Stable Isotope Laboratory

SIL News

SIL science on stage

We might just sell tee shirts with this image.

The cast of Two Degrees  - a play about a scientist who studies global warming in Greenland and testifies about her research to the senate - visited the Stable Isotope Lab to see what real climate science looks like. Bruce fascinated them with stories and pictures from his Arctic and Antarctic research, and showed them the instrumentation that helps us understand past climate. He also made them spend a few minutes in the freezer! This highly acclaimed production brings an important issue to the stage with humor and deep emotion, and brings science to the public in a way that scientists can't. Two Degrees was written by Tira Palmquist and is directed by Christy Montour-Larson, and is playing at the Jones Theater in Denver.

SIL hosts Front Range Isotope Day

FRIDay was a great day of scientific and technical presentations, lab tours, and conversations with iso-curious folk from up and down the Front Range.

The 6th annual FRIDay meeting was held at the SEEC complex on Friday, Aug 12, 2016. Almost 90 isotopically-minded people were here to enjoy a keynote presentation by Dr. Eric Steig from the University of Washington, and science and technical talks from experts from up and down the Front Range. The afternoon was full of lab tours, followed by a fun happy hour where we could get to know our colleagues.See the agenda and abstracts on the FRIDay website. Looking forward to the next FRIDay at the University of Wyoming!

Jim tours Greenland with Bill Nye the Science Guy

Jim White cultivates his bromance with Bill Nye the Science Guy on Russell Glacier in Greenland.

SIL PI Jim White spent a week in Greenland with Bill Nye - YES, THAT BILL NYE! - touring glaciers and discussing ways to communicate climate change to the public. Bill Nye, please come visit us at the Stable Isotope Lab! Most of us under the age of 40 are scientists because of YOU!! Whenever you can fit it into your schedule, we'll give you the Best Lab Tour Ever. And a surfing polar bear tee-shirt. We love you Bill Nye.

Owen and his team make headlines with methane study

SIL team member Owen Sherwood was the lead author on a study examining methane in groundwater around the Denver-Julesburg Basin. There has been much concern that the increasing use of fracking to extract natural gas would cause increased methane in the water; however, the extensive database that Owen and co-authors examined showed that there has not been much of an increase in the amount of methane, and much of it was derived from microbial, rather than fossil fuel-related sources. His study, part of the AirWaterGas project, was published in the National Proceedings of Science. Find an interview with Owen here.

SEEC is officially opened! SIL makes the Daily Camera.

Andrea Sack and Sylvia Michel did not pose for this picture. They actually were sitting at the computer talking about the unusual chromatograms on Troi that day.

Discovery Drive saw more suits and heels than usual on April 14, when Deans and Chancellors and Donors, as well as the students and faculty, celebrated the Grand Opening of the SEEC complex.There were speeches, cake, and tours of the renovated office and dry lab space as well as the new SEEL wet lab building. The Stable Isotope Lab even made the Daily Camera with a picture of Andrea Sack and Sylvia Michel working on our d13CH4 instrument, and wise words from Bruce Vaughn, our lab manager, and Jim White, our PI and institute director.

 

New and improved SIL on display at workshop

Sylvia Michel gives a lab tour to attendees of the 2015 Climate and Colorado's Water Future Workshop.

The stable isotope lab was highlighted at the 2016 Climate and Colorado's Water Future Workshop. Assistant Lab Manager Sylvia Michel gave a presentation, highlighting our work measuring stable isotopes of water from ice cores, and isotopes of carbon dioxide and methane. Workshop attendees then toured the lab (we can fit a lot of people in here!), hearing about the instrumetnation and alalysis from Sylvia as well as Owen Sherwood and Isaac Vimont. It seemed like a big hit!

