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Peering into the Earth's interior ... in Iceland

Narrator:        This is Science Today. Iceland is one of the most volcanically active places in the world, making the rugged landscape an ideal environment for researchers to peer into the Earth's interior. David Hilton, a geochemist at the University of California, San Diego's Scripps Institution of Oceanography, says their research there helps explain the formation of Earth and what makes life here possible.

Hilton: Iceland is very unusual because normally it would be part of the submarine Mid-Atlantic ridge, but something is under the source of Iceland to produce so much melting, such that it now is emerging over sea level and people think that this is a hot spot. And one of the tests that we want to do is to see how much primordial material is contributing to the Icelandic hotspots.

Narrator:        Hilton's field expeditions offered the scientists unprecedented access to processes that take place deep in the earth's mantle. They analyzed different types of isotopes, including helium, carbon and nitrogen.

Hilton: Each isotopic system gives us different information.

Narrator:        For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.