Geochemical and Environmental Research Group

The Geochemical and Environmental Research Group (GERG) is a center of excellence in applied geosciences within the College of Arts and Sciences of Texas A&M University. GERG, founded in 1981, focuses on applied interdisciplinary research in the ocean and environmental sciences. As part of GERG’s mission in education, graduate and undergraduate students are encouraged to interact with GERG’s scientists and staff in their study and research. Students at GERG are mentored and advised in their study and research in many areas by the staff and scientists at GERG. GERG benefits from the leadership developed by the students and the dynamic and diversity of student activities.

The Geochemical and Environmental Research Group (GERG) provides research and education to the public. Scientists at GERG conduct basic and applied research for both private and government entities in the fields of ocean science, environmental sciences, and resource geosciences. The combination of private and government research activities at GERG has led to a unique combination of service, education, and research expertise.

GERG is organized as three interrelated core competencies working together to provide capabilities including field data acquisition, data analyses, and data interpretation. Current research projects conducted at GERG encompass chemistry, biology, oceanography, geology, geochemsitry, meteorology, and toxicology.

GERG and the Department of Oceanography have established an equipment base for oceanic and coastal marine research including sample collection and analyses capabilities. GERG preforms oceanographic, geochemical and environmental analyses. GERG’s infrastructure of analytical instrumentation, laboratory facilities, and computers provides the tools needed to satisfy the requirements of these analyses. GERG offers complete sample preparation laboratories as well as instrumentation for the analysis of salinity, dissolved oxygen, nutrients, trace elements, aliphatic hydrocarbons, aromatic hydrocarbons, petroleum biomarkers, total scanning fluorescence, PAH metabolites, pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), planar PCB, PBDEs, dioxin/furans, semi-volatile organic compounds, volatile organic compounds, and other organic compounds. GERG has just been designated as part of the Texas A&M Mass Spectrometry Core Subunit for Applied Mass Spectrometry (AMS) with Dr. Anthony Knap as the Director of the AMS. GERG will provide instruments to those needing to analyze various analytes in environmental samples and other Matrices.

The Sample Control Laboratory is isolated from the main laboratories and is a controlled access area. This facility and the procedures used provide for the receipt, safe handling, and secure processing of environmental samples. The sample receipt area is isolated from the main laboratories and includes approximately 500 square feet of space. This area is lined with benches with chemically resistant bench tops and isolated room ventilation providing adequate space to safely process samples in a contaminant-free environment. A sample receipt area provides for the safe, controlled receipt and processing of samples under chain-of-custody SOPs. This area is partitioned from the sample preparation area where sample homogenization and aliquoting are performed. GERG has a Class II Type B2 biological safety cabinet which allows for preparation of potentially contagious samples including human tissues. The initial processing of environmental samples is further supported through the use of two freeze driers, three drying ovens, two meat grinders and a band saw. The cold storage, controlled access areas occupy more than 1,400 square feet of space. These “walk-in” freezers and refrigerators are secured and the temperatures are monitored to detect system failures. Active and archived samples are stored in these areas under chain-of-custody SOPs. Samples may be stored in this area for periods of 90 days or greater. Sample extracts and standards are stored in secured, dedicated refrigerators and freezers apart from the sample storage area.

GERG’s main laboratories occupy more than 6,950 square feet of space. This provides more than 250 square feet of laboratory space per research staff. Access to all areas within GERG is controlled to ensure confidentiality of samples and data. A variety of digestion, extraction and purification techniques are used to meet a project’s specific objectives. GERG malor equipment is listed in Table 1. GERG has two Dionex Accelerated Solvent Extractors (ASE). When samples for organics are isolated and purified, sample extracts are analyzed for specific analytes using high resolution fused silica capillary gas chromatography (HRGC). A multitude of gas chromatographic detectors are available including flame ionization, electron capture, mass spectrometers and a high resolution mass spectrometer. Analytical instrumentation is computerized and automated for rapid and efficient sample throughput. GERG’s organic analyses are provided by 6 gas chromatograph with mass spectrometers (GC-MS) detectors, 1 dual-channel gas chromatographs with two electron capture (GC-ECD) detectors, 2 gas chromatographs with micro-electron capture (GC-uECD) detector, 4 gas chromatographs with flame ionization detectors (GC-FID). GERG has a GC with a high resolution mass spectrometers (GC-HRMS) for the analysis of dioxin/furan and dioxin-like PCBs. For other trace organic analyses, GERG has 2 high performance liquid chromatographs (HPLC), 1 HPLC coupled to a mass spectrometer (HPLC-MS). All instruments are fully automated with injectors and computers for data acquisition.

Most recent acquisitions in analytical equipment in 2017 is a Waters/Agilent 6470 triple quadrupole LC-MS/MS, an Agilent Ion Mobility Q-TOF LC/MS, an Agilent 7010 GC/MS/MS Triple Quadrupole EI system and a Leco GC/GC 2 dimensional system with a Time of Flight Mass spectrometer. The IMS and LCQQQ are housed in a Biological Safety Laboratory 2 for the analysis of human cells as well as environmental samples.

GERG has a six channel Astoria analyzer for nutrient analyses and 3 automated oxygen titrators. GERG can perform salinity analyses on either a Guildline Autosal 8400B or 8400A.

GERG’s trace metal laboratory has 2 forced air hoods and 1 perchloric acid hood housed in an isolated controlled access area where samples are digested. Teflon vessels and sufficient lab-ware is available for use in acid digestion of samples. The inorganic sample preparation room is adjacent to the inorganic instrument room and both rooms have a heating and ventilation system isolated from the remainder of the GERG laboratory. The laboratory has a PerkinElmer FAMI 400 cold vapor mercury atomic absorption spectroscopy (CVAAS) system with an AS 90 Auto Sampler. Other trace metals are determined by inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP/MS) using a PerkinElmer NexION ICP-MS located at the Texas A&M University Chemistry Trace Characterization facility. GERG also can perform metal analyses by neutron activation at Texas A&M University research reactor.

Approximately 2,500 square feet of office space exists for the compiling, packaging, and shipping of analytical data and other deliverables.