Isotope data explain the causes of methane slow-down and renewed increase

A new paper in Science, led by Hinrich Schaefer of New Zealand's National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, uses our methane isotope data to test models of changes in the methane cycle over the last 30 years. Methane has increased since pre-industrial times but leveled off between 19990-2006; then began to increase again in 2007. The study argues that the slow-down in emissions was probably due to decreased emissions from fossil fuel sources, probably as a result of the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the renewed increase is likely from biogenic (microbial) sources, probably wetlands and/or agriculture in Asia. The data relies heavily on INSTAAR data: isotopes of methane are useful because the three classes of sources - microbial, thermogenic (fossil fuel related) and pyrogenic (biomass burning) all have distinct isotopic sources. We are glad to see our efforts in the lab make their way to Science!

SIL members down under

Jim gets friendly with a kangaroo in Hobart, Tasmania.

Jim White, Bruce Vaughn, and Tyler Jones went to the 2016 IPICs meeting - International Partnerships in Ice Core Science - in Hobart, Australia. Tyler presented his work with the WAIS Divide ice core, and Bruce and Jim made friends with a kangaroo.

The new-and-improved SIL is hosting FRIDay 2016!

We look forward to hosting Front Range Isotope Day in August (vote for your preferred date on the website!) We are excited for the meeting to return to CU INSTAAR where it started in 2011, and to showcase our new lab in the SEEC building. .. this FRIDay will be better than ever! Stay tuned for more details.

THE NEW LAB IS AH-MAAAZING!!!

Despite a few small glitches, the new lab at SEEC is looking great! The new lab is empty, except for the roughing pumps we left behind. (Hello scroll pumps!!)

We've moved! The old lab is nearly empty.

Desolation in the old lab at 1560 30th St.

Sniff sniff. .. our home for 26 years is now an almost empty room with stained carpets and obsolete rotary pumps. Goodbye windowless, soul-sucking, always-too-hot-or-too-cold, roach-infested ghetto lab. Goodbye Crazy Larry in the basement who rattles the pipes. We'll remember you fondly. (And we'll keep coming back until Move Wave 2.)

Dressed for freezer success

It's unseasonably cold in Copenhagen.

Valerie ventures into the freezer to cut the ice core lengthwise into a thin section that will go into the melter. Stay warm in there, Valerie!

Members of the INSTAAR SIL team venture overseas

Stable Isotopers venture abroad. Former SIL post-doc Vasileios Gkinis shows Bruce Vaughn and Valerie Morris around Copenhagen.

Bruce Vaughn and Valerie Claymore will spend time in Copenhagen this fall working with our colleagues at the Niels Bohr Institute. They will help set up and implement a melter system identical to the one in Boulder to use on the Renland Core that was drilled last summer. Enjoy the sights of Denmark, Bruce and Valerie! We'll be thinking of you while we're packing up 25 years of Stable Isotope Lab history for our upcoming move! October 2015.

Dr. Jones visits the Arctic as an artist AND a scientist

When you have a PhD in isotope geochemistry and are also an accomplished multi-media artist, you get to go to interesting places like Longyearbyen, Svalbard, Norway.
What a view! Flying into Svalbard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tyler won a prestigious Arctic Circle Residency, where he explores "The Sounds of Climate Change." He and the other artists departed in early October from Svalbard, Norway aboard a Barquentine Tall Ship to explore the Arctic archipelago, situtated at 80 degrees N. We hope you dressed warm, Tyler! We look forward to seeing more pictures (and hearing the sounds of the Arctic) in a few weeks. October 2015.

FRIDAY 2015 a big success!

No surprise that Victoria won $250 for this fine poster!

The Front Range Isotope Day tradition continues - this time at the USGS in Lakewood by our friend and colleague Matt Emmons. Sylvia Michel gave a presentation on our twenty-five year record of isotopes of carbon dioxide and interesting recent changes in atmospheric methane isotopes, and Victoria Arling won a cash prize for the best poster, which explained her summer internship working with Owen Sherwood researching the isotopic composition of fossil-fuel related methane emissions. Way to go Victoria! August 2015.

RECAP, explained

Bruce explains what he did this summer vacation. July 2015.

The School of Ice visits INSTAAR

School of Ice participants tour the the Stable Isotope Lab with lab manager Bruce Vaughn.

