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Research — Geochemistry

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There are 10 projects that match your criteria:
Hydrogeology of Central Jornada Del Muerto: Implications for Travel along El Camino Real De Tierra Adentro, Sierra and Doña Ana Counties, New Mexico
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Between 1598 and the 1880s, El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro (El Camino Real) served as a 1,600 mile long trade route between Mexico City and San Juan Pueblo/Ohkay Owingeh, New Mexico (north of Santa Fe). El Camino Real transects the Jornada del Muerto, located in southern New Mexico (see below figure). This stretch of the trail is thought to have been one of the most feared sections along El Camino Real due, primarily, to the scarcity of water.

The study area is located primarily in the central portion of the Jornada del Muerto Basin, extending from just North of Engle to just south of Point of Rocks and spanning the entire basin from the Caballo Mountains in the west to the San Andres Mountains to the east.

We characterized the local geology and hydrogeology of the central Jornada del Muerto with a purpose of identifying features that likely influenced the location of El Camino Real de Tierro Adentro. This study aimed to assess the relationship between the location of the trail and parajes (campsites) and water sources that would be available to travelers on the trail. The study was funded by the New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA) and is the fulfillment of one of the measures specified in a mitigation plan that identifies a series of measures specifically intended to mitigate adverse effects to El Camino Real.

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Hydrologic Assessment of the Salt Basin Region in New Mexico and Texas
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The NM Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources is working with faculty and students at New Mexico Tech, as well as researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey, on a hydrogeologic assessment of the Salt Basin region. Our research project will evaluate the water availability by 1) filling data gaps, where there is currently little or no information about the groundwater system; 2) estimating the overall balance of water in the region including groundwater recharge, storage, evaporation and pumping; 3) updating the current hydrologic model and hydrogeologic framework; and 4) running simulations in the revised model. These efforts will help assess the ability of the region to sustain current groundwater withdrawals in the Salt Basin with implications for future development in New Mexico.

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Alteration and Epithermal Mineralization in the Steeple Rock District, Grant County, New Mexico and Greelee County, Arizona
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The Steeple Rock district in the Summit Mountains in southwestern New Mexico and southeastern Arizona offers an excellent opportunity to examine the relationship between the distribution and timing of the alteration and the formation of fissure veins in an epithermal environment. Five distinct types of epithermal veins occur in the district: base metals with gold-silver, gold-silver, copper-silver, fluorite, and manganese. These epithermal veins are structurally controlled, are hosted by Oligocene to Miocene volcanic and intrusive rocks, and are spatially associated with two types of alteration: neutral pH (alkali chloride or propylitic to argillic to sericitic) and acid sulfate (advanced argillic). Neutral pH alteration is the most pervasive type of alteration in the district and occurred in three stages: regional pre-mineralization, local syn-mineralization, and regional post-mineralization.

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Animas River Valley - Long Term Groundwater Monitoring
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Our agency has been collaborating with the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) on a hydrogeology study along the Animas River in New Mexico in response to the Gold King Mine spill, which occurred in August 2015. The water released from the spill was loaded with dissolved metals and contaminated sediments, which posed a possible risk to groundwater quality in the Animas Valley.

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Snowy River Passage, Ft. Stanton Cave

The main objective of this study is to examine hydrogeologic processes in Snowy River Passage by analysis of individual flood events. For a specific flood event, we will measure:

  1. The volume of water that infiltrates downward through the Snowy River streambed
  2. The volume of water that evaporates from the Snowy River stream
  3. The volume of water that discharges at Government Spring

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Cosmogenic dating of young basaltic lava flows
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Cosmogenic dating techniques have been successfully applied to dating of geomorphically-young surfaces, such as glacial moraines, beach terraces, and basaltic lava flows that have intact surface features, and hence have undergone little erosion (e.g. Phillips et al., 1997a and b; Phillips et al, in review, Dunbar and Phillips, 1996; Zreda et al., 1991, 1993; Zreda, 1994; Anthony and Poths, 1992, Laughlin et al., 1994). These techniques rely on measurement of cosmogenic nuclides that begin to build up as soon as a rock is exposed to cosmic rays. Therefore, cosmogenic techniques can be applied to dating of any surface that is composed of material that was not exposed to cosmic rays prior to formation of the surface, and has been exposed more-or-less continuously since. In the case of an extrusive volcanic rock, buildup of cosmogenic nuclides begins when the rock is erupted, so measurement of the ratio of a cosmogenic isotope to a non-cosmogenic isotope can provide an estimate of eruption age (Phillips et al., 1986).

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Uranium dissolution from dust in bodily fluids
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Many metals can be harmful to humans when they are taken into the body. We often think of drinking water when we think of these sources, however, toxic metals can also be taken into the body as inhaled particles or as part of our food. In this study, dust particles were mixed with one of two simulated lung fluids in an airtight glass reactor (configured as the figure to the right) where the solution was heated to a constant temperature of the standard human body temperatures – 37?C (98.6 ?F) – in a vessel purged with oxygen just before adding the dust sample. The study found that the uranum in some dust samples (and lab standards) dissolved better in one or the other of the fluids and that this phenomenon seemed to be based on the mineralogy and available surface area of the dust and the pH of the fluid.

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Scientists Use Ancient Ore Deposits to Predict Ground Water Quality and Paleoclimate
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Two Bureau of Geology scientists, in collaboration with scientists at the United State Geological Survey, have discovered similarities between ground water systems that formed ore deposits 10 million years ago and modern ground water in the Rio Grande Rift. They reported their work in an invited presentation at the 2000 Annual Meeting of the Geological Society of America.

Dr. Virgil Lueth, mineralogist/ economic geologist, and Lisa Peters, senior lab associate at the New Mexico Geochronological Research Lab, have been studying the mineral jarosite in ore deposits from Chihuahua, Mexico, to Albuquerque.

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MINES Thermodynamic Database
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The MINES Thermodynamic Database is an initiative to generate a revised internally consistent thermodynamic dataset for minerals, aqueous species and gases for simulating geochemical processes at hydrothermal conditions in the upper crust (≤5 kbar and ≤600 °C) with focus on ore forming processes.

Alexander GysiEconomic Geologist

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Uranium Transport and Sources in New Mexico: A five-year EPSCoR program
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In 2013, a team of New Mexico Tech researchers began a study of uranium transport, uranium source characteristics, and uranium legacy issues in New Mexico. The effort was funded by Energize New Mexico, a five-year NSF EPSCoR program that concluded in 2018 and that encompassed five research components focused on developing non-carbon emitting energy technologies. The uranium team, which included researchers from UNM, addressed uranium deposits and mine waste mainly in the Grants Mining District, including Laguna Pueblo, and on Navajo Nation lands. These uranium studies span a range of science and engineering disciplines, and not only provide new conclusions impacting remediation, hazard management, and uranium extraction, but hold implications for human health.

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