U.S. GEOTRACES contributes to the mission of the GEOTRACES program, an international study of the marine biogeochemical cycles of trace elements and their isotopes. Its mission is:

To identify processes and quantify fluxes that control the distributions of the key trace elements and isotopes in the ocean, and to establish the sensitivity of these distributions to changing environmental conditions. 

The GEOTRACES mission can be expressed as three overriding goals:

  • To determine full water column distributions of selected trace elements and isotopes, including their concentration, chemical speciation, and physical form, along a sufficient number of sections in each ocean basin to establish the principal relationships between these distributions and with more traditional hydrographic parameters;
  •  To evaluate the sources, sinks, and internal cycling of these species, as illustrated in the figure below, and thereby characterize more completely the physical, chemical and biological processes regulating their distributions, and the sensitivity of these processes to global change; and
  • To understand the processes that control the concentrations of geochemical species used for proxies of the past environment, both in the water column and in the substrates that reflect the water column.
Diagram illustrating the major influences on the distribution of Trace Elements and Isotopes (TEIs) in the ocean.

GEOTRACES is global in scope, consisting of ocean sections complemented by regional process studies.   Sections and process studies combine fieldwork, laboratory experiments and modelling.  Maps and information about individual cruises are maintained by the International GEOTRACES program. 

Beyond realizing the scientific objectives identified above, a natural outcome of this work will be to build a community of marine scientists who understand the processes regulating trace element cycles sufficiently well to exploit this knowledge reliably in future interdisciplinary studies.


GEOTRACES Science Plan


More information about the program can be found in the GEOTRACES Science Plan.