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Isotope geochemistry studies variations in the masses of elements as a tracer of geologic processes, including mineral and fluid histories, biologic processes, and geologic time.

The majority of elements on the Periodic Table have multiple masses (isotopes), as recorded in variations in the number of neutrons. Variations in the stable isotope compositions of elements reflect partitioning of masses among minerals, fluids, and gases as a function of distinct bond strengths and temperatures. Other isotopes are the product of radioactive decay, termed radiogenic isotopes, reflecting the abundance of parent isotopes and time.

The ICP-TIMS Isotope Laboratory, located in the Department of Geoscience at UW-Madison, pursues research in both stable and radiogenic isotope geochemistry, as applied to a wide variety of problems in geology, biology, engineering, anthropology, and astrobiology.

Research descriptions for the lab are grouped into four themes:

  • Astrobiology
  • Orogenic Systems
  • Sedimentary Processes
  • New Analytical Methods

Division of the ~200 publications from the lab by research area, which involves one or more of the isotope systems studied by the lab (left of the chart). Over half of the effort has been in low-T isotope geochemistry, although we have not ignored our high-T roots!


The lab is supported by funding from NSF and NASA, and other sources, including UW-Madison and the Department of Geoscience. A substantial portion of its research is aligned with the Wisconsin Astrobiology Research Consortium.


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