Assistant Professor

Teaching and Research

As a low-temperature geochemist and environmental mineralogist I apply high-precision aqueous geochemical techniques and state-of-the-art spectroscopic techniques to understand molecular-scale geochemical processes in bio/geo media and predict contaminant fate in disturbed systems.

My research aims at determining the mechanisms of mineral transformation in low temperature environments. To achieve this goal I apply a variety of state-of-the-art tools spanning from the atomic scale to the field scale combined with aqueous geochemistry. Using a combination of nanoscale (HRTEM, XAS), microscale (SEM, XRD) and macroscale (XRF, GIS) probing techniques, I design experiments to solve field-based environmental issues. My current research investigates this aspect in three principal projects: i) behavior and remediation of Pb in soils, ii) nanoscale to macroscale weathering mechanisms in soils and iii) paleoclimate reconstruction using micromineralogy.

I am also a collaborator on various projects that aim to investigate geochemical responses to environmental disturbances.

I teach Environmental Geology (GEOL055), Earth System Science (GEOL001), Geocomputing (GEOL185), Extraterrestrial Life (AS96/GEOL096/PHYS096/HUMN096), Planetology (first-year seminar)

Publications

Recent Publications

  • Perdrial N., Vázquez-Ortega A., Reinoso-Maset E., O’Day P.A., Chorover J. (2022) - Effects of flow on uranium speciation in soils impacted by acidic fluids, Journal of Environmental Radioactivity, 251-252, 106955.
  • McStay A.C., Walser S.L., Sirkovich E.C., Perdrial N., Richardson J.B. (2022) - Nutrient and toxic elements in soils and plants across 10 urban community gardens: Comparing pXRF and ICP-based soil measurements, Journal of Environmental Quality, 51, 439-450.
  • Richardson J.B., Mischenko I.C., Mackowiak T.J., Perdrial N. (2022) - Trace metals and metalloids and Ga/Al ratios in grey shale weathering profiles along a climate gradient and in batch reactors, Geoderma, 405, 115431.
  • Vázquez-Ortega A., Perdrial N., Reinoso-Maset E., Root R.A., O’Day P.A., Chorover J. (2021) - Phosphate controls uranium release from acidic waste-weathered Hanford sediments, Journal of Hazardous Materials, 416, 126240.
  • Christ A.J., Bierman P.R., Schaefer J.M., Dahl-Jensen D., Steffensen J.P., Corbett L.B., Peteet D.M., Thomas E.K., Steig E.J., Rittenour T.M., Tison J.-L., Blard P.-H., Perdrial N., Dethier D.P., Lini A., Hidy A.J., Caffee M.W., Southon J. (2021) - A multimillion-year-old record of Greenland vegetation and glacial history preserved in sediment beneath 1.4 km of ice at Camp Century, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 118 (13), e2021442118

 

Nico smiling for the camera out on the UVM green on a sunny day

Areas of Expertise and/or Research

Mineralogy, Geochemistry, Contaminant Transport, Environmental Geology, Nanoparticles, Mineral-Bacteria Interactions, Archaeogeology.

Education

  • Ph.D. Université Louis Pasteur, Strasbourg, France, 2007

Contact

Phone:
  • 802-656-0245
Office Location:

Delehanty Hall, Room 319

Website(s):
  1. Nico's website

Courses Taught

  • GEOL001

Geology is the study of “Earth Materials” and the Processes that affect those materials, usually in the context of History, sometimes short, but oftentimes a very long history. Usually geologists try to understand what’s happened in the past, but we also try to predict what will happen in the future, based on our understanding of the past and the way the earth works. Geology integrates many of the physical and biological sciences and uses a wide variety of investigative tools. In this course we will introduce you to some of these materials and processes: i.e. show you how to describe rocks, surficial materials, landforms, structures, etc. and also describe the types of processes that produce these materials and move them from one place to another both on and within the earth. We will also begin to decipher some of Earth’s past history, focusing on our local history here in northern Vermont, and discuss why this is important regarding our future. Above all, geology is about making observations of the world around us and trying to understand how it works. We will be making observations and interpreting some Earth processes in this course.

  • GEOL055

The primary objective of this course is to introduce you to the geologic materials and processes that affect our lives and that are affected by things we do. Specifically, we want you to be able to understand how geologic processes work in our local environment, how those processes affect people, and how people affect those geologic processes. We will spend most of our time working with the materials that are relatively close to Earth's surface and the processes that operate over time scales that are geologically short: minutes, days, hundreds and thousands of years as opposed to millions or billions of years. We will follow a process-based structure, starting from the effects of internal Earth processes to the effects of external Earth processes. However, a more important focus will be on external processes.

An important aspect of this class is the human element.  We will spend time examining the relationships between the environment with humans including the economy, social issues, and laws and regulations.  While you may not go on to become a geologist, you’ll certainly encounter environmental issues wherever you live and probably in your future profession.

  • GEOL185

This class is an introduction to a variety of computing tools (see list below) commonly used in geosciences. Hands-on experience is at the heart of the teaching of this class. Oriented toward scientific curriculum, you will use real data to resolve specific problems encountered in geosciences. The specific software used in that class will provide you with: i) in-depth understanding of the functions of calculating, statistical and graphical tools (excel, JMP), ii) an introduction to programming using visual basic, iii) the ability to treat and extract data from images using imageJ and photoshop, and iv) an introduction to GIS mapping (QGIS). By producing maps from the microscale to the planetary scale (Mars, Earth), you will capture the essence of the multiscale approach necessary in geoscience studies. A key aspect of this class is to “de-demonize” these tools.

  • AS096A

Astrobiology addresses three basic questions that have been asked in various ways for generations:

1.         how does life begin and evolve

2.         does life exist elsewhere in the universe

3.         what is the future of life on Earth and beyond?

This large multidisciplinary introductory class delves into the origin of life in the universe and the quest for space exploration. The class will approach these topics through the lens of astronomy, biology, physics, geology, chemistry, philosophy and art. The class is intended to reach a general audience of various backgrounds. By exploring the planetary and physical conditions required for life to exist, students will learn about i) core science concepts such as the scientific method, length and time scales, evolution, and ii) how these ideas alter our perception of everyday life, popular culture and the art.

A fundamental aspect of this class is to explore the disciplinary perspective attached to the concept of extraterrestrial life and the evolution of this concept through time and space. This topic is a perfect medium to teach core concepts in science such as: scientific methodology, systems, evolution and scale and to link these concepts to philosophical, historical and sociological considerations.