UW-Green Bay Professor John Luczaj (Water Science) and colleague Dan Lehrman (Trinity University) received parallel three-year grants from the National Science Foundation to study the carbonate rocks of southern China. The NSF Grants will involve taking students to China for one month each year, followed by laboratory work at UW-Green Bay. The UW-Green Bay portion part of the award is $163,905.
The study aims to investigate the origin of dolomite, an enigmatic, but very common mineral that is found replacing many limestones worldwide. About half of the worlds carbonate rocks are limestone, and the other half are dolomite, but scientists’ understanding of precisely how these rocks are chemically changed remains a geochemical mystery because they are not common in modern limestone environments.
Dolomite is important because it not only hosts economically important base metal and petroleum deposits, but it also hosts important aquifers, such as those in parts of Wisconsin. For example, northeastern Wisconsin’s Door Peninsula is made entirely of dolomite and does not actually contain any limestone – those rocks were replaced long ago by a new magnesium-rich mineral known as dolomite.
The rocks in south China are particularly special because they preserve an uplifted profile of a partially dolomitized carbonate platform, known as the Great Bank of Guizhou, that will help researchers better understand the process by which groundwater makes this important mineral. Undergraduate students will work with Professor Luczaj each year, including international travel.
While it’s unfortunate that Covid-19 restrictions prevented travel to China this summer, the researchers anticipate being able to travel each summer beginning in 2022. This year, Neda Mobasher, a Geoscience/Environmental Science double major, will conduct independent research on samples that have been collected during the previous decade in an attempt to understand the temperature, salinity, and chemistry of the fluids responsible for forming dolomite in the Great Bank of Guizhou.