Hydrogeochemistry of prairie pothole region wetlands: Role of long-term critical zone processes:
2014, Goldhaber, M., C. Mills, C. Stricker, J. Morrison, D. Mushet, and J. LaBaugh, Chemical Geology 387: 170-183.
doi:10.1016/j.chemgeo.2014.08.023

Metamorphosis in insects alters risk of wildlife contaminant exposure and food web tracers:
2014, Kraus, J.M., D.M. Walters, J.S. Wesner, C.A. Stricker, T.S. Schmidt, and R.E. Zuellig, Environmental Science and Technology 48, 10957-10965.
doi:10.1021/es502970b

Mercury cycling in agricultural and managed wetlands, Yolo Bypass, California: spatial and seasonal variations in water quality:
2014, Alpers, C.N., Fleck, J.A., Marvin-DiPasquale, M., Stricker, C.M., Stephenson, M, and Taylor, H.E., Science of the Total Environment 484, 276–287.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2013.10.096

Mercury in gray wolves (Canis lupus) in Alaska: Increased exposure through consumption of marine prey:
2014, McGrew, A.K., L.R. Ballweber, S.K. Moses, C.A. Stricker, K.B. Beckmen, M.D. Salman, and T.M. O’Hara, Science of the Total Environment 468–469, 609–613.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2013.08.045

Holocene dynamics of the Florida Everglades with respect to climate, dustfall, and tropical storms:
2013, Glaser, P.H., B.C.S. Hansen, J.J. Donovan, T.J. Givnish, C.A. Stricker, and J.C. Volin, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 110(43), 17211–17216.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1222239110

Seasonal persistence of marine-derived nutrients in south-central Alaskan salmon streams:
2013, Rinella, D.J., M.S. Wipfli, C.M. Walker, C.A. Stricker, and R.A. Heintz, Ecosphere 4(10), 18 p.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1890/ES13-00112.1

Evidence of cryptic individual specialization in an opportunistic insectivorous bat:
2012, Cryan, P.M., C.A. Stricker, and M.B. Wunder, Journal of Mammalogy 93(2), 381–389.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1644/11-MAMM-S-162.1

A 50-year record of NOx and SO2 sources in precipitation in the northern Rocky Mountains, USA:
2011, Naftz, D.L., Schuster, P.F., and Johnson, C.A., Geochemical Transactions 12:4.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/1467-4866-12-4

The role of critical zone processes in the evolution of the Prairie Pothole Region wetlands:
2011, Goldhaber, M.B., C. Mills, C.A. Stricker, and J.M. Morrison, Applied Geochemistry 26(S), S32–S35.
.http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.apgeochem.2011.03.022

The rise and fall of Lake Bonneville between 45 and 10.5 ka:
2011, Benson, L.V., Lund, S.P., Smoot, J.P., Rhode, D.E., Spencer, R.J., Verosub, K.L., Louderback. L.A., Johnson, C.A., Rye, R.O., and Negrini, R.M., Quaternary International 235, 57–69.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.quaint.2010.12.014

Effects of climate change on nutrition and genetics of White-tailed Ptarmigan:
2011, Oyler-McCance, S.J., C.A. Stricker, J. St. John, C.E. Braun, G.T. Wann, M.S. O'Donnell, and C.L. Aldridge, in Ecology, conservation, and management of grouse: Studies in Avian Biology, Berkeley, CA, University of California Press, p. 283–294.
http://www.ucpress.edu/book.php?isbn=9780520270060

The δ15N and δ18O values of N2O produced during the co-oxidation of ammonia by methanotrophic bacteria:
2009, Mandernack, K.W., Mills, C.T., Johnson, C.A., Rahn, T., and Kinney, C., Chemical Geology 267, 96–107.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chemgeo.2009.06.008.

For more studies related to the partnership with the Fort Collins Science Center, see https://www.fort.usgs.gov/staff-details/1073.

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Noble Gas Laboratory

USGS Noble Gas laboratory spectrometer
MAP 215–50 mass spectrometer in the Noble Gas Laboratory (Photo: G. Landis, USGS)

Helium, neon, argon, krypton, xenon, and radon are inert "gases" that have multiple isotopes. The relative abundances of the isotopes can reveal whether rock or water constituents came from the mantle, the deep crust, the shallow crust, or the atmosphere. In studies of mineral deposits, noble gas analyses are complementary to other types of chemical or isotopic analyses because they reveal how ore-forming systems fit into larger frameworks of crustal evolution and magma generation.

