Fluid-Rock Geochemistry and Biomineralogy
My interests involve reactive fluid flow and mineralization in sedimentary and volcanic systems in both ancient and modern environments, as well as microbially mediated reactions at the earth's surface. I primarily focus on the geochemistry of mass extinctions and the role of tectonics in shale gas development (particularly during the late Devonian), and the geomicrobiology of cave deposits. I also work on the geochemistry of the Engare Sero Footprint Site in Tanzania.
Geomicrobiology: Since 2009, I have worked extensively with Dr. Suzanna Bräuer in the Department of Biology, and Dr. Cara Santelli at the University of Minnesota on manganese oxide biominerals produced by both bacteria and fungi. We do extensive fieldwork in southern Appalachian caves and are beginning new work in acid mine drainage sites. For more information about our geomicrobiology research group, visit http://geomicrobiology.appstate.edu.
Paleoclimate: My more recent project involves work with Appalachian Geology Professor Johnny Waters and the UNESCO-funded International Geoscience Programme Project 596, which studies climate change and biodiversity in the mid Paleozoic. With collaborators from around the world, we work primarily in the Central Asian Orogenic Belt (western China and western Mongolia), in southeast Asia, and in Europe to determine the extent and scope of Devonian ocean anoxia events, the role of tectonics in shale gas development, and the rebound from the mass extinctions associated with these events. For more information about the DAGGER (Devonian Anoxia, Geochemistry, Geochronology, and Extinction Research) Group, visit http://devonian.appstate.edu.
Engare Sero Footprint Site: I am also affiliated with the research team working at the Engare Sero footprint site on the shores of Lake Natron, Tanzania. This work is led by Dr. Cynthia Liutkus-Pierce, in collaboration with anthropologists from the Smithsonian and American Museum of Natural History. My role in the project is to help determine the volcanic environment and preservation mineralogy of the hominid footprints. This work has recently gained lots of attention with articles in the Washington Post, National Geographic, and many more news outlets.
News and Updates
- March 2017 - Sarah is named a Fellow of the Explorers Club (story at Appalachian Magazine)
- October 2016 - The Engare Sero research team's radioisotope dates for the human footprints have been published in P-cubed: Radioisotopic age, formation, and preservation of Late Pleistocene human footprints at Engare Sero, Tanzania. This work is now being showcased in the media, at the Washington Post, National Geographic, the Huffington Post, the Daily Mail, and many others!
- August 2016 - Sarah (PI) and co-PIs (Ellen Cowan, Jamie Levine, Gabe Casale, and Guichuan Hou) receive NSF-MRI grant (NSF-MRI-EAR #1625137, $561,842) for purchase of a new scanning electron microscope for the Dewel Microscopy Facility at Appalachian!
- August 2016 - Sarah is elected a Councilor for the Mineralogical Society of America (2017-2019)
- April 2016 - Congratulations to Travis Hartney '16 for his research award at the 19th Annual Celebration of Student Research and Creative Endeavors!
- March 2016 - Sarah receives GRAM (Graduate Research Associate Mentoring) funding for incoming graduate students in the geomicrobiology program.
- December 2015 - Sarah and Suzanna Bräuer receive RIEEE-CONCERT funding to study biological Mn oxidation in acid mine drainage at the Ore Knob Superfund Site, Ashe County, NC.
- June 2015 - Recent work by DAGGER group published: Shallow water facies setting around the Kačák Event – a multidisciplinary approach, in Devonian Climate, Sea-Level and Evolutionary Events (a Special Publication of the Geological Society of London)
- April 2015 - Congratulations to graduate student Mara Cloutier (MS - Biology) for her awards from the Cave Research Foundation and the Geological Society of America
- April 2015 - Recent work by the geomicrobiology research group in press: Nutrient input influences fungal community composition and size and can stimulate Mn(II) oxidation in caves, Environmental Microbiology Reports (doi:10.1111/1758-2229.12291)
- March 2015 - Recent work by the DAGGER group in press: Climate instability and tipping points in the Late Devonian: Detection of the Hangenberg Event in an open oceanic island arc in the Central Asian Orogenic Belt, Gondwana Research (doi:10.1016/j.gr.2015.02.009)