Studies in the Terrestrial Biosphere, the Atmosphere, and Ice Cores

Starting with the work of Ben Houlton, we have collaborated with the group of Lars Hedin in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology in isotope studies of terrestrial N cycling. We have also worked on the nitrate N and O isotopes in rain, snow, and ice as tracers of reactive nitrogen sources and processing in the modern and ancient atmosphere.

References

220 Publications
The southward migration of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current enhanced oceanic degassing of carbon dioxide during the last two deglaciations
Previous studies suggest that meridional migrations of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current may have altered wind-driven upwelling and carbon dioxide degassing in the Southern Ocean during past climate transitions. Here, we report a quantitative and continuous record of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current latitude over the last glacial-interglacial…
Analytical improvements and assessment of long-term performance of the oxidation–denitrifier method
The analysis of the nitrogen (N) isotopic composition of organic matter bound to fossil biomineral structures (BB-δ15N) using the oxidation–denitrifier (O–D) method provides a novel tool to study past changes in N cycling processes. Methods: We report a set of methodological improvements to the O–D method, including (a) a method for sealing the…
Enameloid-bound δ15N reveals large trophic separation among Late Cretaceous sharks in the northern Gulf of Mexico
The nitrogen isotopic composition (15N/14N ratio, or δ15N) of enameloid-bound organic matter (δ15NEB) in shark teeth was recently developed to investigate the biogeochemistry and trophic structures (i.e., food webs) of the ancient ocean. Using δ15NEB, we present the first nitrogen isotopic evidence for trophic differences between shark taxa from a…
Ocean Oxygen, Preformed Nutrients, and the Cause of the Lower Carbon Dioxide Concentration in the Atmosphere of the Last Glacial Maximum
All else equal, if the ocean s “biological [carbon] pump” strengthens, the dissolved oxygen (O2) content of the ocean interior declines. Confidence is now high that the ocean interior as a whole contained less oxygen during the ice ages. This is strong evidence that the ocean s biological pump stored more carbon in the ocean interior during the…
Tracing the fate of seabird-derived nitrogen in a coral reef using nitrate and coral skeleton nitrogen isotopes
Seabirds transfer nutrients from the ocean to their nesting island, potentially altering nitrogen (N) cycling within adjacent terrestrial and marine ecosystems. Yet, the processes involved in seabird-N transfer along the land–sea continuum remain elusive. Using δ15N and δ18O measurements of groundwater nitrate, we demonstrate the role of brackish…
Instabilities Across the Agulhas Current Enhance Upward Nitrate Supply in the Southwest Subtropical Indian Ocean
The Agulhas Current, like other western boundary currents (WBCs), transports nutrients laterally from the tropics to the subtropics in a subsurface “nutrient stream.” These nutrients are predominantly supplied to surface waters by seasonal convective mixing, to fuel a brief period of productivity before phytoplankton become nutrient-limited…
Nitrogen isotopic composition as a gauge of tumor cell anabolism-to-catabolism ratio
Studies have suggested that cancerous tissue has a lower 15N/14N ratio than benign tissue. However, human data have been inconclusive, possibly due to constraints on experimental design. Here, we used high-sensitivity nitrogen isotope methods to assess the 15N/14N ratio of human breast, lung, and kidney cancer tissue at unprecedented spatial…
A well-oxygenated eastern tropical Pacific during the warm Miocene

The oxygen content of the oceans is susceptible to climate change and has declined in recent decades1, with the largest effect in oxygen-deficient zones (ODZs)2 , that is,mid-depth ocean regions with oxygen concentrations <5 μmol kg −1 (ref. 3). Earth-system-model simulations of climate warming predict that ODZs will expand until at least…

Tooth enamel nitrogen isotope composition records trophic position: a tool for reconstructing food webs

Nitrogen isotopes are widely used to study the trophic position of animals in modern food webs; however, their application in the fossil record is severely limited by degradation of organic material during fossilization. In this study, we show that the nitrogen isotope composition of organic matter preserved in mammalian tooth enamel …

The Agulhas Current Transports Signals of Local and Remote Indian Ocean Nitrogen Cycling