Active gases contained in hydrothermal minerals also give insights on ore formation. Active gases that are routinely measured include N2, CO2, CH2, H2, H2S, SO2, HCl, HF, H2O, and the light hydrocarbons. The data can reveal volatile evolution in hydrothermal systems, magma degassing histories, and fluid-rock chemical buffering.

The Isotope and Chemical Methods Project provides only partial support for the Noble Gas Laboratory and receives only a portion of the Laboratory output. Projects related to water resources are the major supporter of the Laboratory, mostly for the purpose of groundwater dating by the tritium-helium-3 method.

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Noble Gas Laboratory — Analytical Capabilities

The Noble Gas Laboratory houses two magnetic sector mass spectrometers, both high resolution MAP 215–50 models, with custom-designed ultra-high vacuum inlet systems. One of the inlet systems is equipped for crushing or thermally decomposing minerals under vacuum for release of trapped gases. Both inlet systems incorporate quadrupole mass spectrometers for chemical analysis of the same gases analyzed for isotopes. Combined analysis of noble gas isotopes and active gas concentrations is a capability that is exclusive to this Laboratory, and it can provide unique insights on ore-forming processes.

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Noble Gas Laboratory — People

Andrew G. Hunt, Research Geologist
Email: ahunt@usgs.gov

Albert H. Hofstra, Research Geologist
email: ahofstra@usgs.gov

Kiara Lech, Chemist
email: klech@usgs.gov

Andrew H. Manning, Research Geologist
email: amanning@usgs.gov

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Noble Gas Laboratory — Selected Publications

Selected Studies of Fundamental Process of Ore Formation:

Dissolved gases in hydrothermal (phreatic) and geyser eruptions at Yellowstone National Park, USA:
2016, Hurwitz, S., Clor, L., McCleskey, R.B., Nordstrom, D.K., Hunt, A.G., and Evans, W.C., Geology 44, 235-238.
doi:10.1130/G37478.1

U.S. Geological Survey Noble Gas Laboratory’s standard operating procedures for the measurement of dissolved gas in water samples:
2016, Hunt, A.G., U.S. Geological Survey Techniques and Methods, book 5, chp. A11, 22 p.
http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/tm5A11

Origins of geothermal gases at Yellowstone:
2015, Lowenstern, J.B., Bergfeld, D., Evans, W.C., and Hunt, A.G., Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research 302, 87-101.
doi:10.1016/j.jvolgeores.2015.06.010

Magmatic gas emissions at Holocene volcanic features near Mono Lake, California, and their relation to regional magmatism:
2015, Bergfeld, D., Evans, W.C., Howle, J.F., and Hunt, A.G., Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research 292, 70-83.
doi:10.1016/j.jvolgeores.2015.01.008

Quality and age of shallow groundwater in the Bakken Formation production area, Williston Basin, Montana and North Dakota:
2015, McMahon, P.B., Caldwell, R.R., Galloway, J.M., Valder, J.F., and Hunt, A.G., Groundwater 53(S1), 81-94.
doi:10.1111/gwat.12296

Noble gas geochemistry investigation of high CO2 natural gas at the LaBarge Platform, Wyoming, USA:
2014, Merrill, M.D., Hunt, A.G., and Lohr, C.D., Energy Procedia 63, 4186-4190.
doi:10.1016/j.egypro.2014.11.451

Noble gas isotopes in mineral springs within the Cascadia Forearc, Washington and Oregon:
2014, McCrory, P.A., Constantz, J.E., and Hunt, A.G., USGS Open-File Report: 2014–1064.
doi:10.3133/ofr20141064

Prodigious degassing of a billion years of accumulated radiogenic helium at Yellowstone:
2014, Lowenstern, J.B., Evans, W.C., Bergfeld D., and Hunt. A.G., Nature 506, 355–358
doi:10.1038/nature12992

Evidence for high salinity of Early Cretaceous sea water from the Chesapeake Bay crater:
2013, Sanford, W.E. Doughten M.W., Coplen T.B., Hunt A.G., and Bullen T.D., Nature 503, 252–526
doi:10.1038/nature12714

