Research at Brock University got a major boost this month. Professors of Earth Sciences Nigel Blamey and Uwe Brand published a paper last August which discussed their discovery, with a team of international scientists, that the oxygen content of the earth’s atmosphere was five times what it was almost a billion years ago. This month, their paper made it’s way onto a list of the top 10 geochemistry papers of 2016. The list, published by the Geochemical Society, based in the United States.
“There was a lot of debate as to what the oxygen content was 800 million or more years ago,” said Blamey in a press release. “We’ve come up with a direct method of analyzing the content of those trapped fossil gasses in the atmosphere.”
Blamey, Brand and their team measured the actual oxygen levels found inside bubbles of air in rock salt from 800 million years ago.
“Our research is of the international level and cuts across many disciplines, including chemistry, life in the oceans, and how life evolved on this planet,” said Brand. The paper appeared in the August 2016 edition of Geology, the monthly journal of the Geological Society of America, and will now be read by many more people and will likely be cited in research all over the world.
“It really shows how the community has recognized our contribution to science,” says Blamey.
The team was made up of research partners from the United States, Scotland, France, Australia and China. They used reworked equipment originally created by Blamey’s PhD Advisor, David Norman, in the 1970s to measure tiny air bubbles in a substance called halite, the original form of table salt, also known as sodium chloride.
“It’s a direct measurement of the atmosphere of that time, not an interpretation,” said Brand. The information gathered in the team’s research may have major implications in the study of how life on earth developed.