Support from the National Science Foundation will allow for the purchase of a stable isotope ratio mass spectrometer (IRMS) and associated peripheral devices for the stable isotope analysis of plant biomarkers, bioapatite and calcite, organic matter, water, and atmospheric methane. The IRMS will enable faculty, post-doctoral researchers, and graduate and undergraduate students - both at the University of Cincinnati and regionally - to conduct research projects on a broad array of topics. These topics will include (1) characterizing modern carbon isotope fractionation patterns in plant terpenoids and n-alkyl lipids (biomarkers) to better develop paleoclimate and paleoecological applications, (2) using carbon and hydrogen isotopes of terrestrial plant biomarkers to examine Paleogene and Neogene paleoclimate and paleovegetation history, (3) assessing patterns in stable isotope values in mammal tissues to understand foraging ecology and species interactions, (4) reconstructing diet and habit for extinct mammals with implications for human-driven extinctions, (5) characterizing Permian-Early Triassic paleoenvironments in the global ocean and understanding the link to the contemporaneous marine biotic crisis, (6) investigating the biogeochemistry of Late Pennsylvanian paleoenvironments associated with extensive black shale deposits, (7) characterizing atmospheric methane emissions using carbon and hydrogen isotopes, (8) constraining impacts of shale gas extraction on methane emissions, (9) characterizing methane biogeochemistry in Arctic ecosystems, and many other studies planned by the PIs and other users at the University of Cincinnati and within the region.

Faculty, staff, and graduate students within the Departments of Geology, Anthropology, Geography, and Biology at the University of Cincinnati and from other regional institutions will use this state-of-the-art stable isotope ratio mass spectrometer to address a wide array of biogeochemical research questions. This instrumentation will take highly accurate measurements of the stable isotope ratios of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen, which will further the PIs research examining Earth system processes, including unraveling past changes in climate and ecology and tracking the various pathways of carbon, water, and nutrients through Earth?s systems. This will provide the tools necessary for the PIs to greatly improve and expand on current interdisciplinary research activities in biogeochemistry, spanning scales from biochemical to biospheric and from geologic to modern time scales. This will be critical for advancing research in the areas of (1) terrestrial carbon cycling, (2) community ecology and human impacts, (3) climate and plant paleoecology, (4) marine chemistry and paleoceanography, and (5) atmospheric methane dynamics in urban and Arctic ecosystems. The instrumentation will provide training and research opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students and will immediately benefit a new upper level undergraduate and graduate course on stable isotope ecology. Programs currently in place in the Department of Geology will use this instrumentation for training and research purposes including the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) program, the Graduate-Undergraduate Mentoring Program, and the Capstone Experience, required for all undergraduate students. The department is actively participating in Earth science outreach programs for K-12 students at Cincinnati Public Schools (50% under-represented minority students). Results from research projects using this instrumentation will be disseminated through student and faculty presentations at national and international scientific meetings, publications in peer-reviewed journals, and online data repositories.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Earth Sciences (EAR)
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Russell C. Kelz
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University of Cincinnati
United States
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