Springe direkt zu Inhalt

Prof. Dr. Esther Schwarzenbach


Arbeitsbereich Mineralogie-Petrologie


Malteserstr. 74-100
Room N 28
12249 Berlin
+49 (0)30 - 838 458 952

Professional Experience

Since 05/2018  

Juniorprofessor for Mineralogy with focus on interaction between fluid, rock and microorganisms (W1) at Freie Universität Berlin, Department of Earth Sciences, Berlin, Germany

Since 06/2015   

Adjunct faculty, Virginia Tech, USA

06/2015 – 04/2018        

Research Scientist, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany

08/2013 – 06/2015        

Research Scientist, Virginia Tech, USA

02/2012 – 07/2013        

Postdoctoral Associate, Virginia Tech, USA

04/2011 – 12/2011        

Postdoctoral Researcher, ETH Zurich, Switzerland

03/2007 – 02/2011        

Teaching assistant, ETH Zurich, Switzerland


03/2007 – 02/2011        

Doctor of Sciences (Dr. sc. ETH Zurich), Institute of Geochemistry and Petrology, ETH Zurich, Switzerland.

Thesis title: “Serpentinization, fluids and life: Comparing carbon and sulfur cycles in modern and ancient environments”.

10/2001 – 10/2006        

Diploma in Natural Sciences, Department of Earth Sciences, ETH Zurich, Switzerland

Thesis title: Petrographie und Geochemie der Alten Vulkanischen Serie der Insel Patmos (Dodekanes, Griechenland)

Professional affiliation

Memberships: Geochemical Society, European Geosciences Union, European Association of Geochemistry, American Geophysical Union

Peer reviews for: Geology, Applied Geochemistry, Chemical Geology, European Journal of Mineralogy, Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, Journal of Petrology, Geochemistry Geophysics Geosystems, Lithos, Earth and Planetary Science Letters, GSA Bulletin, Science Advances

Invited Conference Talks


C-DEBI annual meeting, Marina, CA, USA


Deep Carbon Observatory (DCO) Early Career Workshop, Sao Miguel, Azores


AGU fall meeting, San Francisco, CA, USA

Invited Seminar Talks


University of Bonn, Bonn, Germany


University of Potsdam, Potsdam, Germany


Geoforschungszentrum (GFZ) Potsdam, Germany


University of Leeds, Leeds, United Kingdom       

University of Göttingen, Göttingen, Germany


Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA            

Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, New York, USA           

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, USA


University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC, USA


University of Houston, Houston, TX, USA            

Boston University, Boston, MA, USA


Since 10/2015             

Earth I and II; introductory course into geological processes (B.Sc.)

Since 04/2016             

Fluid-solid interactions (M.Sc.)

Since 10/2016             

Earth I, practical on mineral and rock identification (B.Sc.)

Since 04/2017             

Optical microscopy (B.Sc.)

Current research interests

My research largely focuses on the alteration of the oceanic lithosphere. In particular, I investigate fluid-rock interaction processes and the fundamental links between mineral reactions and biogenic activity, and how the chemical interaction between the geosphere, hydrosphere and biosphere impacts the global geochemical cycles. As oceanic lithosphere is altered various species, including H2O, S, C, Ca, and Mg, are transferred from the fluid into the rock. During subduction, dehydration reactions release and transport these species into the overlying mantle wedge. The aim of my research is to investigate the chemical and petrophysical changes during rock alteration and to evaluate the links between abiogenic and biogenic processes. This includes the study of water-rock interaction mechanisms, the controls on reaction rates and kinetics, and how mineral alteration reactions facilitate biogenic activity that may enhance, e.g., S and C storage. In addition, I investigate how these processes impact large-scale geochemical cycles. Particularly how effective this altered lithosphere is as a transport medium for inorganic and organic compounds, volatiles such as CO2 and H2O, and sulfides and metals into the mantle and how e.g., sulfur is released during metamorphism of the subducted oceanic lithosphere. In my research I use traditional and novel stable isotope systems (e.g., S, C, O, Ca) in combination with bulk rock and high-resolution in situ techniques (secondary ion mass spectrometry), μ-XANES, bulk rock major and trace element signatures, radiogenic isotopes (e.g., 87Sr/86Sr), mineralogy and petrology (electron microprobe analyses, scanning electron microscopy, X-ray diffraction, optical microscopy).