On June 16, 2015, Bruce Vaughn hosted a cadre of 12 professors from Minority-Serving Institutions across the country who were attending a four day, Denver-based course called School of Ice. Developed by the US Ice Drilling Program Office with funding from Lockheed Martin, the course goals included strengthening the background knowledge of participants about how the discoveries coming out of ice core research are informing our understanding of the global climate system and enhancing their instruction of students at their home institutions. In addition to presentations about the latest in stable isotope research, Bruce treated the group to a tour of the Stable Isotope Lab. June 2015.

Hardly a peep from Bruce in Renland…but finally, a sighting!

Bruce keeping busy with RECAP.

The cold never bothered them anyway

Field camp at Flade Isblink, NE Greenland

Our lab manager, Bruce Vaughn, and our PI (and institute director) Jim White are heading to Greenland's east coast to participate in RECAP, an ice core drilling project on the Renland Ice Cap. Jim and Bruce partipated in the pioneering GISP2 and NGRIP ice core projects as well as many projects since, and both are eager to leave email behind, renew their credibility as (bi-)polar researchers, and collaborate with colleagues and friends from the University of Copenhagen. The core will provide a continuous record of temperature and atmospheric gases through the Holocene, as well as valuable information about the export of sea ice. April 2015.

Earth Vision Institute highlights Bruce

Bruce toured the Utah desert with photographer and climate activist James Balog, exploring the imact of oil and gas development on our National Parks, AND our atmosphere. Bruce, you might have a future in film!

Methane hunters at work

This unassuming truck has some serious scientific capabilities and has crisscrossed huge swaths of the desert Southwest (as well as the Denver-Julesburg Basin) in pursuit of fugitive methane emissions.

Bruce Vaughn and Owen Sherwood, along with colleagues from NOAA, both spent time in the Four Corners Area searching for a source of methane that had been detected by satellite. Using Bruce's own methane-mobile, equipped with a Picarro methane isotope detector and some very sophisticated plumbing, the SIL team measured d13C of methane in order to help characterize sources. This area has known natural seeps of methane, but significant oil and gas extraction and related infrastructure may be contributing to the very high concentrations of methane that were measured on the ground and confirmed that the area is indeed a hotspot of emissions. Stay tuned for more results! April 2015.

AirWaterGas research highlighted by NSF

Science360, the NSF science news service, highlighted CU (and SIL's) research on the effects of the oil and gas industry on air and water quality. April 2015.

 

 

Well done, Dr. Jones!

Tyler opens champagne after his successful defense, 8 April 2015.

Tyler R. Jones successfully defended his doctoral dissertation in an excellent presentation entitled, "High-resolution water isotope records from West Antarctica ice cores: Interpretations of climatic, glaciological, and diffusional processes." Luckily for us, Tyler is sticking around for a pot-doc to continue his interesting and ground-breaking work. But he will spend much of October asking the question, "What does climare change sound like?" with a highly coveted Arctic Circle residencyApril 2015.

Tyler's committee included SIL alum Trevor Popp, a Boulder son now in Copenhagen. Here they are together at NEEM.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New digs for SIL, soon!  

We are moving! After 25 years in RL1, we are relocating to the SEEC complex! The move will be a challenge...but our new facility will be amazing! April 2015.

Isaac on ice, again

Ahhh, the Dry Valleys . . .

Isaac operated a giant melter to retrieve gases from firn air.

 

Graduate student Isaac Vimont returned in good health from a successful field season at Taylor Glacier in the Dry Valleys of Antarctica. Isaac was working with former SIl post-doc Vas Petrenko and others to extract gases from firn ice for analysis at multiple cooperating labs. Their work aims to better understand the Earth's climate system. Feb. 2015.

SIL research showcased at AGU

SIL represented at AGU! Jim White presented to a packed audience at the prestigious Nye lecture, entitled Abrupt Climate Change: Past, Present, and Future; the hard reality and the silver lining in a sustainable future. Tyler Jones presented his doctoral work on stable isotope analysis of the WAIS Divide ice core. Owen Sherwood presented his work using amino acid-specific stable isotopes of nitrogen in deep sea corals to understand past levels of nitrogen fixation in the ocean. Sylvia Michel presented 15 years of carbon isotope of methane data and showed that recent decreases in d13CH4 are likely due to increases in microbial methane emissions. Bruce Vaughn presented a poster describing mobile measurements of methane stable isotopes in the Denver-Julesburg basin, and Amy Steiker presented a poster about her Masters thesis on N2O isotopomers. Dec. 2014.