The greater Agulhas Current region is an important component of the climate system, yet its influence on carbon and nutrient cycling is poorly understood. Here, we use nitrate isotopes (δ15N, δ18O, Δ(15–18) = δ15N–δ18O) to trace regional water mass circulation and investigate nitrogen cycling in the Agulhas Current and adjacent recirculating…

The Impact of Incomplete Nutrient Consumption in the Southern Ocean on Global Mean Ocean Nitrate δ15N

It is understood that the global mean ocean nitrate δ15N is set by the δ15N of the input of fixed nitrogen (N) to the ocean (mostly N2 fixation) and the net isotopic discrimination of fixed N loss (mostly denitrification). Here, we demonstrate that, in addition to the fixed nitrogen input/output budget, the isotopic discrimination of nitrate…

The Bering Strait was flooded 10,000 years before the Last Glacial Maximum

The cyclic growth and decay of continental ice sheets can be reconstructed from the history of global sea level. Sea level is relatively well constrained for the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM, 26,500 to 19,000 y ago, 26.5 to 19 ka) and the ensuing deglaciation. However, sea-level estimates for the period of ice-sheet growth before the LGM vary by …

Carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen stable isotopes in modern tooth enamel: A case study from Gorongosa National Park, central Mozambique
The analyses of the stable isotope ratios of carbon (δ13C), nitrogen (δ15N), and oxygen (δ18O) in animal tissues are powerful tools for reconstructing the feeding behavior of individual animals and characterizing trophic interactions in food webs. Of these biomaterials, tooth enamel is the hardest, most mineralized vertebrate tissue and therefore…
Oceanic nutrient rise and the late Miocene inception of Pacific oxygen-deficient zones
The modern Pacific Ocean hosts the largest oxygen-deficient zones (ODZs), where oxygen concentrations are so low that nitrate is used to respire organic matter. The history of the ODZs may offer key insights into ocean deoxygenation under future global warming. In a 12-My record from the southeastern Pacific, we observe a >10 increase in…
The Angola Gyre is a hotspot of dinitrogen fixation in the South Atlantic Ocean

Biological dinitrogen fixation is the major source of new nitrogen to marine systems and thus essential to the ocean’s biological pump. Constraining the distribution and global rate of dinitrogen fixation has proven challenging owing largely to uncertainty surrounding the controls thereon. Existing South Atlantic dinitrogen fixation rate…

Enhanced ocean oxygenation during Cenozoic warm periods

Dissolved oxygen (O2) is essential for most ocean ecosystems, fuelling organisms’ respiration and facilitating the cycling of carbon and nutrients. Oxygen measurements have been interpreted to indicate that the ocean’s oxygen-deficient zones (ODZs) are expanding under global warming1,2. However, models provide an unclear picture of future ODZ…

Laboratory Assessment of the Impact of Chemical Oxidation, Mineral Dissolution, and Heating on the Nitrogen Isotopic Composition of Fossil-Bound Organic Matter

Fossil-bound organic material holds great potential for the reconstruction of past changes in nitrogen (N) cycling. Here, with a series of laboratory experiments, we assess the potential effect of oxidative degradation, fossil dissolution, and thermal alteration on the fossil-bound N isotopic composition of different fossil types, including…

Controls on the nitrogen isotopic composition of fish otolith organic matter: Lessons from a controlled diet switch experiment

The nitrogen isotopes (δ15N) in the organic fraction of accretionary hard part structures, such as fish otoliths, may provide life histories of dietary change. We performed controlled experiments to validate the dynamics of the isotopic signal incorporation into biominerals following dietary shifts and also compared whole-otolith and serial…

In-line optical subtraction using a differential Faraday rotation spectrometer for 15NO/14NO isotopic analysis

We present a dual-modulation Faraday rotation spectrometer with in-line optical subtraction for differential measurement of nitric oxide (NO) isotopologues. In-situ sample referencing is accomplished via differential dual-cell measurements, with 3.1 ppbv/rt(Hz) (15NO) sensitivity through 15 cm optical path length. Our system operates at 1.9x…