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Anna SzynkiewiczAnna Szynkiewicz

Associate Professor
Isotope Geochemistry

Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences
742 Strong Hall
1621 Cumberland Ave
Knoxville, TN 37996-1410

Phone: 974-6006
Anna Szynkiewicz's CV

As a geologist specializing in stable isotope geochemistry, my research focus is on surface processes related to water activity on the continental crust. I use a variety of chemical and isotope tracers to understand how water interacts with and moves through rocks, how much dissolution takes place, and from where pollutants in rivers and groundwater are sourced. This allows me to determine and quantify the relationships between water chemistry (quality) and climate, as well as to elucidate human impact on water. Results of my research projects have led to understanding the extent of acid rain impact in mountain catchments of Eastern Europe, sources of salinity in American Southwest and coastal aquifers of northern Mexico, and sources of methane in hydraulically fractured areas of Central Appalachia. Conceptual models resulting from this work, such as those exploring the origin of water salinity in southern New Mexico and west Texas, are helpful in implementing effective strategies to combat decreasing water quality resulting from global warming and increases of land use for agriculture, particularly in semi-arid region.

Using my research experience from studying hydrological and geochemical processes on Earth, I also formulate research questions related to the origin of sulfur-bearing minerals in extraterrestrial environments, specifically on Mars. These minerals provide a gateway for understanding water history and the potential for life. I also work to determine whether imprints of life—and its interaction with the sulfur system—are preserved in these rocks and how we could find life signature with instruments sent to Mars.

Stable Isotope Laboratory

I supervise the Stable Isotope Laboratory which is located in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences (EPS) on the campus of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Tennessee

We provide stable isotope services for research and commercial users. The lab has two Thermo-Finnigan Delta mass spectrometers and a variety of peripheral devices that enable the measurement of C-H-N-O-S isotopic ratios in a variety of materials. The types of analyses that we can perform and the prices per analysis are listed here.

If you are interested in measuring stable isotope ratios in the EPS isotope facility, please contact Anthony Faiia and/or Anna Szynkiewicz.

Jan 2004 - Ph.D. in Geology, University of Wrocław, Poland

Jun 2000 - M.Sc. in Geology, University of Wrocław, Poland

Jun 1998 - B.Sc. in Geology, University of Wrocław, Poland

Professional Experience

  • Aug 2020 – Present, Associate Professor, University of Tennessee at Knoxville
  • Aug 2013 - Jul 2020, Assistant Professor, University of Tennessee at Knoxville
  • May 2011 – Jul 2013, Research Assistant Professor (non-tenure track), University of Texas at El Paso
  • Jul 2009 – Apr 2011, Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Texas at El Paso
  • Sep 2005 - Jun 2009, Postdoctoral Fellow, Bloomington, Indiana University
  • Feb 2004 – Aug 2005, Assistant Professor (tenure track), University of Wrocław, Poland

Mars Analog Research

  • Ende J.J., Szynkiewicz A. (2021) Mechanisms of sulfate formation in acidic-volcanic hydrothermal sites of Iceland, Lassen, Valles Caldera and Yellowstone: Implications for possible oxidation pathways in Martian volcanic settings. Icarus 368, 114608.
  • Szynkiewicz A. & Bishop J.L. (2021) Assessment of sulfate sources under cold conditions as a geochemical proxy for the origin of sulfates in the circumpolar dunes on Mars. Minerals 11, 507.
  • Hynek B.M., McCollom T.M., Szynkiewicz A. (2019) Sulfur cycling and mass balance at Meridiani, Mars. Journal of Geophysical Research 46,
  • Szynkiewicz A., Goff F., Faiia A.M., & Vaniman, D. (2019b). Sulfur cycle in Valles Caldera volcanic complex, New Mexico – Letter 2: Aqueous sulfate budget and implications for hydrological transport on early Mars. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 506, 552-562.
  • Szynkiewicz A., Goff F., Vaniman D.V., Faiia A.M., & Pribil M.J. (2019a). Sulfur cycle in Valles Caldera volcanic complex, New Mexico – Letter 1: Sulfate sources in aqueous system, and implications for S isotope record in Gale Crater on Mars. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 506, 540-551.
  • Szynkiewicz A., Borrok D.M., Vaniman D.T. (2014) Efflorescence as a source of hydrated sulphate minerals in valley settings on Mars. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 393: 14-25.
  • Szynkiewicz A., Modelska M., Buczyński S., Borrok D.M., Merrison J.P. (2013) The polar sulfur cycle in the Werenskioldbreen, Spitsbergen: Possible implications for understanding the deposition of sulfate minerals in the North Polar Region of Mars. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 106: 326-343.
  • Szynkiewicz A., Johnson A.P., Pratt L.M.(2012) Sulfur species and biosignatures in Sulphur Springs of Valles Caldera, New Mexico – implications for Mars astrobiology. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 321-322: 1-13.
  • Szynkiewicz A., Moore C.H., Glamoclija M., Bustos D., Pratt L.M. (2010b) The origin of coarsely crystalline gypsum domes in a saline playa environment at the White Sands National Monument, New Mexico. Journal of Geophysical Research,115, F02021, doi:10.1029/2009JF001592.
  • Szynkiewicz A., Ewing R.C., Moore C.H., Glamoclija M, Bustos D., Pratt L.M. (2010a) Origin of terrestrial gypsum dunes – implications for Martian gypsum-rich dunes of Olimpia Undae. Geomorphology, 121: 69-83.
  • Szynkiewicz A., Moore C.H., Glamoclija M., Pratt L.M. (2009) Sulfur isotope signatures in gypsiferous sediments of the Estancia and Tularosa Basins as paleoindicators of sulfate sources, hydrologic cycle and bacterial activity. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 73, 6162-6186.

