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Stable Isotope Laboratory

Using stable isotopes to understand Earth systems

The lab team, left to right: Bruce Vaughn, Brad Markle, Sylvia Michel, Valerie Morris, Reid Clark, Chloe Brashear, Seth Kurtz, Kevin Rozmiarek

INSTAAR Stable Isotope Lab Panorama

  • We study the carbon cycle by measuring stable isotopes of greenhouse gases from a global air sampling network.
  • We study climates of the past by measuring stable isotopes of water in ice cores from Greenland and Antarctica.
  • We fly drones over the Greenland Ice Sheet to measure isotopes of water vapor, and to better understand water fluxes from the cryosphere.
  • We measure methane on a local scale to study the sustainability of oil and gas extraction in the Rocky Mountain West.
  • We continually improve our methods with new, automated techniques for measuring environmental stable isotopes.
  • We provide analytical services to scientists and institutions around the world.

We excel at measurements of

  • δ13C and δ18O atmospheric carbon dioxide
  • δ13C of atmospheric methane and local sources of elevated methane
  • Water from ice cores as well as environmental waters

Our instrumentation includes

  • Dual-inlet and continuous-flow isotope-ratio mass spectrometers
  • Laser-based cavity ring-down spectrometers.

Stable Isotope Lab by the numbers

  •  30+ Years of operations
  •  8,000+ Square feet of lab space
  •  800 Square feet of freezer space (-20°C)
  •  5 Full-time employees + students and Post Docs
  •  25,000+ Analyses per year
  •  3,000 Gallons of liquid nitrogen on demand
  •  180+ Publications associated with the lab
  •  36+ Publications in Nature or Science


You can reach us at the lab at (303) 492-5495

Or just come visit! We are in the southeast corner of SEEC (Sustainability, Energy, and Environment Complex) at 4001 Discovery Dr.

Contact Information

(Phone) 303 492-5495
4001 Discovery Dr
Boulder, CO 80303

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