I left industry to undertake a PhD Thesis in Carbonate Sedimentology at the University of Barcelona (Spain) which was funded by REPSOL Exploration (2009-2013). During this project, I gained in depth understanding of the basin-scale mechanisms controlling the macro-morphologies and facies architecture of the Triassic microbial carbonates in the Catalan Basin (Spain). I established how the inter-relationship between sequence stratigraphy, basin configuration and paleoenvironmental conditions controlled the distribution of these deposits and the overall carbonate platform architecture. The findings allowed me, for the first time, to predict the sequential framework of these microbial carbonate accumulations (stromatolites and thombolites), and develop a refined approach to understand the analogous South Atlantic Cretaceous Presalt carbonate occurrences (Brazil and Angola).
During my interaction with REPSOL, I recognised a knowledge deficit regarding the role of aqueous geochemistry and microbial influence in the development of carbonate textures of apparently microbial origin. Thus, my strategy during my BP funded post-doctoral project (2014-2017) was to widen my expertise in analytical and laboratory techniques (SEM, TEM, Nano-SIMS, stable isotopes, ICP-MS/OES, PHREEQC modelling, flume design) to better constrain the hydrochemistry, petrography, sedimentary environment, and geobiology of continental carbonate-precipitating systems (lakes, hot-springs, and rivers).
So far, I have developed a novel laboratory experimentation to assess the impact that microbial-derived organic molecules, solution chemistry and Mg-rich clay minerals have in the growth of unusual lacustrine carbonate textures. My ambition lies in having an holistic process-product understanding of non-skeletal carbonate factories by combining classical methodologies (outcrop-petrographic data and geochemical modelling and analysis), innovative laboratory approaches (geomicrobiology, high-resolution biomarker analyses), and experimental designs (flume and batch tests).
Why studying the microbial influence on mineral formation?
Microbes play fundamental roles shaping Earth’s biogeochemical cycles, recycling organic matter, and they promote the precipitation and dissolution of sedimentary minerals throughout complex metabolic-mineral-water interactions.
Therefore, clarify whether mineral nucleation is influenced by water chemistry or by microbes and their metabolic by-products is of pivotal importance to: i) understand the formation and diagenesis of sedimentary minerals (carbonates, phosphates, silicates, sulphates); ii) recognise the geochemical and petrographical signatures of Life on early Earth substrates and beyond (astrobiology); and iii) determine the degree of biogenicity of non-skeletal sediments to refine the paleoenvironmental context of facies deposition.