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Research Spending & Results

Award Detail

Awardee:UNIVERSITY OF NEW MEXICO, THE
Doing Business As Name:University of New Mexico
PD/PI:
  • Tobias P Fischer
  • (505) 277-0683
  • fischer@unm.edu
Co-PD(s)/co-PI(s):
  • Laura J Crossey
Award Date:07/29/2021
Estimated Total Award Amount: $ 193,204
Funds Obligated to Date: $ 193,204
  • FY 2021=$193,204
Start Date:08/15/2021
End Date:07/31/2022
Transaction Type:Grant
Agency:NSF
Awarding Agency Code:4900
Funding Agency Code:4900
CFDA Number:47.050
Primary Program Source:040100 R&RA ARP Act DEFC V
Award Title or Description:Upgrade of Research Equipment for the UNM Volatiles Laboratory
Federal Award ID Number:2041484
DUNS ID:868853094
Parent DUNS ID:784121725
Program:Instrumentation & Facilities
Program Officer:
  • David Lambert
  • (703) 292-4736
  • dlambert@nsf.gov

Awardee Location

Street:1700 Lomas Blvd. NE, Suite 2200
City:Albuquerque
State:NM
ZIP:87131-0001
County:Albuquerque
Country:US
Awardee Cong. District:01

Primary Place of Performance

Organization Name:University of New Mexico
Street:200 Yale Blvd
City:Albuquerque
State:NM
ZIP:87131-0001
County:Albuquerque
Country:US
Cong. District:01

Abstract at Time of Award

This award is funded in whole or in part under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (Public Law 117-2). It will build scientific infrastructure at the University of New Mexico (UNM) to enable the measurements of the composition of the noble gas helium in volcanic emanations and thermal springs. Currently there are very few laboratories in the US that have the ability to make these measurements in volcanic gases. The noble gas helium is used in the geosciences as a messenger of information from deep in the Earth’s interior. Changes in the composition of helium emitted from volcanic vents and thermal springs have been shown to signal the arrival of new magma into a volcanic system or the accumulation of gas pressure that can lead to volcanic eruptions. This project focusses on the helium composition emitted from the Valles Caldera in New Mexico, a super volcano that produced a massive eruption about one million years ago. This volcano still hosts a large magma body at depth and a system of thermal springs in the crater. Samples will be collected at these springs throughout the caldera and compared to recent earthquake and imaging studies to understand better the dynamics of the Valles Caldera volcanic system. What we expect to learn from the project can then be applied to other more active volcanic systems to improve our ability to forecast volcanic eruptions to save life and property. The project also supports education of traditionally underrepresented groups in the geosciences by offering a 4-week seminar on the topic of helium in the earth sciences and a field trip to a nearby helium plant that extracts this valuable commodity for commercial uses. This project focusses on an upgrade of the UNM Volatiles Laboratory to enable the analysis of noble gas isotopes in gas samples from volcanic and hydrothermal systems. The electronics and vacuum system upgrade will significantly expand our current analytical capabilities which are limited to the relative abundance analyses of major and trace gases by gas chromatography and quadrupole mass spectrometry and to carbon stable isotope analyses by infrared isotope ratio spectrometry. The immediate application of the upgraded laboratory will be to collect and analyze a large number of gas samples from Valles Caldera, New Mexico to constrain the mantle volatile input into the magmatic-hydrothermal system through space and time. The helium isotope data collected for this purpose will be correlated spatially with newly acquired seismic tomography data to elucidate the dynamics of the magmatic system under the caldera. A temporal sampling program of gas discharges from the Valles Caldera system will enable us to develop models that can eventually inform processes leading to volcanic eruptions and improve our understanding of volatile sources (crustal versus mantle) in large caldera systems. Our broader impact activities include the teaching of an undergraduate seminar on the utility of helium isotopes in the Earth Sciences as well as helium as a resource in modern society. The seminar will target traditionally underrepresented students from UNM branch campuses and offer the opportunity to visit a helium plant to see first-hand the process of extraction of this valuable natural resource. This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

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