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Locating cryptotephra in sediments using fluid imaging technology
Journal of Paleolimnology (2014)
  • Robert D'Anjou, University of Massachusetts - Amherst
  • Nicholas L Balascio, College of William and Mary
  • Raymond S Bradley, University of Massachusetts - Amherst
We report a new approach to locate and quantify cryptotephra in sedimentary archives using a continuously-imaging Flow Cytometer and Microscope (FlowCAM_). The FlowCAM rapidly photographs particles flowing in suspension past a microscope lens and performs semi-automated analysis of particle images. It has had primarily biological applications, although the potential sedimentological applications are numerous. Here we test the ability of this instrument to image irregularly shaped, vesicular glass shards and to screen sediment samples for the presence of cryptotephra. First, reference samples of basalt and rhyolite tephra (sieved <63>microns) were analyzed with the FlowCAM, demonstrating the ability of the instrument to photograph individual tephra shards. The highest-quality images were used to create a reference library of tephra particles, against which other particle morphologies could be automatically compared. Lake sediment samples with known concentrations of tephra were then analyzed. The tephra image library was used to perform pattern recognition calculations, automatically distinguishing tephra-like images from other particles in the sediment samples. The number of tephra shards identified by the FlowCAM technique was compared to manual counting using a polarizing light microscope, demonstrating that this rapid approach is capable of determining the relative concentrations of tephra in a given sediment sample. However, the FlowCAM systematically underestimates tephra concentrations relative to manual counts. We conclude that with a well-developed image library, the FlowCAM can be an effective tool for cryptotephra and sedimentological applications, but it may be inappropriate for large volume samples or if particle morphologies are outside the range of the image library.
  • lake sediments,
  • tephrochronology
Publication Date
Citation Information
Robert D'Anjou, Nicholas L Balascio and Raymond S Bradley. "Locating cryptotephra in sediments using fluid imaging technology" Journal of Paleolimnology Vol. 52 (2014)
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