Current Grants

In search of the biosphere underneath the Lost City hydrothermal vent field using in situ sulfur and multiple sulfur isotope signatures. Funded by the DFG – SPP IODP/ICDP

Elucidating Eoarchean geodynamic  processes by multiple sulfur isotopes. PI Elis Hofmann, doctoral student: Jonathan Lewis; Funded by the DFG – SPP 1833 “Building a habitable Earth”

Peer-reviewed publications

Li, J.-L., Schwarzenbach, E. M., John, T., Ague, J.J., Huang, F., Gao, J., Klemd, R., Whitehouse, M.J. and Wang, X.-S., 2020. Uncovering and quantifying the subduction zone sulfur cycle from the slab perspective. Nature Communications. 11, 514. doi: 10.1038/s41467-019-14110-4

Su, W., Schwarzenbach, E. M., Chen, L., Li, Y., John, T., Gao, J., Liu, X. and Chen, F. (2019). Sulfur isotope compositions of pyrite from high-pressure metamorphic rocks and related veins (SW Tianshan, China): implications for the sulfur cycle in subduction zones. Lithos. 348-349, 105212. doi: 10.1016/j.lithos.2019.105212

Liebmann, J., Schwarzenbach, E. M., Früh-Green, G. L., Boschi, C., Rouméjon, S., Strauss, H., Wiechert, U., John, T., (2018). Tracking water-rock interaction at the Atlantis Massif (MAR, 30°N) using sulfur geochemistry. Geochemistry Geophysics Geosystems. doi: 10.1029/2018GC007813

Schwarzenbach, E. M., Caddick, M. J., Petroff, M., Gill, B., Cooperdock, E. H. G., Barnes, J. D., (2018): Sulphur and carbon cycling in the subduction zone mélange. Scientific Reports. 8, 15517, doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-33610-9

Früh-Green, G.L., Orcutt, B., Rouméjon, S., Lilley, M.D., Morono, Y., Cotterill, C., Green, S., Excartin, J., John, B., McCaig, A., Cannat, M., Ménez, B., Schwarzenbach, E.M., Williams, M. et al., (2018): Magmatism, serpentinization and life: Insights trough drilling the Atlantis Massif (IODP Expedition 357). Lithos. 323, 137-155, doi: 10.1016/j.lithos.2018.09.012.

Rouméjon, S., Früh-Green, G. L., Orcutt, B. N., and the IODP Expedition 357 Science Party, (2018): Alteration heterogeneities in peridotites exhumed on the southern wall of the Atlantis Massif (IODP Expedition 357). Journal of Petrology. 59 (7), 1329-1358, doi: 10.1093/petrology/egy065.

Schwarzenbach, E. M., Gill, B. C., Johnston, D., (2018) Unraveling multiple phases of sulfur cycling during the alteration of ultramafic oceanic lithosphere. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta. 223, 279-299, doi: 10.1016/j.gca.2017.12.006.

Cooperdock E. H. G., Raia, N. H., Barnes, J. D., Stockli, D. F., Schwarzenbach, E. M., (2018) Tectonic origin of serpentinites on Syros, Greece: Geochemical signatures of abyssal origin preserved in a HP/LT subduction complex. Lithos. 296-299, 352-364, doi: 10.1016/j.lithos.2017.10.020.

Lamadrid, H. M., Rimstidt, J. D., Schwarzenbach, E. M., Klein, F., Ulrich, S., Dolocan, A., Bodnar, R. J., (2017): Effect of water activity on rates of serpentinization of olivine. Nature Communications. 8, 16107, doi: 10.1038/ncomms16107

Schwarzenbach, E. M., Gill, B. C., Gazel, E., Madrigal, P., (2016): 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, J. S., Bodnar, R. J., (2016): Serpentinization, element transfer and the progressive development of zoning in veins: Evidence from a partially serpentinized harzburgite. Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology. 171 (1), 1-22, doi: 10.1007/s00410-015-1219-3.

Klein, F., Humphris, S. E., Guo, W., Schubotz, F., Schwarzenbach, E. M., Orsi, W., (2015): Fluid mixing and the deep biosphere of a fossil Lost City-type hydrothermal system at the Iberian Margin. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. 112, 12036-12041, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1504674112.

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 (5), 1-21.

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 analog 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 carbon sequestration: 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.


Other Publications

Früh-Green, G. L., Orcutt, B. N., Green, S., Cotterill, C. and the Expedition 357 Scientists, (2017): Atlantis Massif serpentinization and life. Proceedings of the International Ocean Discovery Program 357, doi: 10.14379/iodp.proc.357.2017

Früh-Green, G. L., Orcutt, B. N., Green, S., Cotterill, C. and the Expedition 357 Scientists, (2016): Expedition 357 Preliminary Report: Atlantis Massif serpentinization and life. International Ocean Discovery Program Preliminary Reports. doi: 10.14379/iodp.pr.357.2016

Schwarzenbach, E. M., (2016): Serpentinization and the formation of fluid pathways. Geology Research focus. 44 (2), 175-176, doi: 10.1130/focus022016.1