Jennifer Prichard


PhD candidate at the Research School of Earth Sciences, Australian National University

Area of study:

Geochemistry and petrology


I analyse the major elements, trace elements, and isotopic systems of high MgO, primitive lavas from Hawaii’s largest volcano: Mauna Loa. To do this I use acid digestion techniques and solution Inductively-Coupled-Plasma Mass-Spectrometry. This allows me to model magma chamber processes, and source characteristics of Hawaii’s volcanoes.

What does that mean??

A significant part of my work is done in a chemical laboratory. Here I use strong acids like hydrofluoric acid to dissolve the  lavas into a solution. I then run these solutions through various analytical instruments to determine what they are made of.

Some of the elements I analyse for are present in large concentrations in the rock, like magnesium, silicon, iron, calcium, and aluminium. These elements tell me about shallow level magma chamber processes, such as what minerals crystallized from the lava, and at what pressures and temperatures.

Some of the elements are present in much smaller concentrations (parts per million), including strontium, neodymium, lead, and osmium. The concentrations of various isotopes of these elements can tell me about the chemical composition of the source, deep within the mantle (hundreds of Km).

How did I get here?

I studied Earth science as an undergraduate here at the ANU, where I completed my honours project investigating the geochemistry and geochronology of a hydrothermal tin/tungsten deposit in NE NSW. I love the detective work that is geochemistry, whereby the elements and minerals present in a single rock can tell you so much about the large scale, magmatic dynamics of the Earth, how it formed, and when. I have also been fortunate enough to travel to some wonderful places as a result of my study, including Hawaii, the Great Barrier Reef, and Central Australia.

Visit my LinkedIn Page