Alaska Stable Isotope Facility


Sample types typically include organic samples (C,N,O,H), inorganic samples (e.g. carbonate for C and O), and water for O and H. We also provide isotopic analyses of individual compounds (e.g. fatty acids and amino acids). The addition of our LA-MC-ICPMS system allows us to perform isotopic analyses of heavier elements, such as strontium, using either a solution method or by laser ablation.

We provide isotopic analyses of a wide variety of modern and ancient samples, including: muscle, feathers, otoliths, blood, bone collagen, whale baleen, algae & zooplankton, soil & sediment, whiskers & claws, dissolved organic carbon and nitrogen, water, vegetation - practically anything!

Sample Preparation

The amount of material needed to perform the analysis is dependent upon the concentration of carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen or oxygen in the sample. Most materials should be dried and ground into a fine powder, except filters. Below are some general guidelines, but please contact us for details regarding sample preparation.

Filter samples

  • The smallest sized, pre-combusted glass fiber filter is preferable, e.g. 25 mm.
  • Filters should be left whole, not folded, and placed into a petri dish which has been clearly labeled on both the top and the bottom.

Protein-based samples

  • These samples may be pre-weighed prior to shipping, generally in the range of 0.1 -0.7 mg.

Sediment samples

  • As elemental concentrations can vary greatly in this material, it is preferable that the material be sent to us for testing prior to all the samples being weighed.

Our facility is outfitted with a variety of equipment available to customers to use to accomplish their sample preparation. These include microbalances and equipment for sample drying, grinding and powdering, acid treatment and a variety apparatus for extractions. Three micro-balances in a dedicated weighing room at ASIF are available to all investigators to allow samples to be weighed. ASIF lab space is also available at both the light and heavy isotope labs to support investigators in preparing samples for analysis at ASIF.

Shipping Information

Some things to keep in mind after you’ve decided to send your samples to the Alaska Stable Isotope Facility include:

  • Most samples should be dried and ground, excluding filters and extremely small samples such as zooplankton and insects.
  • Package your samples carefully and securely so vials do not shift during shipping.
  • Make sure that all vials and petri dishes are clearly labeled both on the lid and the vial/dish.
  • Include samples identification sheets; shorter IDs are preferable.
  • Please advise us of any further processing that needs to occur such as acidification.
  • Indicate preferred deadlines as well as sample priorities.
  • If you will be using a PO for payment, please provide it at the time the samples are sent.

Mailing Address

Tim Howe
University of Alaska Fairbanks
Alaska Stable Isotope Facility
1764 Tanana Loop, Suite 240
Fairbanks, AK 99775-5910