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The CLIPT lab celebrates its 3-year anniversary at UiO

The CLIPT lab at the University of Oslo provides stable isotope measurements on natural materials, and this month marks 3 years since opening for analyses.

Photo: CLIPT-lab: Some glimpses into the laboratory work and samples that they examine. Photos/collage: CLIPT / GKT

CLIPT-lab: Some glimpses into the laboratory work and samples that they examine. Photo/collage: CLIPT / GKT

The highly specialized lab analyzes stable isotopes within natural materials for the UiO research community. The CLIPT Stable Isotope Laboratory (CLIPT-lab) was established at UiO in 2017, and opened for analyses in April, 2018.

The lab’s research focuses on both living and fossil organisms, and how they are chemically linked to the environment. Current collaborative projects include studies on tree rings to infer paleoclimates, carbon and nitrogen cycling within lake and marine sediments, food web dynamics, determining carbon source in tumor growth, and perturbations of the carbon cycle throughout earth's history. UiO collaborators come from CEED, CEES, IBV, Geology, Archeology and Radiumhospitalet. The CLIPT-lab is always looking to expand and include more partners!

Anne Hope Jahren directs the lab. She is a researcher in The Centre for Earth Evolution and Dynamics (CEED). The laboratory is part of a joint research infrastructure between the CEED-centre, Department of Geosciences and the Department of Biosciences.

What are stable isotopes?

A stable isotope is a form of an element that does not undergo radioactive decay. Individual elements can have more than one stable isotope depending on the number of neutrons they contain. The CLIPT-lab works specifically with the stable isotopes of carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen and oxygen. These are the building blocks for much of life and the habitable environments on Earth. Variations in the relative abundance of stable isotopes occur naturally within plants, animals, rocks, fossils, and water.

The researchers in the CLIPT-lab measure stable isotope compositions with a specialized mass spectrometer. Bill Hagopian, the senior technician in the lab, explains what they do:

– In the lab we separate and measure the stable isotopes of an element using a Stable Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometer. The ratios of different isotopes can provide valuable information that is unattainable by other methods. It allows us to elucidate element cycling through geological and biological systems, such as plants, the human body, and larger systems like the global carbon, nitrogen and water cycles.

– We can even track changes through Geologic Time. There are actually so many applications of stable isotopes in geology alone that it would be hard to list them all here.

Bill Hagopian has made 5 films available at YouTube explaining the CLIPT-lab and the use of stable isotopes as a research tool. See the first one: 'Introduction to stable isotopes and the CLIPT lab' below.

Productive and interesting years

The founder and director of the lab is Anne Hope Jahren. Together with Bill Hagopian she can look back on many exciting and productive years. She summarizes what they’ve accomplished so far: 

– This April marks exactly 3 years since the CLIPT-lab opened for analyses. The majority of the activities so far have been to benefit CEED and IBV, which financially support the lab. CEED (within Geo) paid for moving expenses in 2017 and personnel salaries, while IBV paid for new equipment and hosts space for the lab.

It has supported student projects in the Department of Geosciences, Biosciences and more. Examples of student projects include: Linking climatic changes and North Atlantic volcanism (Stokke, E. W., PhD/GEO: 2021); and  Ecological implications of organic carbon (Aasgaard, S. M., MSc/GEO: 2020). The lab has served scientists not only from UiO, but other Norwegian research institutions as well.

– The lab has remained open and productive throughout the COVID shutdown, and we continue to welcome new projects, concludes Jahren

A short overview of CLIPT-lab activities and accomplishments:

  • Opened in 2018 (April), have since then produced 5400 analyses
  • 21 active projects in collaboration with 17 Investigators (11 within UiO and 6 external university)
  • Papers produced with co-author level collaboration (4 total)
  • Papers authored within the CLIPT lab (7 total)
  • Additional papers produced that feature CLIPT isotope data (3 total)
  • Theses (MS/PhD) produced that feature CLIPT isotope data (6 MS / 1 PhD)

Note: The CLIPT-lab has a long history prior to moving to UiO in 2017. It was founded at The Georgia Institute of Technology (USA) by Anne Hope Jahren back in 1996, and has since operated out of The Johns Hopkins University (USA) and the University of Hawaii (USA) prior to establishment at the University of Oslo.


Five short YouTube videos about the lab and methods – All videos are produced by Bill (William) Hagopian, CEED, Dept. of Geosciences, UiO. © Bill Hagopian

By Gunn Kristin Tjoflot
Published Apr. 23, 2021 12:56 PM - Last modified May 3, 2021 10:49 AM