Steig Research Group

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Δ*IsoLab is one of premier isotope geochemistry facilities in the country, thanks to our collaborative model and the support of our superb technicians Andy Schauer (who is also manager) and Maciej Sliwinski, along with numerous undergrad assistants. Isolab is a shared facility founded by professors Eric Steig and Roger Buick, and soon joined by Becky Alexander in Atmospheric Sciences, and later, Kate Huntington. Roger Buick currently serves as Director. Together, we use light stable isotopes (meaning the isotopes of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, sulphur, and hydrogen (CNOSH)) to study the geosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere, cryosphere, atmosphere, and even other planets through the UW Astrobiology program.

Support for Δ*IsoLab  is almost exclusively from research grants (NSF, NASA), though we have recently garnered some temporary partial support from the College of the Environment and our departments (Earth and Space Sciences and Atmospheric Sciences). We are not an "open" lab. Our own research comes first, and it can be costly, but we have a habit of helping other researchers from across the campus and beyond, and are always willing to consider collaborative projects. See the main Δ*IsoLab web pages for more detailed information.

There's a nice little write-up about our lab, on the College of the Environment news page.


About our logo: The Δ and * in our logo represent the things we love (mountains and snow), the things we study (glaciology, astrobiology) and the tools we use to study them -- isotopes, conventionally expressed in "delta" notation, where the asterisk can represent any of various numbers (e.g., Δ17O, δ13C).  The name isn't short for anything; it's just a name I made up. (By the way, it's "IsoLab", never "The IsoLab". You wouldn't say "The NASA", would you?)

Mass spectrometery

Mass spectrometry is most of what happens in our lab.  We have five mass spectrometers, all from ThermoFinnigan (three MAT253s, a Delta, and a DeltaPlus). We use both high-precision dual-inlet and continuous-flow techniques.  Specialties include the Δ17O of nitrate, sulfate and H2O, and the 15N of nitrate, low-concentrations organics (S, C, and N), and clumped isotopes.

Laser Spectroscopy

Mass spectrometry is rapidly being replaced by mass spectrometry for some kinds of isotope measurements. Pictured is the very first laser spectrometer capable of measuring Δ17O at high precision, the result of a collaboration with Picarro, who now sells this instrument as the L2140-i. See the paper by Steig and others in Atmospheric Measurement Techniques.

Cold labs

We maintain freezers for the  storage of ice-core samples, and the sampling and processing of cores. Our in-lab ice core processing is 140 sq ft and is held at -18°C. Of course, the best place to work on ice cores is in the field, pictured here in central Greenland.

Supporting other UW researchers

Daniel Schindler, pictured with sockeye, and other faculty and students from the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences have used our facilities for many years in their work with nitrogen and oxygen isotopes in the study of lakes, rivers, and fish. You can read more about some of their work at the FreshWater Initiative web site.