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School of the Earth, Ocean and Environment

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Facilities and Resources

The School of the Earth, Ocean & Environment contains several research service facilities and numerous research laboratories run by SEOE faculty to aid the research of our faculty and students, as well as to provide support services to the residents and commercial enterprises in South Carolina. These are the Core Facilities operated by the faculty of the SEOE.

Core Facilities

The 1,400 sq ft. Baruch Marine Wet Lab is easily customized to fit various experimental designs for animal, algal, and microorganism research. Natural seawater, transported from the marine lab in Georgetown is stored in a 5000 gallon reservoir and is available on tap. Floor drains make this space ideal for working with large volumes of water. Staff assistance is available for consultation and for configuring the recirculating Living Streams. This laboratory is operated on a cost-recovery basis and fees are assessed for consumables and equipment use. Fee schedule. Application for space, equipment, and/or seawater, contact Teresa Donelan (803 777 3919).

The Center for Elemental Mass Spectrometry (CEMS) is a core analytical facility and cost center at the University of South Carolina.  The focus of our research is geochemistry and chemical oceanography.  Plasma-source mass spectrometers are the heart of CEMS. We use these for trace metal and isotope ratio measurements on a wide variety of sample types.  Explore these pages if you have an interest in our work, and please contact us if you have questions, ideas, or comments.

The Electron Microscopy Center at the University of South Carolina is a core facility providing all levels of technical support and consultation in the area of light microscopy, electron microscopy, and elemental analysis. The center provides microscopy and specimen preparation services for biological and materials science research. In addition, the center offers necessary training and access to all microscopes and ancillary equipment

The Radiochemistry & Marine Sediments Laboratory maintains a multi-channel (5) RISO Beta counter for the measurement of low levels of 234Th. This laboratory also maintains five high resolution gamma spectrometer systems including one large volume intrinsic germanium detector, one intrinsic germanium detector with a 1 cm diameter well, one intrinsic germanium detector with a 1.5 cm diameter well, two intrinsic detectors with 2 cm diameter wells, and a low energy planar detector, which may be used to count additional sediment or ice samples should they be available. In addition, we operate 14 alpha spectrometer systems and 8 gas phase alpha scintillation counters to measure 222Rn, as well as low background gross alpha and beta proportional counters. We also have 8 delayed coincidence systems to measure 220Rn (224Ra & 228Th) and 219Rn (223Ra & 227Ac). These instruments allow us to measure all of the isotopes in the U and Th decay chains having half lives greater than a few minutes as well as gamma-emitting fallout and cosmic-ray produced isotopes. In addition, this laboratory includes an ultra low level liquid scintillation counter, Packard Tri-Carb 3170 TR/SL used to measure low levels of 32P, 33P, 14C and tritium.  The RMSL also contains the necessary equipment for processing sediments and carrying out routine geochemical analyses. Specific pieces of equipment include: JY Horiba Ultima-C ICP-AES used primarily for Mg/Ca/Sr ratio determinations along with numerous other single or multiple element concentrations; an Isoprime stable isotope ratio mass spectrometer for analyzing the oxygen and carbon isotopic composition of carbonate and the nitrogen and carbon isotopic composition of organic matter, a UIC  Coulometer for inorganic carbon measurements, a Perkin Elmer 2400 Elemental Analyzer for measuring total carbon, hydrogen, sulfur and nitrogen concentrations in sediments; 7 automated sediment traps deployed to collect a time series of particulate fluxes in the open ocean; and equipment for maintaining deep-sea moorings including Argos transmitters, acoustic releases and flotation spheres.  We also have a core storage facility which includes core racks, fume hood, freezers and a walk-in cooler for sample storage.  The Radiochemistry laboratory is run by Moore and Benitez-Nelson.

Three faculty in the SEOE separately operate stable isotope mass spectrometers (IRMS) for the isotope (13C, 15N, 18O) analysis of carbonates, water, bulk organic solids and liquids, individual organic molecules, dissolved organic and inorganic nitrogen, and gases. The Benitez-Nelson lab houses an Elementar Isoprime connected to a multicarbonate sample prep module and a EuroVector Elemental Analyzer (EA); these instruments were formerly in the Thunell lab. The Lang lab houses a ThermoFinnegan Delta V+ connected to a Gas Chromatography IsoLink II and a GasBench peripheral. The Bourbonnais lab houses an Elementar PrecisION connected to Vario PYRO cube and a custom online gas extraction and purge-trap system, as well as a Bay Instruments Membrane Inlet mass spectrometer.

The instruments have supported the core research of these faculty members, and are regularly operated by graduate and undergraduate students carrying out research within their labs. A graduate class in Stable Isotopes is taught every other year (by Bourbonnais or Lang) and also trains SEOE students on these instruments to a limited degree. Internal and external users can analyze samples on a fee-per-service basis. 

This dedicated facility in Coker Life Sciences 007 consists of equipment and instruments capable of disaggregating, cutting, separating, powdering, drying, fusing, and polishing rocks and sediments. Undergraduate student, graduate student, faculty and guest researchers use a Bico Braun WD Chipmunk jaw crusher, Bico Braun UA Pulverizer disc mill, and custom-built steel mortar and pestle to disaggregate rocks. This equipment is housed in dedicated dust-prevention bays with auxiliary high-volume vents, down-draft tables and air curtains to improve user safety and minimize sample contamination risks. A suite of three rock saws enable the cutting of rocks for slabs or thin section billets and are served by dedicated water lubrication lines as needed. A Hilquist machine enables the creation of thin-sections, and a lap wheel, Buehler Minimet auto-polisher and a suite of powders and sandpapers enable the polishing of slabs, billets, thin sections, and grain mounts. An MD Mineral Technologies MK-2 Gemeni shaking water table is used to separate sediments and disaggregated rocks by their density and other hydrodynamic characteristics. Further separation by grain size and density is enabled by full suites of sieves, nitex mesh, and ABS Garrett-type gold pans. Two ovens enable the drying of processed samples. Magnetic separation is achieved with an SG Frantz LB-1 isodynamic magnetic laboratory separator. Heavy liquid mineral separations using methyelene iodide, or lithium and sodium tungstate solutions are achieved using separatory funnels, and appropriate plastic- and glass-ware and cryogenics for the ‘ice-cube’ method. A dedicated hood is used for acid digestions and toxic heavy liquid use. A Nikon SMZ-1500 zoom stereomicroscope with plane-polarized and cross-polarized filters enables the documentation and picking of minerals. Adhesives and resins enable the creation of mineral mounts.


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