L is for LIMS #AtoZChallenge

L is for LIMS

LIMS is an acronym that means “Laboratory Inventory Management System.” Because of the amount of data that laboratories such as ours must keep track of, using LIMS is necessary.

At SIREAL, we use LIMS for light stable isotopes that was developed at the Reston Stable Isotope Laboratory, part of the United States Geological Survey.

LIMS for light stable isotopes does more than just organize and store your data, it also contains all the necessary algorithms and does the necessary calculations to convert raw data from the mass spectrometer into usable isotopic results that can be compared among laboratories internationally.

K is for Cretaceous #AtoZChallenge

K is for Cretaceous

Cretaceous starts with a ‘C,’ so why is it K for Cretaceous? All the divisions of the Earth’s geological time scale have one- or two-letter designations, kind of like all the elements of the periodic table have a symbol (like C for carbon or Au for gold). The abbreviation for Cretaceous is K, from the German for chalk (kreide) and also because ‘C’ is also already used for Carboniferous.

For today’s installment, we’ll look a paper that utilizes stable oxygen isotopes from the teeth of a dinosaur to determine how fast the teeth grown.

Suarez, You, Suarez, Li, and Treischmann, 2017, Stable isotopes reveal rapid enamel elongation (amelogenesis) rates for the early Cretaceous iguanodontial dinosaur Lanzhousaruus magnidens, Nature Scientific Reports, v. 7: 15319 | DOI:10.1038/s41598-017-15653-6

Iguanodontians were herbivorous dinosaurs with tightly packed teeth optimized for chewing vegetation. These dinosaurs replaced their teeth continuously though life so that their chewing mechanism was always ready to go. Continue reading “K is for Cretaceous #AtoZChallenge”

J is for Jurassic #AtoZChallenge

The Jurassic Period was a span of time from approximately 201 million years ago to 145 million years ago. The Jurassic is part of the Mesozoic Era of Earth’s history, which is regarded as the “Age of Dinosaurs.”

Stable isotopes provide a tool for exploring ancient environments. For today’s A to Z installment, we present a recent application of stable isotopes to understand What the world was like during the Jurassic Period.

Alberti, M, Fursich, F.T., Abdelhady, A.A., and Andersen, N., 2017, Middle to Late Jurassic equatorial seawater temperatures and latitudinal temperature gradients based on stable isotopes of brachiopods and oysters from Gebel Maghara, Egypt: Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, v. 468, p. 201-313. Continue reading “J is for Jurassic #AtoZChallenge”

F is for Fractionation #AtoZChallenge

Fractionation is a measure of how different isotopes of the same element behave during chemical reactions.

Different isotopes of the same element all behave more-or-less the same way in chemical reactions. They all bond in the same places, to the same other atoms. They fit into the same spaces. However, because the different isotopes have slightly different masses (weight), there is a tiny difference in the strength of the bond when there’s a heavier isotope or a lighter isotope. This tiny difference results in the heavy isotopes being separated from the light isotopes in a process called fractionation. Continue reading “F is for Fractionation #AtoZChallenge”

E is for Elemental Analyzer #AtoZChallenge

An elemental analyzer (EA) is a device that measures the quantities of specific elements in a material. For example, if you want to know how much nitrogen, carbon, and sulfur are in your soil, you’d use an elemental analyzer.

Elemental analyzers are excellent additions to regular mass spectrometers. The process of measuring the amounts of different elements requires that the sample is converted to a gas. Typically, once the elemental analyzer is done with it, the gas is released as exhaust. With a mass spectrometer, the gas can then be measured for different isotopes of carbon, nitrogen, sulfur or whatever you’re interested in. Continue reading “E is for Elemental Analyzer #AtoZChallenge”

D is for Delta #AtoZChallenge

Delta values are how we report the relative amounts of the different isotopes of a single element. For example δ13C (said delta-thirteen-see) provides a measure of the relative amounts of carbon-13 and carbon-12 in a material.

The “delta notation” or delta value used in stable isotope geochemistry is often confusing, especially to people outside of the science trying to understand our work. It’s confusing because these delta values are reported in “permil” (‰) which is often interpreted as a concentration like percent (%). But the permil in the delta notation is not a concentration at all, which becomes a little more clear when we realize that delta values can be negative, but concentrations cannot. (You can’t buy lemonade that -15% lemon juice!) Continue reading “D is for Delta #AtoZChallenge”

C is for Carbon #AtoZChallenge

Isotopes of carbon can be used to interpret available vegetation and diet of ancient ecosystems and individual animals.

Carbon has two stable isotopes, carbon-12 and carbon-13. Carbon also has a rare radioactive isotope, carbon-14, which is used for assigning ages to objects less than 40,000 years old. At SIREAL, we don’t have the capability to measure carbon-14, which is fine because “stable isotopes” is part of our name. Continue reading “C is for Carbon #AtoZChallenge”