Esther Schwarzenbach

Research Scientist, Freie Universität Berlin


PhD, Earth Sciences, ETH Zurich, 2011

Diploma, Earth Sciences, ETH Zurich, 2006

As a petrologist and geochemist I investigate the geochemical and isotopic evolution of the oceanic lithosphere and the links between biogenic and abiogenic processes during water-lithosphere interaction. My recent research focuses on the processes associated with serpentinization reactions – the hydration of ultramafic rocks – and their role in mid-ocean ridge settings, subduction zones and in continental serpentinization environments. This includes studying the impact of serpentinization on global geochemical cycles, coupling thermodynamic, textural and compositional constraints to understand processes of progressive water-rock interaction, and investigating how the hydration of mantle rock changes the chemical and petrophysical properties of the oceanic lithosphere and controls the transport of key components (e.g. water, carbon, sulfur) into Earth’s mantle. Furthermore, serpentinization reactions are a significant source of reduced chemical species such as hydrogen and methane. These reduced volatiles support microbial activity in present day serpentinization systems giving rise to hypotheses that such environments may have served as a birthplace for life on Earth and that serpentinization may support or once supported life on other planetary bodies.

  • Schwarzenbach, E.M., Gill, B.C., Gazel, E., Madrigal, P2016. Sulfur and carbon geochemistry of the Santa Elena peridotites: Comparing oceanic and continental processes during peridotite alteration. Lithos 252-253, 92-108, doi:10.1016/j.lithos.2016.02.017.
  • Wang, X., Plansvsky, N., Reinhard, C.T., Zou, H., Ague, J., Wu, Y, Gill, B. C., Schwarzenbach, E.M., Peucker-Ehrenbrink, B., 2016.Chromium isotope fractionation during subduction-related metamorphism, black shale weathering, and hydrothermal alteration. Chemical Geology 423, 19-33, doi: 10.1016/j.chemgeo.2016.01.003
  • Schwarzenbach, E.M., Caddick, M.J., Beard, B.S., Bodnar, R.J., 2015. Serpentinization, element transfer and the progressive development of zoning in veins: Evidence from a partially serpentinized harzburgite. Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology 171.
  • Klein, F., Humphris, S., Guo, W., Schubotz, F., Schwarzenbach, E.M., Orsi, W., 2015. A fossil 'Lost-City'-type hydrothermal system at the Iberia Margin: Subseafloor fluid mixing and the deep biosphere. PNAS 112, 12036-12041.
  • Schwarzenbach, E. M., Gazel, E., Caddick, M. J., 2014. Hydrothermal processes in partially serpentinized peridotites from Costa Rica: Evidence from native copper and complex sulfide assemblages. Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology, 168, 1079.
  • Sanchez-Murillo, R., Gazel, E., Schwarzenbach, E. M., Crespo-Medina, M., Schrenk, M. O., Boll, J., Gill, B. C., 2014. Geochemical evidence for active tropical serpentinization in the Santa Elena ophiolite, Costa Rica: An analogue of a humid early Earth? Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, 15 (5), 1783-1800.
  • Schwarzenbach, E. M., Lang, S. Q., Früh-Green, G. L., Lilley, M. D., Bernasconi, S. M., Méhay, S., 2013. Sources and cycling of carbon in continental, serpentinite-hosted alkaline springs in the Voltri Massif, Italy. Lithos, 177, 226-244.
  • Schwarzenbach, E. M., Früh-Green, G. L., Bernasconi, S. M., Alt, J. C., Plas. A., 2013. Serpentinization and the incorporation of carbon: A study of two ancient peridotite-hosted hydrothermal systems. Chemical Geology, 351, 115-133.
  • Alt, J. C., Schwarzenbach, E. M., Früh-Green, G. L., Shanks III, W. C., Bernasconi, S. M., Garrido, C. J., Crispini, L., Gaggero, L., Padron-Navarta, J. A., Marchesi, C., 2013. The role of serpentinites in cycling of carbon and sulfur: Seafloor serpentinization and subduction metamorphism. Lithos, 178, 40-54.
  • Schwarzenbach, E. M., Früh-Green, G. L., Bernasconi, S. M., Alt, J. C., Shanks III, W. C., Gaggero, L., Crispini, L., 2012. Sulfur geochemistry of peridotite-hosted hydrothermal systems: Comparing the Ligurian ophiolites with oceanic serpentinites. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 91, 283-305
  • Alt, J. C., Shanks III, W. C., Crispini, L., Gaggero, L., Schwarzenbach, E. M., Früh-Green, G. L., Bernasconi, S. M., 2012. Uptake of carbon and sulfur during seafloor serpentinization and the effects of subduction metamorphism in Ligurian peridotites, Chemical Geology, 322-323, 268-277.
Esther Schwarzenbach