Surface environments and collection management

The service conducts fundamental research on dynamics of transfers in current and past surface environments and on the interface between the four geospheres: lithospheres (continental crust, oceanic crust, soil), hydrosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere.

This research is specifically focused on the following three areas:

  • External silicon (Si) cycles, notably regarding soil-plant exchanges, land-ocean mass transfer, and modern and Archean silicification processes. After oxygen, silicon is the most abundant element in the earth’s crust. As such, quantification of the cycles is crucial for understanding the mechanisms controlling many geological and environmental processes.
  • Biomineralization which plays a fundamental role in major geochemical cycles (carbonates, silica, iron oxides) and provides unique and important geological archives of present and past changes in ecosystems.
  • The evolution of soils and aquifers, which change with the complex rhythm of seasons, climate change, subsidence-exhumation cycles, and physico-chemical parameters induced by biological and anthropogenic processes. Multidisciplinary understanding of the factors of their evolution has become an indispensable prerequisite to answer questions on the vulnerability and renewal of these two essential resources.
Staff

Scientific personnel

  • Luc André, Head of department
    Biogeochemistry, current and past Si cycles, biomonitoring
  • Florias Mees, Geologist
    Paleoenvironments, soil science, mineralogy

Technical and administrative staff

Scientific infrastructure

Our research is based on various biogeochemical tracers measured with original analytical methodologies that use advanced spectrometry equipment in partnership with the universities of Brussels (ULB and VUB):

In 2002, the team notably succeeded in the world's first measurement of the isotopic composition of silicon using a multi-collector inductively coupled plasma spectrometer (MC-ICP-MS). The team has since used this tracer in many areas: soil-plant cycles, plankton productivity in oceans, the Great Lakes and rivers (Congo, Amazon), silicification, hydrothermal alteration, origin of Archean granitoid rocks (TTG), etc.