ERC Starting Grant (1,7 million) for Janne Koornneef

Earth Scientist Janne Koornneef was awarded an ERC Starting Grant worth 1.7 million euros, of which 200 thousand euro is earmarked for instrumentation.

08/17/2017 | 12:26 PM

The grant is awarded for her proposal ‘Quantifying Recycling Fluxes of Earth Surface Materials and Volatiles in Subduction Zones using Melt Inclusions’, in short: ReVolusions.

With this grant Koornneef will study specific processes of plate tectonics. Plate tectonics are the phenomena of the slowly shifting earth crust over the underlying solid mantle of the earth, causing the formation of mountains and volcanism amongst others. These phenomena are fundamental to the geochemical cycles that link Earth’s mantle and exosphere and in turn control the atmosphere’s composition and our climate.

In her research Koornneef is determined to specify the nature of the substances that are exchanged on places where two lithospheric plates clash, one riding over the other: the so called subduction zones. At such places volcanos or earthquakes can occur. Koornneef: “I want to find out what proportions of volatiles, sediments and oceanic crust are transported into the deep mantle, or are returned, i.e. ‘recycled’ to the crust and atmosphere. Global recycling flux estimates, including carbon, are contradictory highlighting the need for a new, more precise approach to their quantification.”

The study focuses on quantifying global recycling fluxes of two types of subduction zones: continental and oceanic zones of which the former has higher volatile fluxes and plays a key role in past and present-day climate change. Koornneef”: “We are going to use very precise isotope analyses of deeply formed melt inclusions, tiny pockets of melt trapped in minerals, to directly determine what comes back up in subduction zones. Undertaking a multiple isotope study of these inclusions is now possible, owing to my recent success in significantly improving mass spectrometer detector amplifier technology that led to an order of magnitude improvement in precision for isotope analyses of small samples.”

Janne KoornneefKoornneef will integrate two ground-breaking techniques to identify recycled components and determine volcanic and deep mantle fluxes: 1) coupled Sr-Nd-Pb isotope ratio analysis of individual melt inclusions using the high-gain amplifier method I pioneered; 2) carbon and oxygen isotope analysis of CO2 from melt inclusions using a newly developed crushing technique. The outcomes of ReVolusions will provide crucial understanding of how subduction geodynamics control the distribution of elements between Earth’s major reservoirs (atmosphere, crust and mantle) that affects short and long-term climate changes.

Koornneef has been working as a postdoctoral researcher at the VU since 2011. She’s assistant professor since January 2016.

Upper photo: Subduction volcanism on Stromboli (Aeolian Islands, Italy) results in the recycling of sediments and volatile elements to the Earth's surface. Photo taken during fieldwork in April 2016.