Below is a quick breakdown of what you can expect from the lab course.

Laboratory Objectives

The Iso-Camp laboratory will introduce participants to many methods and approaches used in stable isotope analysis. The lab involves hands-on experience with sample collection, sample preparation, isotope analysis, and data interpretation.

The labs are built around your participation in a number of small projects each week. The projects in the first week will largely be in Red Butte Canyon, a protected watershed immediately adjacent to campus. The close proximity of this site allows us to collect field samples in a single afternoon, immediately after the first lecture.

There will be a laboratory manual describing the overall objectives, sampling design, step-by-step instructions associated with different analysis methods, step-by-stepinstructions on operating the isotope ratio mass spectrometers and laser-based spectroscopy instruments, specific questions that should be answered, and suggestions for what could be included in your presentations.

We will break into three working groups:
  • each group will consist of 7-9 participants
  • each group will have two faculty participants to help develop ideas, coordinate activities, and provide training on different methods
  • each group will have its own technical help for instrument and method training
  • we will ensure that each group has a diverse composition for the first week, but individuals may switch among groups in the second week
  • at th end of each week, each group will present a brief summary of what that group learned with their group projects; these involve 1-page handouts and powerpoint presentations; all data and handouts are made available to each course participant
The broadly-defined project theme areas for the first week are ecophysiology, water cycles, carbon cycles, nitrogen cycles, and plant and animal metabolism. For week two, the themes revolve more around atmospheric and trace gas measurements, trophic studies, carbonates, biomarkers, and human-dominated ecosystems.

What to expect from your laboratory experience

By the end of this laboratory experience, participants will have had an opportunity to be exposed to (a) all relevant instrumentation and techniques listed below, (b) 4-5 different group projects that will be presented at joint dinners, (c) 2-3 days of one-on-one discussion opportunities with each lecturer, and (d) opportunities to present and receive feedback on your specific research projects.

Methods and Techniques

Preparation and Analysis Methods
  • in-tube sample combustion for C and/or N analysis
  • CN elemental analyzer combustion for C and/or N analysis
  • zinc reduction of water for H analysis
  • offline separation of CO2 and H2O in air or in a sealed tube
  • CO2 equilibration with water for O analysis
  • acidification of carbonate for C and O analysis
  • cellulose preparation and nitration
  • GC analysis of CO2, N2O, and CH4 in air
  • reference materials
  • building your own vacuum lines
Field Techniques
  • atmospheric water vapor collection
  • leaf collection
  • stem collection for water sources
  • water collection
  • air sampling
  • soil respiration sampling
  • soil gas sampling
  • double-labeled water
  • breath sampling
Instrumentation
  • Delta Plus IRMS
  • MAT 252/253 IRMS
  • Delta V IRMS
  • Picarro CRDS
  • continuous flow interface
  • dual inlet sample introduction
  • elemental analyzer
  • tube cracker
  • gas chromatography
  • coupled laser/GC-IRMS
  • Precon
  • microbalance
  • soil respiration and gas analysis system
  • infrared gas analyzer

Data Interpretation

  • data reduction templates
  • QAQC and error analysis
  • GIS and ISOMAP
  • isotope mixing models
  • isotopeprocess models
  • double-labeled water
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