Vous êtes ici : Home   >   Research Groups   >   Biogéochimie moléculaire

Biogéochimie moléculaire

Head of the research group

Pierre ADAM
Directeur de Recherche au CNRS

Year of creation of the group- 2007


Le Bel Institute, 7th floor South

Secretarial and accounting services provided by

email: paola.sager@unistra.fr
Phone : +33 (0)3 68 85 12 41

Permanent members

  • Pierre ADAM
    Directeur de Recherche au CNRS
    email :
    Phone : +33 (0)3 68 85 28 04
  • Philippe SCHAEFFER
    Directeur de Recherche au CNRS
    email :
    Phone: +33 (0)3 68 85 28 05
    Ingénieur d'Etude à l'Unistra
    Phone : +33 (0)3 68 85 28 00

Non-permanent members



PhD students

  • Yu Min Kiw

M2 trainee

  • Agathe LEPRINCE

Description of the research group

The Molecular Biogeochemistry research group is specialized in the detailed molecular study of complex organic mixtures from soils, sediments, oils and archaeological objects. It is part of the Doctoral School of Chemical Sciences and is host laboratory for Masters in Analytical Sciences and Molecular & Supramolecular Chemistry.

Research topics

The research topics of the Molecular Biogeochemistry Laboratory are at the interface between analytical organic (bio) chemistry and synthetic chemistry.

Main areas of research

  • Elucidation of the origin(s) of organic matter in natural environments (soils, recent and ancient sediments). Study of biological markers (biomarkers)
  • Biogeochemistry of recent ecosystems: microbial ecology; processes of microbial and abiotic transformation of molecules of biological origin
  • Molecular analysis of fossil organic matter (coals, oils, oil fractions); Reconstruction of ancient sedimentary environments using biomarkers
  • Molecular archaeology: study of organic constituents from archaeological objects (balms, coatings, perfumes, ...)
  • Environmental chemistry: Evolution / biodegradation of organic pollutants (petroleum hydrocarbons)

Research projects are based on structural identification (synthesis, NMR) of natural products (steroids, terpenoids, pigments, etc.) and their derivatives in natural environments. This work is carried out within the framework of numerous academic (national and international) and industrial collaboration.

List of equipment and instruments

  • Gas chromatography with FID (GC-FID)
  • Analytical and preparative HPLC (detection: diode array, refractive index)
  • Gas Chromatography coupled with tandem mass spectrometry (GC-MS-MS)
  • Gas chromatography coupled with isotope ratio mass spectrometry
    (C, H, N, O; GC-IRMS)
  • Liquid chromatography coupled with ion trap mass spectrometry
    (APCI, ESI, APPI, MSn)

Recent publications

J. Perthuison, P. Schaeffer, P. Debels, P. Galant, P. Adam
Betulin-related esters from birch bark tar: identification, origin and archaeological significance.
Organic Geochemistry, 2020, 139, 103944 - https://doi.org/10.1016/j.orggeochem.2019.103944

P. Schaeffer, L. Bailly, E. Motsch, P. Adam
The effects of diagenetic aromatization on the carbon and hydrogen isotopic composition of higher plant di- and triterpenoids: evidence from buried wood.
Organic Geochemistry, 2019, 136, 103889 - https://doi.org/10.1016/j.orggeochem.2019.06.010

B. Courel, P. Adam, P. Schaeffer
The potential of triterpenoids as chemotaxonomic tools to identify and differentiate genuine, adulterated and archaeological balsams
Microchemical Journal, 2019, 147, 411-421 - https://doi.org/10.1016/j.microc.2019.03.035

B. Courel, P. Schaeffer, C. Féliu, Y. Thomas, P. Adam
Birch bark tar and jewellery: the case study of a necklace from the Iron age (Eckwersheim, NE France)
Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 20, 72-79, 2018

P. Adam, P. Schaeffer, J. Brocks
Synthesis of 26-methyl cholestane and identification of cryostanes in mid-Neoproterozoic sediments
Organic Geochemistry 2018, 115, 246-249

B. Courel, P. Schaeffer, P. Adam, E. Motsch, Q. Ebert, E. Moser, C. Féliu, S.M. Bernasconi, I. Hajdas, D. Ertlen, D. Schwartz
Molecular, isotopic and radiocarbon evidence for broomcorn millet cropping in Northeast France since the Bronze Age
Organic Geochemistry  2017, 110, 13-24

M. Sarret, P. Adam, P. Schaeffer, Q. Ebert, J. Perthuison, G. Pierrat-Bonnefois
Organic substances from Egyptian jars of the Early Dynastic period (3100-2700 BCE): Mode of preparation, alteration processes and botanical (re)assesment of "Cedrium"
Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 14, 420-431, 2017

C. Solazzo, B. Courel, J. Connan, B.E. van Dongen, H. Barden, K. Penkman, S. Taylor, B. Demarchi, P. Adam, P. Schaeffer, A. Nissenbaum, O. Bar−Yosef, M. Buckley
Identification of the earliest collagen− and plant−based coatings from Neolithic artefacts (Nahal Hemar Cave, Israel. Scientific Reports, 6:31053 (10 pages + suppléments) 2016
doi: 10.1038/srep31053

L. Bailly, P. Adam, A. Charrié, J. Connan  
Identification of alkyl guaiacyl dehydroabietates as novel markers of wood tar from Pinaceae in archaeological samples
Organic Geochemistry 2016, 100, 80−88

Additional information

  • Industrial collaborations: Total, PSA, Lubrizol, IFPEN
  • National and international academic collaborations:
  • DFG-Research Center for Ocean Margins, University of Bremen (Germany)
  • Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, Texel, (The Netherlands),
  • Geologisches Institut and Laboratory of Ion Beam Physics, ETH, Zürich, (Switzerland)
  • Louvre Museum, Paris (France)
  • National Institute of Preventive Archaeological Research (INRAP, France)
  • Image, City, Environment Laboratory (UMR 7362, CNRS, University of Strasbourg),
  • Adaptation to extreme environments. Laboratory of Microbiology, Adaptation, Pathogenocity (UMR 5240), Villeurbanne (France).
  • Laboratory of Geology :  Earth, Planets, Environment (UMR 5276, CNRS-Université de Lyon I-ENS Lyon), Villeurbanne (France).
  • Research School of Earth Sciences, The Australian University, Canberra (Australia)
  • Laboratory of Ion Beam Physics, ETH, Zürich (Switzerland),
  • Museum Conservation Institute,Smithonian Institution, Suitland (Maryland, USA)
  • Faculty of Life Sciences, Manchester Institute of Biotechnology, University of Manchester (United Kingdom)
  • School of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences, University of Manchester (United Kingdom)

Photo gallery

A small overview of our research group