Ore genesis constraints on the Idaho cobalt belt from fluid inclusion gas, noble gas isotope, and ion ratio analyses—A Reply:
2013, Hofstra, A.H., and Landis, G.P., Economic Geology 108(5), 1213-1214
http://dx.doi.org/10.2113/econgeo.108.5.1213

Using noble gas signatures to fingerprint gas streams derived from dissociating methane hydrate:
2013, Hunt, A.G., Ruppel, C., Stern, L., and Pohlman, J., Fine in the Ice 13(2), 23-26.
View Newsletter [PDF file, 10.1 MB]

The Spar Lake strata-bound copper-silver deposit formed across a mixing zone between trapped natural gas and metals-bearing brine:
2012, Hayes, T.S., Landis, G.P., Whelan, J.F., Rye, R.O., and Moscati, R.J., Economic Geology 107, 1223–1250.
doi:10.2113/econgeo.107.6.1081

Ore genesis constraints on the Idaho cobalt belt from fluid inclusion gas, noble gas isotope, and ion ratio analyses:
2012, Landis, G.P., and Hofstra, A.H., Economic Geology 107, 1189–1206.
doi:10.2113/econgeo.107.6.1189

Identifying magmatic versus amagmatic sources for modern geothermal systems associated with epithermal mineralization using noble gas geochemistry:
2010, Hunt, A.G., Breit, G., Bergfeld, D., Rytuba, J.J., Landis, G.P., and Wolf R., in Steininger, R., Pennell, B., eds, Great Basin evolution and metallogeny, vol. II, Proceedings of a Symposium of the Geological Society of Nevada, May 14–22, 2010, p. 899–908.
ISBN: 978-1-60595-040-2
http://www.gsnv.org/publications/?catid=Proceedings

Genetic implications of mineralization and alteration ages at the Florida Canyon epithermal Au-Ag deposit, Nevada:
2010, Fifarek, R.H., Samal, A.R., and Miggins, D.P., in Steininger, R., Pennell, B., eds., Great Basin evolution and metallogeny, Proceedings of a Symposium of the Geological Society of Nevada, May 14–22, 2010, p. 861–880.
ISBN: 978-1-60595-040-2
http://www.gsnv.org/publications/?catid=Proceedings

Are modern geothermal waters in northwest Nevada forming epithermal gold deposits?
2011, Breit, G.N., Hunt, A.G., Wolf, R.E., Koenig, A.E., Fifarek, R.H., and Coolbaugh, M.F., in Steininger, R. and Pennell B., eds., Great Basin Evolution and Metallogeny, Reno, Geological Society of Nevada, p. 833–844.
ISBN: 978-1-60595-040-2
http://www.gsnv.org/publications/?catid=Proceedings

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Single Fluid Inclusion & Melt Inclusion Laboratory

USGS laser ablation inductively-coupled plasma mass spectrometer
Laser ablation inductively-coupled plasma mass spectrometer system in the Single Fluid Inclusion and Melt Inclusion Laboratory. (Photo: A. Hofstra, USGS)

Inclusions trapped in hydrothermal minerals can contain remnants of the waters from which the minerals precipitated. Chemical and isotopic analysis of these miniscule inclusions provides a wealth of information on ancient hydrothermal systems and their role in the formation of mineral deposits. A variety of important parameters can be determined, including the mass of fluid required to produce the deposit, the chemical species that carried the metals, and the trigger that led to metal precipitation. The Single Fluid Inclusion Laboratory houses instruments that measure the chemistry of individual fluid inclusions using laser sampling techniques. The same techniques are also applied to glass inclusions, remnants of the magmas that formed igneous-related mineral deposits.

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Single Fluid Inclusion & Melt Inclusion Laboratory — Analytical Capabilities

The Laboratory includes a microscope-mounted excimer laser ablation system coupled to a ThermoScientific XSeries2 inductively-coupled plasma mass spectrometer for analysis of solids and fluid solutes, an ultraviolet laser ablation system coupled to a Jordan TOF Products ion trap-time of flight mass spectrometer system for analysis of fluid inclusion gas species, and a laser Raman spectroscope. Microthermometry is carried out using a Linkham heating/freezing stage for fluid inclusions and a high temperature stage for melt inclusions. More information can be found at the website for the Denver Inclusion Analysis Laboratory (http://minerals.cr.usgs.gov/dial/).