Earth Research Studies

  • Lyons W.B., Carey A.E., Gardner C.B., Welch S.A., Smith D.F., Szynkiewicz A., Diaz M., Croot P., Henry T., Flynn R. (2021) The geochemistry of Irish rivers. Journal of Hydrology 37, 100881.
  • Bishop J.L., Unger R., Faiia A.M., Szynkiewicz A., Auxier II J.D., Hall H.L., & Lang M. (2020) Thermal signatures of Cu metal revealed through oxygen isotope fractionation. Journal of Radioanalytical and Nuclear Chemistry.
  • Szynkiewicz A., Olichwer T., & Tarka R. (2020) Delineation of groundwater provenance in Arctic environment using isotopic composition of water and sulfate. Journal of Hydrology 580, 124232.
  • Ramsey A. B. & Szynkiewicz A. (2019) Coupled chemical-isotope assessment of potential metal releases to the water column from river sediments impacted by coal ash spill. Applied Geochemistry 107, 34-44.
  • Buongiornoa J., Herbert L. C., Wehrmann L. M., Michaud A., Laufer K., Roy H., Jorgensen B.B., Szynkiewicz A., Faiia A.M., Yeager K.M., Schindler K. & Lloyd, K. (2019). Complex microbial communities drive iron and sulfur cycling in Arctic fjord sediments". Applied and Environmental Microbiology 85: e00949-19.
  • Ramsey A. B., Faiia A. M., & Szynkiewicz A. (2019). Eight years after the coal ash spill – Fate of trace metals in the contaminated river sediments near Kingston, Eastern Tennessee. Applied Geochemistry 104, 158-167.
  • Sanchez D.A., Szynkiewicz A., & Faiia A.M. (2017). Determining sources of nitrate in the semi-arid Rio Grande using nitrogen and oxygen isotopes. Applied Geochemistry, 86, 59-69.
  • LeDoux S.M., Szynkiewicz A., Faiia A.M., Mayes M.A., McKinney M.L., Dean W.G. (2016): Chemical and isotope compositions of shallow groundwater in areas impacted by hydraulic fracturing and surface mining in the Central Appalachian Basin, Eastern United States. Applied Geochemistry 71: 73-85.
  • Szynkiewicz A., Borrok D.B. (2016): Isotope variations of dissolved Zn in the Rio Grande watershed, USA: The role of adsorption on Zn isotope composition. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 433: 293-302
  • Szynkiewicz A., Borrok D.B., Ganjegunte G.K., Skrzypek G., Ma L., Rearick M., Perkins G. (2015b): Isotopic studies of the Rio Grande. Part 2 – Salt loads and human impact in south New Mexico and west Texas. Chemical Geology 411: 336-350.
  • Szynkiewicz A., Borrok D.B., Skrzypek G., Rearick M. (2015a): Isotopic studies of the Rio Grande. Part 1 – Importance of sulfide weathering in the riverine sulfate budget in south Colorado and north/central New Mexico. Chemical Geology 411: 323-335.
  • Szynkiewicz A., Modelska M., Rangel-Medina M., Farmer G.L., Rabago P.H., Monreal R. (2014) Age and shape of paleo-seawater intrusions in the semi-arid coastal aquifer of Sonora Desert, northern Mexico. Geoscience Notes 2.2: 12-38.
  • Szynkiewicz A., Newton B.T., Timmons S.S., Borrok D.M. (2012) The sources and budget for dissolved sulfate in a fractured carbonate aquifer, Southern Sacramento Mountains, New Mexico, USA. Applied Geochemistry 27: 1451-1462.
  • Szynkiewicz A., Witcher J., Modelska M., Borrok D.B., Pratt L.M. (2011) Anthropogenic sulfate loads in the Rio Grande, New Mexico. Chemical Geology 283: 194-209.
  • Skrzypek G., Jezierski P., Szynkiewicz A. (2010) Preservation of primary stable isotope signatures of peat-forming plants during early decomposition – observation along an altitudinal transect. Chemical Geology, 273: 238-249.
  • Szynkiewicz A., Medina M.R., Modelska M., Monreal R., Pratt L.M. (2008d) Sulfur isotopic study of sulfate in the aquifer of Costa de Hermosillo (Sonora, Mexico) in relation to upward intrusion of saline groundwater, irrigation pumping and land cultivation. Review Paper in Applied Geochemistry, 23: 2539-2558.
  • Szynkiewicz A., Modelska M., Kurasiewicz M., Jędrysek M.O., Mastalerz M. (2008c) Aging of organic matter in the incubated freshwater sediments; Inferences from C and H isotopic ratios in methane. Geological Quarterly, 52(4): 383-396.
  • Szynkiewicz A., Modelska M., Jędrysek M.O., Mastalerz M. (2008b) The effect of acid rain and altitude on concentration, d34S, and d18O of sulfate in the water from Sudety Mountains, Poland. Chemical Geology, 249: 36-51.
  • Szynkiewicz A., Jędrysek M.O., Kurasiewicz M., Mastalerz M. (2008a) Influence of sulfate input on freshwater sediments: Insights from incubation experiments. Applied Geochemistry, 23: 1607-1622.
  • Jezierski P., Szynkiewicz A., Jędrysek M.O. (2006) Natural and anthropogenic origin sulphate in a mountainous aquatic system: S and O isotope evidences. Water Air and Soil Pollution, 173: 81-101.
  • Szynkiewicz A., Jędrysek M.O., Kurasiewicz M. (2006) Carbon isotope effects during precipitation of barium carbonate: implications for environmental studies. Environmental Chemistry Letters. 4(1), 29-35.
2020-2021 “Sourcing runoff and chemical origins in urban storm water runoff: An application in Knoxville, TN” – Tennessee Water Resources Research Center & US Geological Survey grant awarded to multiple Co-PIs, including Hathaway & Szynkiewicz ($16,535)


