Bruce H. Vaughn

Research Associate

  • Manager, Stable Isotope Lab


  • MSc: University of Colorado, 1994

Research Programs, Labs, and Groups

Contact Information

(Office) 303 492-7985
(Fax) 303 492-6388
UCB 450 University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309
(Lab) 303 492-5495
(Other) 303 249-2698


Isotopic analysis in global change, paleoclimate, glacier hydrology, atmospheric trace gases, and instrument development.

Research Interests

  Carbon Cycle; Paleoclimate records in ice cores; Atmosphere-Ice Sheet interactions; Water Vapor Isotopes in the Atmosphere.


    Bruce manages the INSTAAR Stable Isotope lab and uses stable isotopes to study biogeochemical processes that control environmental change on human timescales.  The lab collaborates with the NOAA Global Monitoring Division and measures stable isotopes of bi-weekly atmospheric trace gas samples from over 50 sites, adding to a 20+ year global data base. The lab also creates extremely high-resolution paleoclimate records from stable isotopes of polar ice cores from Greenland and Antarctica.  With a fleet of 8 mass spectrometers and a growing number of laser-based spectroscopy instruments, the lab continues to pioneer new methods and techniques using stable isotopes for a variety of applications.

    Jim White and Bruce Vaughn began the Stable Isotope Lab at INSTAAR in 1989 with 2 mass spectrometers, focusing on ice cores and developing methods for measuring isotopes in atmospheric CO2. The lab has now grown to include multiple instruments and multiple projects. Bruce manages the lab with its current staff of five, plus graduate students, and collaborates with many researchers on a variety of  projects. Prior to INSTAAR, Bruce was with the Water Resources Division of the USGS, Project office Glaciology. His passion for Earth science has always included an important role for field work. Sites over the years have included Greenland, Antarctica, Ecuador, Alaska, the Central Pacific islands, Grand Canyon, and the North Cascades.

Current efforts include a pioneering effort into the use of unmanned aireal vehicles (UAV's, or drones) for making measurements of atmospheric water vapor and stable isotopes.  The findings will inform a better understanding of ice sheet- atmosphere interactions and implications for quantifying direct sublimation, which impact surface mass balance, and by extension, seal level rise.  This deeper understanding of water vapor and post depositional changes in isotopes of surface snow will also further illuminate our interpretation of isotopic signatures in ice cores.


  • INSTAAR Fellow, INSTAAR, 2019
Profile Photo Gallery