Gas Hydrates Project Biogeochemistry Laboratory
The Gas Hydrates Biogeochemistry Laboratory includes all instrumentation used by the USGS Gas Hydrates Project on site at the Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center. This instrumentation is physically distributed among several laboratory spaces.
The Gas Hydrates Project analyzes solid, liquid, and gaseous samples to determine their chemical composition, stable carbon isotopic signatures, and radiocarbon age. Liquid samples include seawater containing dissolved compounds or gases and pore waters extracted from sediments near gas seeps or gas hydrate deposits. Gaseous samples are often extracted from void space in recovered sediment cores or from headspace above liquid samples. Solid phase analyses focus on sediment organic matter, authigenic carbonates and certain other minerals that can be indicators for methane dynamics in marine systems (e.g., pyrite, barite). Gas Hydrates Project biogeochemistry researchers have a strong focus on carbon cycling, greenhouse and hydrocarbon gases, and dissolved inorganic and organic carbon and particulate organic carbon in the marine environment.
Many of the Project’s analyses are conducted with standard laboratory equipment, such as a UIC coulometer, a Dionex ion chromatograph with autosampler, a single wavelength Thermo spectrophotometer, and SRI gas chromatograph (GC). When analyses cannot be completed at the USGS, the Gas Hydrates Project collaborates with researchers at other institutions, especially the National Oceanographic Sciences Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (NOSAMS) facility, Oregon State University, University of Alaska-Fairbanks, University of New Hampshire, California Institute of Technology, and the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.
Microbiological analyses complement geochemical measurements by providing insight on the presence and activity of microbes involved in methane production and oxidation. Therefore, USGS gas hydrates scientists also collaborate with other researchers on lipid biomarker, metagenomic, and microbial function analyses to identify the role of microbes in paleo- and contemporary methane systems, particularly in marine, lacustrine and estuarine settings.