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Brief Profile of the Awardee


Dr Sunil Kumar Singh

  • 2016
  • Earth, Atmosphere, Ocean and Planetary Sciences
  • 16/03/1971
  • Low temperature elemental and isotope geochemistry, Earth Surface and Ocean Processes
Award Citation:

Dr Singh has made outstanding contributions in characterizing and quantifying dynamic geological processes occurring at or near the earth surface and in the ocean using environmental radiogenic isotopes and elements.

Academic Qualifications:
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Details of CSIR Fellowship/ Associateship held, if any or from other sources/ agencies.
Significant foreign assignments:
(a) Significant contributions to science and/ or technology development by the nominee based on the work done in India during most part of last 5 years:
Prof. Sunil Kumar Singh has made fundamental and outstanding contributions in characterizing and quantifying the dynamic geological process occurring at or near the earth surface and in oceans, by studying diagnostic environmental radiogenic and radioactive isotopes as well as selected elements. His research focus has been in the fields of: (1) Marine Geochemistry: Studies of “Oceanic tracer” elements and isotopes in estuaries and in the Indian Ocean for assessing their sources, sinks and internal cycles leading to the applications of marine biogeochemistry to the carbon cycle and global change, (2) Geochronology: Establishing “Re‐Os” radioactive dating technique in India that facilitates ‘dating’ of key sedimentary sequences in the country, (3) Weathering and Erosion: Chemical and physical erosion in the Himalaya and their links to climate and tectonics, A summary of Prof. Singh’s contributions to the above fields are outlined below: (1) Marine Geochemistry: Seawater chemistry controls the primary productivity in the global oceans, and hence the global climate by regulating ecosystem dynamics and carbon cycling. Prof. Singh’s programmes in marine geochemistry focuses on the distribution of diagnostic trace elements (e.g. Fe, Re, U, Mo, Ba and REEs) and isotope systematics (e.g. 87Sr/86Sr, Nd, δ98Mo and δ30Si) in estuaries and in the Indian Ocean, to characterize and quantify their source functions, internal cycling and sinks that allow elucidation of their budget as well as impact on biogeochemistry and global change. The challenging task of clean sampling and measurement techniques needed for analyzing dissolved trace elements and isotopes in seawater was successfully accomplished by Prof. Singh and his group for the first time in India, and these results are important in the global context. The studies carried out by Prof. Sunil Singh and his group in the estuaries demonstrated that the retention of Mo and subsequent release of lighter Mo have the potential to modify its isotopic composition entering the open ocean from that of rivers. This can influence the application of Mo and its isotopes as a paleo‐redox tracer. In contrast, release of REEs and Ba from particulates could contribute significantly to missing sinks of their global budget. Studies carried out by Prof. Singh also underscored the potential of 87Sr/86Sr as a tracer to track and quantify Submarine Groundwater Discharge (SGD) flux. The significant supply of radiogenic Sr from SGD to estuaries of India suggests that this source can affect the Sr isotope evolution of ocean and also the abundances and budget of other trace elements and nutrients in the coastal regions (Rahaman and Singh, 2009 #19; Rahaman et al., 2010 #24; Rahaman and Singh, 2012 #30; Rahaman et al., 2012 #34; Rahaman et al., 2014 #42). Prof. Singh’s research also brought out the significant impact of particulate matters supplied by the Ganga – Brahmaputra – Indus (G‐B‐I) river system have on the geochemistry of the Indian Ocean. His studies provided ample evidences that the huge pool of particulates supplied by the G‐B‐I river system deliver a suit of trace elements to the northern Indian Ocean by their dissolution/desorption in estuaries, deltas and on continental margins.
(b) Impact of the contributions in the field concerned:
During the past few decades the applications of radiogenic isotopes and trace elements have considerably advanced the understanding of variety of earth surface and marine processes. Prof. Sunil Singh has contributed significantly to these advances particularly to characterize and quantify selected processes in aqueous systems through use of chemical and isotope (87Sr/86Sr, εNd, 187Os/188Os, δ98Mo, δ30Si) composition of water and sediments from rivers and oceans. The recent researches carried out by Prof. Singh focuses on the distribution of trace elements and isotopes (TEIs) in estuaries and in the Indian Ocean to characterize and quantify their source functions, internal cycling and sinks and elucidating the impact of global change on their budget and biogeochemistry. These studies have direct relevance to understanding oceanic biogeochemistry and application of trace elements and isotopes to study water mixing and paleo‐oceanographic processes. These studies are challenging, as they require ultraclean sampling of seawater and measurement of trace elements and isotopes present in very low concentration in seawater, which were not available in India. Prof. Singh established successfully the clean sampling system and measurements techniques of trace elements and isotopes in seawater in India and carried out several important studies in this field. His work on εNd distribution in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian sea not only demonstrated the major role of particles in contributing to dissolved Nd and εNd in these waters but also identified the source of particles and estimated the quantum of Nd release. These results have direct relevance to the abundances and distribution of Nd and its isotopes in global oceans and the flux of aeolian dust over these oceanic regions. Such “particle – water interaction” acts as an important source of many elements (Mo, Fe, Nd) and isotopes to the global Ocean controlling their oceanic budgets significantly. One of the important outcomes of Prof. Singh’s study in the field of chemical oceanography is the identification of missing source of lighter Mo in the oceanic Budget of Mo. His results in estuaries and in the Bay of Bengal clearly demonstrated that Fe‐Mn hydroxide coating of the riverine particles incorporate lighter Mo from river water making the water enriched in heavier Mo isotopes. These riverine particulates and the shelf sediments of the northern Bay of Bengal release lighter Mo under the sub‐oxic condition prevailing in the water column of the northern Bay of Bengal. Prof. Singh’s study, for the first time, identified the missing source of lighter Mo to the ocean. This result is directly relevant to the application of Mo isotope composition of seawater in tracking paleo‐redox condition as it requires better understanding of sources and sinks of Mo isotopes and their fractionation during water‐particle interactions. Prof. Sunil Kumar Singh contributed remarkably in the field of geochronology of sedimentary deposits. He pioneered in establishing the Re‐Os chronometry in India to determine absolute chronology of organic carbon rich sedimentary deposits. He successfully applied this method to provide first radiometric ages of black shales from Tal formation from the Himalaya and from Lower Kaimur from the Vindhyan. These results confirmed that Krol‐Tal boundary represents the Pc‐C boundary in the Himalaya and there was a long hiatus in the sedimentary deposition between the Lower and Upper Vindhyan.
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Contact Details

  • Geosciences Division
    Physical Research Laboratory
    Ahmedabad - 380 009
    Gujarat INDIA
  • 079-26314307
  • 079-26314900
  • sunil[at]prl[dot]res[dot]in
29 Mar 2017, http://ssbprize.gov.in/Content/Detail.aspx?AID=524