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Single Fluid Inclusion & Melt Inclusion Laboratory — People

Albert H. Hofstra, Research Geologist
Email: ahofstra@usgs.gov

Erin E. Marsh, Research Geologist
Email: emarsh@usgs.gov

Celestine N. Mercer, Research Geologist
Email: cmercer@usgs.gov
Profile: http://profile.usgs.gov/cmercer

Alan E. Koenig, Research Geologist
Email: akoenig@usgs.gov

Corey J. Meighan, Student Trainee
Email: cmeighan@usgs.gov

Matthew P. Emmons, Student Trainee
Email: memmons@usgs.gov

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Single Fluid Inclusion & Melt Inclusion Laboratory — Selected Publications

Selected Studies of Fundamental Processes of Ore Formation:

Pre-eruptive conditions of the Hideaway Park topaz rhyolite: Insights into metal source and evolution of magma parental to the Henderson porphyry Molybdenum deposit, Colorado:
2015, Mercer, C.N., Hofstra, A.H., Todorov, T.I., Roberge, J., Burgisser, A., Adams, D.T., and Cosca, M., Journal of Petrology 56(4), 645-679.
doi:10.1093/petrology/egv010

Silicate melt inclusion evidence for extreme pre-eruptive enrichment and post-eruptive depletion of lithium in silicic volcanic rocks of the western United States: implications for the origin of lithium-rich brines:
2013, Hofstra A.H., Todorov T.I., Mercer C.N., Adams D.T., and Marsh E.E., Economic Geology 108, 1691–1701.
doi:10.2113/econgeo.108.7.1691

Fluid inclusion evidence for a genetic link between simple antimony veins and giant silver veins in the Coeur d'Alene mining district, ID and MT, USA:
2013, Hofstra A.H., Marsh E.E., Todorov T.I., and Emsbo P., Geofluids 13, 479–493.
doi:10.1111/gfl.12036

In situ quantification of Br and Cl in minerals and fluid inclusions by LA-ICP-MS—A powerful tool to identify fluid sources:
2013, Hammerli J., Rusk B., Spandler C., Emsbo P., and Oliver N.H.S., Chemical Geology 337–338, 75–87.
doi:10.1016/j.chemgeo.2012.12.002

Occurrence model for volcanogenic beryllium deposits:
2012, Foley, N.K., Hofstra, A. H., Lindsey, D. A., Seal, R.R., II, Jaskula, B., and Piatak, N. M., in Mineral deposit models for resource assessment: Scientific Investigations Report 2010–5070–F, 52 p.
http://pubs.usgs.gov/sir/2010/5070/f/

Ages and sources of components of Zn-Pb, Cu, precious metal, and platinum group element deposits in the Goodsprings district, Clark County, Nevada:
2011, Vikre, P., Browne, Q.J., Fleck, R., Hofstra, A., and Wooden, J., Economic Geology 106, 381–412.
doi:10.2113/econgeo.106.3.381

Are modern geothermal waters in northwest Nevada forming epithermal gold deposits?
2011, Breit G.N., Hunt A.G., Wolf R.E., Koenig A.E., Fifarek R.H., and Coolbaugh M.F., in Steininger, R. and Pennell B., eds., Great Basin Evolution and Metallogeny, Reno, Geological Society of Nevada, p. 833–844.
ISBN: 978-1-60595-040-2
http://www.gsnv.org/publications/?catid=Proceedings

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Fluid Inclusion Solute Laboratory

USGS ion chromatograph
Ion chromatograph systems in the Fluid Inclusion Solute Laboratory (Photo: P. Emsbo, USGS)

Certain cations and anions in fluid inclusions within hydrothermal minerals can be diagnostic of the source and history of the mineral-forming fluid. Particularly insightful are the abundances of the alkali metals lithium, sodium, and potassium, and the halides fluoride, chloride, bromide, and iodide. Analyses of these ions can reveal periods of evaporation, water-rock reactions within aquifers, and mixing of multiple fluids, all important inputs for mineral deposit models.

