Collaborative Research: Pb-210 and Po-210 as tracers of scavenging and export: GEOTRACES Pacific Meridional Transect Grant

Collaborative Research: Pb-210 and Po-210 as tracers of scavenging and export: GEOTRACES Pacific Meridional Transect .


  • The goal of the international GEOTRACES program is to understand the distributions of trace chemical elements and their isotopes in the oceans. These chemical species play important roles in the ocean as nutrients, tracers of current and past oceanographic processes, and as contaminants from human activity. Their biogeochemical cycling has direct implications for research in such diverse areas as the carbon cycle, climate change, and ocean ecosystems. This project will use measurement of two natural radionuclides -- lead-210 and polonium-210 -- to provide important information about the rates of processes that affect trace elements and isotopes (TEIs) that will be measured during a U.S. GEOTRACES expedition in the Pacific Ocean in 2018. The research proposed here will address key tasks formulated within the GEOTRACES Science Plan. Many processes in the ocean cannot be observed directly but tracers such as polonium-210 (half-life = 138 days) and lead-210 (half-life = 22.3 years) that have unique chemical properties and relevant decay timescales can be used to provide important constraints on their rates and pathways. The goals of this research are to: 1) use Pb-210, along with another project measuring Be-7, in aerosols and precipitation to characterize aerosol and TEI sources, 2) determine scavenging rates of particle-reactive TEIs through the water column using Po-210 and Pb-210, 3) use Po-210 / Pb-210 disequilibrium in the upper water column as a proxy for the sinking flux of particulate organic carbon (POC), and 4) use Pb-210as a tracer of the influence of hydrothermal processes on water column distributions of TEIs. This work will build on a database of Po/Pb distributions in the world ocean (and the Pacific Ocean, in particular) obtained through programs such as GEOSECS, GEOTRACES, and independent studies. A graduate student will be trained as part of this project. The lead investigator, Cochran, plans to incorporate information about GEOTRACES sampling strategies in the planning for a travelling exhibition on "The Oceans" through his adjunct appointment at the American Museum of Natural History (New York). Project partner Kadko plans to incorporate GEOTRACES work in an international graduate course through the Nippon Foundation, Partnership for Observation of the Global Oceans Center of Excellence.

date/time interval

  • September 15, 2017 - August 31, 2022

administered by

sponsor award ID

  • 1736612