Stable isotope ratios (carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen)



The Environmental Isotope Labs (EIL) are equipped with modern isotope ratio mass spectrometers (IRMS) [Thermo Delta V Plus and Thermo Delta V Advantage], a Picarro Cavity Ring-Down Spectrometer (CRDS), and a range of sample preparation devices.

We also operate well-equipped sample processing laboratories, and these facilities are complemented by the broad range of environmental research expertise within ANSTO.

The EIL can analyse carbon (δ13C), nitrogen (δ15N), oxygen (δ18O), and hydrogen (δ2H) isotopes in a range of environmental samples. Most commonly we handle waters (groundwater, rainfall, river, lakes, etc.) and organics (soils and biota).

Stable isotope analysis in conjunction with tritium (3H) and AMS Radiocarbon (14C) analysis are utilised to conduct research which includes:


  • Groundwater-surface water interactions
  • Groundwater residence times (dating)
  • Ecohydrology, aquatic food web studies
  • Palaeo-climate and palaeo-hydrology

The Elemental Analyser / Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometer (EA/IRMS) in the Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS) laboratory is also available to analyse δ13C, δ15N and CN% on a range of solid sample types (e.g. vegetation, sediment/soils, organic matter, samples with enriched δ13C or δ15N and collagen extracted from bone).

We offer advice regarding sample collection, handling and pre-treatment. If requested, we can perform sample pre-treatment to remove carbonates from sediments and soils prior to δ13C analysis, or extract collagen from bone for δ13C, δ15N and C:N ratio analyses. We request that contact is made with the facility prior to any sample pre-treatment, and if possible, prior to sample collection to ensure that the samples are suitable for measurement.

For experiments requiring analysis of enriched stable isotopes, please contact us to discuss experimental design.

Samples must be dry, finely ground and well homogenised. For each analysis, replicate samples are analysed as this is an indication of the homogeneity of the sample. Sample loading is included in the cost of analysis.

Please note that δ13C and δ15N cannot be simultaneously analysed in all samples, please discuss your sample type with the contact scientist.

Please discuss your proposal with the appropriate ANSTO Contact Scientist before submitting your proposal as they will assist you in making the correct capability selection.


Sample typeIsotope ratioStandard sample amount required
Fresh waterδ2H and δ18/16O30mL
DIC (water)δ2H12mL
Organic (solid)δ13C + C%No more than 1g
Organic (solid)δ15N + N%No more than 1g
Organic (solid)δ13C + C% and δ15N + N%No more than 1g
POM-glass fibre filterδ13Cone 47mm GFF
POM-glass fibre filterδ15None 47mm GFF
POM-glass fibre filterδ13C & δ15None 47mm GFF




Capability selection


  • Stable isotope, δ13C, C% , 15N & N% analyses 
  • Stable isotope, δ13C & C% analysis only 
  • Stable isotope δ15N & N% analysis only 
  • Stable isotope, δ2H & δ18O analysis in fresh water only via CRDS 
  • Bone (collagen) samples: collagen extraction prior to δ13C, C% , δ15N & N% analyses 
  • Bone (collagen) samples: N% for collagen test




For further information please contact:



Robert Chisari
Phone: +61 2 9717 3283


Linda Barry
Phone: +61 2 9717 3014