MRI: Acquisition of a Thermal Ionization Mass Spectrometer (TIMS) to strengthen collaborative inter-University programs in isotope geochemistry Grant uri icon



  • Chemical and isotopic signatures allow us to age rocks, follow the fate and transport of nutrients, reconstruct climate trends and study the migratory behaviors of animals. As the need for high precision isotopic techniques in the geological, ecological and climate sciences increases, it is critical to have both the research infrastructure to address regional research needs as well as the ability to train students on state-of-the-art equipment. This proposal is for the acquisition of a Multi-Collector Thermal Ionization Mass Spectrometer (MC-TIMS) at the University of Idaho. This major acquisition is intended to foster an interdisciplinary regional center for isotope geochemistry and environmental tracers, the Palouse Biogeosciences Collaborative (PBC), which would support a wide array of ecological, biogeochemical and geological studies and would fill a critical research and training need within the 3 partnering universities; the University of Idaho (UI), Washington State University (WSU) and Eastern Washington University (EWU). The methodological development and application of environmental and isotopic tracers is an existing regional strength as evidenced by several interdisciplinary research groups focused on isotopic analyses of large-scale ecological, atmospheric, geologic, and hydrologic phenomena. Investment in the new MC-TIMS technology will enable us to build on this existing strength while we strategically foster research programs that expand jointly across the three campuses. A Thermo Fisher Scientific MC-TIMS, the Triton Plus along with the requested New Wave Micromill will provide the capacity for high-precision and high resolution sampling for isotopic analyses of geologic and biological materials. The requested instrument will enable researchers to quantify the isotopes of solid-state, low-ionization elements such as Nd, Pb, Ca, and Sr to understand origins, fates and transport of materials from systems across spatial scales to better understand the life history migratory salmon, the provenance of metamorphic belts, the origin and evolution of magmas, and the source of atmospheric pollutants. Examples of collaborative, interdisciplinary efforts that will be supported include employing geochemical techniques and geologic principles to understand the diversity and evolution of salmon migration in the Columbia River.

    Three major integrated elements of this funded award include: 1) a Multi-collector Thermal Ionization Mass Spectrometer (TIMS) designed specifically for the high precision analysis of radiogenic and cosmogenic isotope ratios; 2) a Retarding Potential Quadropole (RPQ) Lens, which provides a selective filter for ions that are in high abundance and influence the resolution of neighboring ions; and 3) a New-Wave Micromill for high spatial resolution microsampling of solid materials such as melt inclusions, volcanic crystals, and fish otoliths or earstones. Funding will complement existing facilities at UI and WSU, establishing a powerful regional consortium for training and engagement of isotopic and environmental tracers. The acquisition of a MC-TIMS and emerging partnerships with new faculty at UI (Harpp) and young investigators at EWU (Nezat), will galvanize a concerted effort to 1) create an interdisciplinary program in biogeosciences that spans fields of ecology, biogeochemistry, and geologic sciences and 2) recruit female students into the field of isotope geochemistry. This critical mass of instrumentation and personnel will provide the tools and resources to offer comprehensive programs for training, outreach and engagement of undergraduates, graduate students, and post-doctoral researchers across the region. The collaborators propose a new, unique set of integrated undergraduate and graduate courses as well as workshops to maximize the impact of the instrumentation. The University of Idaho has pledged match to ensure the immediate acquisition and continued support of the isotope facility, as the PBC directly aligns with signature areas of research excellence for UI. Broad support across the participating universities acknowledges the advantages of building a strong regional program in isotope geochemistry.

date/time interval

  • September 1, 2011 - August 31, 2014

total award amount

  • 726,786