Amy Steiker completes her M.S. degree

Amy Steiker completed her Masters Thesis! Her analysis of N2O isotopomers from a subset of NOAA's Cooperative Air Sampling Network represents the largest dat set of its kind ever collected. Her pioneering work has paved the way for ongoing measurements; we are currently developing an automated system to operate in conjuction with a Picarro analyzer. Amy worked with us as an undergraduate and then as a lab technician before starting her graduate work. She has accepted a job at the National Snow and Ice Data Center, just across the parking lot. Dec. 2014.

Fourth annual FRIDay (Front Range Isotope Day)

The 4th annual FRIDAY conference was held at Colorado School of Mines. Front Range Isotope Day is a gathering of local researchers who use stable isotopes to share ideas, methods, challenges, and to "talk shop." We are especially fond of this conference because it was our idea and we hosted the first meeting in 2010. Now it is a fun tradition and a great opportunity to see old friends, build new bridges, and learn something new about stable isotopes. Aug. 2014.

Isaac on ice

Isaac Vimont, polar explorer.

Bunny ears are even more funny on an ice sheet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Isaac Vimont headed to Summit, Greenland for a field season working with colleagues at the University of Rochester. Unfortunately his trip was cut short by high altitude pulmonary embolism, and we are glad that he is safely home - he joins a distinguished company of polar researchers with HAPE evacuations. Now that Isaac is healthy it makes for a great story: his exciting first-time arrival on the ice sheet, his one day of work on the project, and his scary evacuation to a very remote (thankfully quite competent) coastal Greenland hospital in Illulissat. And actually it's quite convenient for us to have him back in the lab. . . June 2014.

"All hands on deck" at Clear Creek Canyon

Isogeochemists hard at work.

 

 

The SIL team learned about the hydrology of Clear Creek Canyon from river expert Colin Rodgers. As predicted, it was Isaac Vimont who sampled the icy water. It was unanimously agreed that this would be an ongoing project with annual summertime fieldwork. In the past we have studied other components of the hydrologic cycle with excellent results. June 2014.

 

 

 

 

"Boulder scientist building a better way to study emissions on the go"

Reporter Christi Turner wrote up a ridealong with Bruce Vaughn in the Boulder Weekly. He's converted a pickup truck into a mobile methane emissions detection unit using equipment and instrumentation developed at INSTAAR in partnership with Picarro. Funded by the National Science Foundation, the instrumentation development is part of the AirWaterGas project. Feb. 2014.

SIL joins AirWaterGas to study the effects of fracking on water and air quality

SIL is participating in the CU-based, NSF funded Sustainability Research Network called the Air Water Gas project, which is aimed at studying sustainability in the oil and gas industry in the Rocky Mountain West. The mission of this is to provide a logical, science-based framework for evaluating the environmental, economic, and social trade-offs between development of natural gas resources and protection of water and air resources and to convey the results of these evaluations to the public in a way that improves the development of policies and regulations governing natural gas and oil development. Dec. 2013.

Caroline Alden successfully defends her PhD dissertation!

Graduate student Caroline is a student no more: Dr.Alden gave an excellent defense talk entitled "Terrestrial carbon cycle responses to drought and climate stress: New insights using atmospheric observations of CO2 and δ13C." Caroline will bring her modeling and analytical skills to Stanford for a pot-doc . . .though we expect that we'll see her back in Colorado before too long. Congratulations, Caroline! We know you will be a valuable contribution to your next team but we'll sure miss having you on ours!! Oct. 2013.

Welcome, Owen!

The INSTAAR Stable Isotope Lab welcomes Owen Sherwood as the newest member of our team. Owen will spearhead measurements of atmospheric methane and the interpretation of these critical data. Owen comes to us with a lot of experience in making methane measurements, and will be a valuable addition to our team! Oct. 2013.

Contact Information

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