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Research Projects

Biogenic Phosphates: Our laboratory engages in extensive work on O- and C-isotope investigations of fossil tooth enamel and bone. We developed one of the standard methods of separating and analyzing the PO4 component of biogenic phosphates (Dettman et al., 2001; Kohn et al., 2002), permitting rapid, accurate, and routine analysis. Our research focuses primarily on paleoclimate (δ18O) and paleoecology δ13C, recently integrating both records to understand ecological change in the context of climate drivers (e.g., Kohn & McKay, 2012).

Hydrologic Cycle: In conjunction with the Dry Creek Experimental Watershed DCEW and the Cryosphere Geophysics and Remote Sensing CryoGARS research groups, we are using stable isotope profiles of the annual snowpack in the Boise Mountains to investigate water transport processes. In this work, we simultaneously retrieve information about upward transport of water vapor and downward transport of liquid water.

Grasshopper Ecology: We are currently working with Dr. César Nufio at the University of Colorado – Boulder to understand the H- and O-isotope variations in grasshoppers across an elevation transect. The CU-Boulder group focuses on the response of grasshopper species distributions, abundances and phenologies to climate change (see ghopclimate). Our work integrates with their collections to investigate both the water balance physiology and migration of grasshoppers through analysis of both body water and chitin.

Plant/Soil carbon cycling: Dr. Marie-Anne deGraaf is a major user of our laboratory, investigating both experimentally and in natural systems how interactions among plants and soil microbes affects the global carbon cycle

Hominin ecology: Dr. Chris Hill uses C- and O-isotopes of fossil teeth and carbonates to investigate paleoenvironments of humans and their ancestors, for example in the late Pleistocene of North America and in Paleolithic sites of North Africa