Itrax-To Austria: Introducing and advancing XRF-core scanning to Austria and beyond

Funded by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) (2019-2022; FWF Project Nr. M 2727)


PI (Lise-Meitner Fellow): Dr. Jhy-Jaan Steven Huang

Host: Univ.-Prof. Dr. Michael Strasser 


Understanding the intricate interaction between humans and its surrounding environment is a fundamental and social-relevant goal of modern Earth and Environmental Sciences to illuminate the sustainable future of mankind. Lacustrine and marine sediments often contain long records of Earth processes such as climate changes, local and regional events and anthropogenic imprints. However, the abrupt and rapid signals of human-environmental interactions due to natural (e.g. storms, floods, earthquakes or tsunamis) or anthropogenic (e.g. land use changes or pollutions) events are extraordinarily challenging to be deciphered from natural archives at societally-relevant timescales. Motivated by the mission to analyze natural archives sampled by scientific drilling and coring for investigating past records as well as studying rates and states of Earth-system processes to improve our understanding of complex interactions between tectonic, climatic and anthropogenic impacts. This project, for the first time in Austria, will introduce advanced X-ray Fluorescence core scanning (XRF-CS) data analyses and interpretations to the Austrian scientific community and develop new methodological approaches for advancing research applications worldwide. The fast and non-destructive XRF-CS technique can be used to measure element abundances from Al to U directly at the surface of samples. Fascinating ultra-high resolution down-core elemental variations then are produced as indicators (or so called “proxies”) for past environmental and process changes down to annual and even sub-annual timescales. Over the last decade, XRF-CS technique has revolutionized element proxy based paleo-researches conducted at the leading international research facilities and now has just recently begun to be operated at the Austrian Core Facility of the University of Innsbruck. Yet, long-standing methodological challenges, including (1) automated quality assurance and quality control (QA/QC); (2) quantitative calibration of element concentrations (3) and dealing with big datasets as proxy-based interpretations, remain to be addressed towards harvesting the full potential of the XRF-CS technique. The Itrax-2-Austria project therefore aims at evaluating and applying new mathematical, calibrated and statistical approaches on experimental and natural datasets available through collaborations with ongoing research projects by cooperation partners of the Austrian Core Facility. With a special focus on Lake Millstättersee (Austrian Eastern Alps) as a well-suited case study site to test and further develop the new approach, annually-laminated sedimentary sequences will be analyzed to study past extreme events archived in the geological records. This is expected to produce fascinating records of geochemically fingerprinted event deposits allowing for advanced process-based interpretation of long-term records unravelling frequency and cause-and-effect relationships between natural hazards, environmental perturbation and resilience and related human-environmental interconnections.  



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