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G. Unger Vetlesen Foundation funds purchase of state-of-the-art equipment for UM's Rosenstiel School
Date:4/23/2009

VIRGINIA KEY, Fla. -- The University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science has received a generous gift from the G. Unger Vetlesen Foundation to help bolster research initiatives across its scientific divisions, and to provide support for the School's continued academic success. The $950K gift will be divided into two parts; $750K will be used to purchase a highly sensitive Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometer (ICP-MS) capable of determining the elemental composition of rocks, marine sediments, and ocean water samples, and the remaining $200K will support the School's interdisciplinary research projects in climate science and the development of long term environmental data sets.

Paleoclimate research, a study of the earth's earlier climates, plays a key role in understanding today's global climate change. However, one limitation for scientists in answering socially and environmentally relevant questions has been the size of geologic, biologic and chemical samples required to analyze trace elements and isotopes that unlock the historic climate records contained within. The new ICP-MS will help Rosenstiel School scientists address this challenge by allowing them to study samples that might previously have been deemed too small or in too low in concentration for the target elements.

"We are very grateful to the Vetlesen Foundation for this generous donation to the Rosenstiel School," said Dr. Otis Brown, dean of the Rosenstiel School. "As a leader in the integrated study of the Earth System, the acquisition of the new ICP-MS will allow our scientists to dramatically expand the scope of the investigations they are currently conducting."

Two recent faculty hires at the Rosenstiel School, Drs. Ali Pourmand and Jingfeng Wu, will be using the new equipment and creating expanded analytical capabilities on campus. Additionally, the ICP-MS will augment the technology in place at the Rosenstiel School's internationally recognized Stable Isotope Laboratory. Currently under the direction of Dr. Peter K. Swart, professor and chair of the School's Marine Geology and Geophysics division, the group studies isotopes and trace elements on a global scale, including extensive research in the Florida Everglades and Florida Bay, the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic, Saudi Arabia, Africa and Europe.

Because of the Rosenstiel School's interdisciplinary curriculum, the ICP-MS will be applicable to a number of the School's projects. Among the scientific issues faculty members and students will be able to assess: geochemical climate "proxy indicators" from its archives (e.g., corals, mollusks, sclerosponges, and cave mineral deposits); life history of extinct animals via geochemical analyses of fish otoliths; changes in sedimentary rocks, such as carbonates and sandstones; construction and composition of centuries-old stromatolites some of Earth's oldest living fossils; concentrations of iron and other trace elements in seawater; and how organisms utilize these elements.

The Rosenstiel School is working with the National Climatic Data Center on developing Climate Data Records (CDRs). CDRs are long term, validated information that facilitates understanding of variations in the Earth's environment.


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Contact: Barbra Gonzalez, UM Rosenstiel School
barbgo@rsmas.miami.edu
305-421-4704
University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science
Source:Eurekalert

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