School Of Earth and Space Exploration
Arizona State University
United States of America
Ariel Anbar is a scientist and educator interested in Earth’s evolution as an inhabited world, and the prospects for life beyond. His major focus is the deep time history of O2 and bioessential metals in the oceans, as deduced from the application of novel techniques in isotope geochemistry to ancient sedimentary rocks. Trained as a geologist and a chemist, Anbar is a President’s Professor at Arizona State University, where he is on the faculty of the School of Earth & Space Exploration and the School of Molecular Sciences, and a Distinguished Sustainability Scholar in the Global Institute of Sustainability. The author or co-author of over 100 refereed papers, Anbar directs ASU's NASA-funded Astrobiology Program and the new Center for Education Through eXploration. He is a graduate of Harvard (A.B. 1989) and Caltech (Ph.D. 1996). Before coming to ASU he was on the faculty of the University of Rochester from 1996 to 2004. Anbar is a Fellow of the Geological Society of America, which awarded him the Donath Medal in 2002. He was recognized as an HHMI Professor in 2014, and elected a Fellow of the Geochemical Society and the European Association of Geochemistry in 2015.
Researchers in my group use chemical concepts and approaches to study geological, chemical and biological processes that shape the Earth’s surface environment and how they have changed through time. Study of these processes teaches us about the habitability of the Earth, the history of the environment and life, the effects of human activities on the environment, and the prospects for life beyond Earth. Our efforts center on the development and application of novel analytical techniques, particularly using mass spectrometry. Recently, we have been among the pioneers in using multiple-collector inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (MC-ICP-MS) to precisely measure mass-dependent variations in the isotopic compositions of transition metals, particularly iron and molybdenum. Work by us and others documents that variations of 0.01 – 0.1 %/amu, once undetectable, are actually ubiquitous. Such measurements in natural samples, informed by laboratory experiments and theoretical studies, provide insights into the environmental chemistry of metals and the metal-centered interactions between organisms and their surroundings. Applied to the geologic record, such “metal stable isotope” studies provide information about metal biogeochemical cycles on the ancient Earth, environmental changes that perturbed these cycles, and biological activity in the distant past. A notable recent example of this research is our use of molybdenum isotopes to study changes in the oxygen content of the oceans through time(Arnold et al., 2004). We plan to continue to explore the biogeochemistry of metals in the middle of the periodic table, using isotopic and other methods. We are especially interested in “metallomic” research that relates the distribution and isotopic composition of metals in nature to the demand for these metals by various metalloenzymes. New state-of-the-art analytical facilities,particularly in the W. M. Keck Foundation Laboratory for Environmental Biogeochemistry, make ASU an exceptional setting to pursue this research.
C. P. McKay, A. D. Anbar, C. Porco and P. Tsou. Follow the plume: the habitability of Enceladus. Astrobiology (2014).
¶K. T. Goto, A. D. Anbar, G. W. Gordon, S. J. Romaniello, G. Shimoda, Y. Takaya, A. Tokumaru, R. Nozaki, K. Suzuki, S. Machida, T. Hanyu and A. Usui (¶ = Anbar-advised visiting student or scientist first author). Uranium isotope systematics of ferromanganese crusts in the Pacific Ocean: Implications for the marine 238U/235U isotope system. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta (2014).
*M. Neveu, A. T. Poret-Peterson, Z. M. P. Lee, A. D. Anbar and J. J. Elser (*Anbar-advised student first author). Prokaryotic cells separated from sediments are suitable for elemental composition analysis. Limnol. Oceanogr.: Methods (2014).