Pere Masque is professor in Physics at the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona. Our research group at the Environmental Radioactivity Laboratory applies both natural and artificial radioactive isotopes ranging in half-lives of a few days to thousands of years (e.g., 7Be, 90Sr, 137Cs, 210Po, 210Pb, 222Rn, Ra isotopes, Th isotopes, 231Pa, Pu isotopes and U isotopes) as tracers of environmental processes. Current main areas of research are:
1) Elucidating the ocean’s role as a source or sink of CO2 via the study of biologically mediated particle formation from mesoscale eddies, nitrogen fixation blooms, and natural iron fertilization using tracers such as 234Th and 210Po.
2) Natural and anthropogenic impacts on nutrient and trace metal biogeochemistry of the coastal and open ocean via groundwater discharge. We are developing an intense activity on the evaluation of submarine groundwater discharge in coastal areas using Ra and Rn isotopes to investigate both water and associated nutrient cycles.
3) The role of sea-ice in the transport of particulate matter and associated chemical species in the climatically vital Arctic Ocean. For that we use a suite of natural and artificial radionuclides as tracers.
4) Past ocean circulation and productivity rates and their role in controlling paleoclimate. Here we use the 231Pa/230Th ratio to understand the basin-scale abyssal flow across the Atlantic during the LGM and the Holocene.
5) Transfer of matter from the continent to the ocean and sedimentation dynamics in continental margins. This is based of the determination of mixing and sedimentation rates using 210Pb and 137Cs.
6) Radiological consequences of the presence of enhanced naturally occurring radioactive materials in the environment, focusing on the wastes generated by nuclear-related and fertilizer industries.
7) Impact of the releases of artificial radioactivity in the oceans (i.e. nuclear reprocessing plants, Chernobyl and Fukushima accidents) and their use as tracers of ocean circulation.
Keywords: environmental radioactivity, oceanic processes, contamination, dating