Geosciences 590S - Environmental Stable Isotopes

Matthew Winnick,Stephen Burns

TU TH 2:30PM 3:45PM

UMass Amherst
Morrill Sci. Ctr. (II) rm 225
The biogeochemical cycling of elements that occurs through physical transport and chemical reactions underlies every component of the environmental sciences, including global climate, ecosystem function and health, and water resources (among others). However, it is often impossible to directly observe these elemental cycles at relevant scales through time and space. Stable isotopes - atoms of the same element with different masses - give us the unique ability to trace the movement of chemical species through the natural environment, track the reactions that take place, and even reconstruct past environmental conditions such as temperature and rainfall. As a result, the use of stable isotopes has been incorporated into virtually every facet of environmental research over the past few decades. This course is designed to introduce students to the theory and applications of stable isotope biogeochemistry to address research questions across the environmental sciences. Students will become familiar with underlying mathematical representations of isotope fractionation (sorting), methods for measuring stable isotope ratios in natural samples, along with the many ways in which stable isotopes are utilized in frontier research. The course will focus primarily on `traditional' stable isotope systems (H, C, N, O, S), though we will also explore recent advances (clumped isotopes, non-traditional metal isotopes). Through this course, students will also gain hands-on experience collecting, preparing, analyzing, and interpreting stable isotope data.
Permission is required for interchange registration during the add/drop period only.