Introduction to stable isotope ecology


Prerequisites: No specific technical knowledge is required.  Software required will include MS Office (Excel and Word), and a mixing model software package.  The mixing model is free software that can be downloaded and will be available prior to the course.

Load: Six 3-hour sessions over three weeks plus 1 full-day excursion to Woods Hole

Time Outside Class: Approx. 2 hours per week for readings


The use of stable isotopes for investigating past, current, and future environmental conditions has increased in popularity over the last decade.  This course will provide an overview for the use of stable isotopes in ecological assessments.  We will discuss how isotopes of multiple elements are used to investigate the trophic transfer of energy through a system and how computer mixing models are used in food web analysis. Real-world applications of stable isotope analyses will be discussed. We will examine protocols used to prepare and process samples, and work in groups to prepare samples for processing.  We will visit an isotope lab where students will interact with scientists conducting research and see first-hand how a stable isotope processing lab works.  Data from samples processed as part of this course will be analyzed using descriptive statistics and computer mixing models, allowing students to interpret the results of their samples.