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Fluid Inclusion Solute Laboratory — Analytical Capabilities

The Fluid Inclusion Solute Laboratory houses a unique ion chromatograph system that was developed by USGS scientists over a number of years. Mineral fragments are crushed and the liberated waters are flushed to the ion chromatograph using ultrapure deionized water. Anions and cations typically measured include: CO3-2, PO4-3, HS-, SO3-2, SO4-2, S2O3-2, SeO3-2, SeO4-2, C1-C4 organic acids, Li+, Na+, NH4+, K+, Rb+, Cs+, Fe+2, Mg+2, Ca+2, Sr+2, and Ba+2.

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Fluid Inclusion Solute Laboratory — People

Poul Emsbo, Research Geologist
Email: pemsbo@usgs.gov

Peter M. Theodorakos, Physical Science Technician
Email: ptheodor@usgs.gov

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Fluid Inclusion Solute Laboratory — Selected Publications

Selected Studies of Fundamental Processes of Ore Formation:

Constraints from fluid inclusion compositions on the origin of Mississippi Valley-Type mineralization in the Illinois-Kentucky District:
2015, Pelch, M.A., Appold, M.S., Emsbo, P., and Bodnar, R.J., Economic Geology 110(3), 787-808.
doi:10.2113/econgeo.110.3.787

A comparison of fluid origins and compositions in iron oxide-copper-gold and porphyry-Cu (Mo-Au) deposits
2015, Rusk, B., Emsbo, P., Xavier, R.P., Corriveau, L., Oliver, N., and Zhang, D., PACRIM 2015 Conference Proceedings, 271-280.

Trace element distribution in uraninite from Mesoarchaean Witwatersrand conglomerates (South Africa) supports placer model and magmatogenic source:
2013, Depiné, M., Frimmel, H.E., Emsbo, P., Koenig, A.E., Kern, M., Mineralium Deposita 48(4), 423-435.
doi:10.1007/s00126-013-0458-3

Fluid inclusion evidence for a genetic link between simple antimony veins and giant silver veins in the Coeur d'Alene mining district, ID and MT, USA:
2013, Hofstra A.H., Marsh E.E., Todorov T.I., and Emsbo P., Geofluids 13, 479–493.
doi:10.1111/gfl.12036

In situ quantification of Br and Cl in minerals and fluid inclusions by LA-ICP-MS—A powerful tool to identify fluid sources:
2013, Hammerli J., Rusk B., Spandler C., Emsbo P., and Oliver N.H.S., Chemical Geology 337–338, 75–87.
doi:10.1016/j.chemgeo.2012.12.002

Ore genesis constraints on the Idaho cobalt belt from fluid inclusion gas, noble gas isotope, and ion ratio analyses:
2012, Landis, G.P., and Hofstra, A.H., Economic Geology 107, 1189–1206.
doi:10.2113/econgeo.107.6.1189

Beyond black shales—The sedimentary and stable isotope records of oceanic anoxic events in a dominantly oxic basin (Silurian; Appalachian Basin, USA):
2012, McLaughlin P. I., Emsbo P., and Brett C.E., Palaeogeography Palaeoclimatology Palaeoecology 367–368, 153–177.
doi:10.1016/j.palaeo.2012.10.002

Distal signatures of Late Ordovician oceanic anoxia—New data from a classic epeiric ramp transect:
2011, McLaughlin, P.I., Emerson, N., Witzke, B., Sell, B., and Emsbo, P., in Miller, J.D., Hudak, G.J., Wittkop, C., and McLaughlin, P.I., eds., Archean to Anthropocene: Field Guides to the Geology of the Mid-Continent of North America: Geological Society of America Field Guide 24, p. 259–284.
ISBN:9780813700243
http://www.gsnv.org/publications/?catid=Proceedings

Composition and source of salinity of ore-bearing fluids in Cu-Au systems of the Carajás mineral province, Brazil:
2009, Xavier, R., Rusk, B., Emsbo P., and Monteiro, L., in Williams, P.J. and others, eds., Smart Science for Exploration and Mining, Proceedings of the 10th biennial SGA meeting, Townsville, Australia, August 17–20, 2009, Economic Geology Research Unit, James Cook University, Townsville, p. 272–274.

Geologic criteria for the assessment of sedimentary exhalative (sedex) Zn-Pb-Ag deposits:
2009, Emsbo, P., U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2009–1209, 21 p.
http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2009/1209/

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Project Contact

Craig Johnson
Phone: 303-236-7935
Email: cjohnso@usgs.gov
Profile: http://profile.usgs.gov/cjohnso

Related USGS Minerals Projects

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