Elizabeth H. Mitnick 

PhD Candidate, University of California Berkeley 
Department of Earth & Planetary Science 

Advisor: Don DePaolo

I am a PhD candidate studying low-temperature aqueous geochemistry. I've been working with Don DePaolo since 2013, and with Laura Lammers since 2015. 

I use a combination of lab experiments, geochemical modeling, and natural sample characterization to understand the formation of abiogenic carbonates in natural environments. I am interested in very small-scale, fundamental growth processes, as well as major geochemical cycles (e.g., carbon, sulfate, etc.) over Earth history that influence and are influenced by the formation of carbonates. 

In my experimental work, I investigate how carbonate minerals nucleate and grow from solutions of varying composition (e.g., different Mg/Ca ratios that we see in marine sediment pore waters) by running controlled growth experiments and measuring isotopes of Ca and Mg, which are useful indicators of rate-dependent processes. I use geochemical modeling of pore fluid Ca and Sr concentrations in marine sediments to estimate rates of in situ abiogenic (authigenic) carbonate formation. I characterize the spatial distribution and trace element content of various types of carbonates with electron microprobe and nanoSIMS analyses. I am also performing field work in the eastern Sierras to understand trace element and isotopic partitioning into terrestrial carbonates during their formation from hot, carbon dioxide-rich waters.