Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences


Geology and Geography

Committee Chair

Joseph J. Donovan

Committee Co-Chair

Shikha Sharma

Committee Member

Eberhard Werner


This research examined the efficacy of using 13C of dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) to infer geochemical and microbiological processes in underground coal mine discharges. Groundwater samples from mines in two different coal seams (the Pittsburgh and Upper Freeport) and three different hydrogeologic settings (fully flooded, partially flooded, and free draining) were compared. Twenty mine discharges were sampled, fifteen from the Pittsburgh coal seam and five from the Upper Freeport. Sampling sites included mine portals and seeps. All sampling followed standard field protocols. Results were evaluated for possible relationships between 13CDIC signatures and 1) mine hydrogeologic setting and 2) geochemical properties of the individual coal seams and their overlying rock strata. Isotopic results were used in conjunction with inorganic geochemistry to test if different sources of carbon could be discriminated, e.g. carbonate minerals, organic carbon from coal and shale, organic carbon from the soil zone, or biogenic methane. Parameters describing hydrogeologic setting resulted in distinct statistical clusters separating fully-flooded, partially-flooded, and free-draining sites. Hydrogeochemical results show evidence of calcite dissolution, biogenic sulfate reduction, and CO2 evasion in the sample set. However, no definitive correlation was observed between isotopic and geochemical results that would be useful for differentiating sources of dissolved inorganic carbon.