"Determining mechanisms of sulfate formation on Mars using terrestrial analogs" - NASA grant awarded to PI-Szynkiewicz ($208,907)

2016-2017 "Environmental impacts of coal ash spill on nutrient cycling and surface water quality in eastern Tennessee" – US Department of Interior & US Geological Survey grant awarded to PI-Szynkiewicz ($9,000).
2014-2017 "Collaborative research: a multi-tracer (U, S, B, and Sr) approach to fingerprint and quantify anthropogenic salinity sources in the semi-arid Rio Grande watershed" - PI–Lin Ma, University of Texas at El Paso. NSF grant awarded to Co-PI Szynkiewicz ($23,148).
2014-2015 "Characterizing groundwater pollution from hydraulic fracturing using environmental tracers" – Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU) grant awarded to PI-Szynkiewicz ($10,000).
2012-2016 "Sulfur cycling during the volcanic and climatic evolution of Valles Caldera – A geochemical analogue for sulfate-mineral deposition on Mars" – NASA grant awarded to PI-Szynkiewicz ($243,895).

The Universe of Clay – Understanding Clay Through Science and Art

During the month of October, 2020 an exhibit at Might Mud Gallery in Knoxville was exploring geological processes involved in the formation of clay minerals on Earth and Mars.

The Universe of Clay featured ceramic rovers and paintings with iron oxides and acrylic gels by visual artist Shelagh Leutwiler, a 2007 UT studio arts graduate. In collaboration with Anna Szynkiewicz, associate professor and Rhianna Moore, graduate student in the UT Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, they hoped to evaluate whether clay pottery would be possible on Mars.

“Our goal with this public outreach is to educate viewers about key scientific processes of clay formation on Earth and Mars,” Szynkiewicz said. “We hope to increase scientific literacy by presenting the process of discovery through scientific investigations.”

The Universe of Clay brought the planetary geoscience out of the classroom and into the public sphere of an art gallery with the intention of educating about scientific discovery, inspiring, and entertaining members of the local community.

“Our hope is that the exhibit has increased public understanding of the geological process in formation of clays that are widely used by art communities in the Knoxville area and inspire the public about STEM education,” Szynkiewicz said.

More information about The Universe of Clay.

Here is a video.

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