Life Science Mass Spectrometry Facility

Analytical Service/Application procedure

Our scientific support is generally of a collaborative nature, in which case isotopic analyses may be carried out by the SUERC collaborator. There is a strong emphasis on the training of visiting workers, including post-graduate students and research fellows. Access to the facility is free-at-the-point-of-delivery for proposals approved by the NERC LSMSF Steering Committee. Other users may be charged commercial rates, dependent on the scientific rating of the project, the number of samples and current capacity.

**The next deadline will be April 24th 2019**


Rules specific to NERC research grants

Early communication is particularly important if the work is associated with a NERC research grant. It is a mandatory requirement that analyses are costed and you should seek a letter of support (also called a "technical assessment") from us to show that contact has been made and we will calculate the cost. This letter can be submitted as an attachment on the Je-S form. Costs are added under the "Other Directly incurred Costs" section of the Je-S form. Additionally we can advise what is feasible in terms of the types of analyses available and sample numbers based on our current capacity. The procedure is to apply to NERC for the appropriate grant and, following approval, apply to the LSMSF. The exception to this is where pilot data are required prior to submitting a large grant proposal to NERC.

For more details on NERC grants and the usage of facilities, please consult the following notes on NERC Grants and S&F Usage, as well as the 2011 NERC Grants Handbook (Section K).


Prior to applying to the LSMSF

The most important point is to contact staff as early as possible when considering using the Facility, and communicate any changes of plan. E-mail addresses and telephone contacts are listed on each page of this website.

This website outlines the types of analyses we do; if there are any related analytical techniques of interest that aren’t listed here, please contact us, as it may be the case that we can make these available if there is sufficient interest from the community. Please note that in all cases, we do not provide staff support for preparative procedures or weighing, though we can offer advice. If you are unsure of whether or not your proposal fits into our remit, or which node to apply to, just contact any of the node managers and we will direct you to the correct staff member.

There is a downloadable LSMSF application form. Description of the project is limited to 2 pages and should include a general outline of the proposal and wider implications, but the bulk of the description should outline the isotopic portion of the project. Detailed sample numbers and a workplan should be included. Please read the notes on the back page of the form.


Service projects and Collaborative projects.

Projects labelled analytical service are just that: samples are mailed to the Facility and data are e-mailed back to the user. All other portions of the project (e.g. interpretation/publication etc.) are carried out by the user.
NERC’s strategy is to actively encourage collaborations between users and the Facility, and indeed collaborative proposals are by far the most popular requests that we receive. The extent of collaboration is defined by the user, but it is important to discuss this with Facility staff before the analytical work proceeds. Advantages of a collaborative project include:-

  1. Practical training in stable isotope analysis is offered to students or other staff, which is an important part of one’s personal development.
  2. Constant advice from staff who have a collective 30 years experience in isotope geochemistry and 12 years in the specific application of isotopic techniques to ecological problems. Help is always at hand in order to i) choose appropriate samples for hypothesis testing, ii) interpret data and iii) plan and write manuscripts. See our publications page for examples.
  3. Collaboration with the wider ecological community on high quality science ensures the continued running of the Facility and retention of talented/experienced staff.

Please note the deadlines for application submission. Proposals are reviewed by the LSMSF Steering Committee twice per year: approximately 6 weeks after the submission deadline, and applicants will be informed of the decision soon after the meeting by the SC secretary.


After approval by the LSMSF Steering Committee

Contact node staff to arrange an analysis schedule. This is particularly important for collaborative projects where there is an element of training. Please note that we do not have large wet chemistry facilities, so acidification, lipid extraction, etc. will have to be carried out by the user at their own institution. We can however offer advice on the latter. We have a freeze-drier, a Retsch ball-mill and a Mettler MX5 microbalance for collaborative users to weigh out their samples if required. We can supply a wide range of tin/silver capsules or alternatively suggest a consumables supplier.
For all projects, it is essential that we are made aware of any submitted, pending or published material relating to the projects, and it is mandatory that the NERC LSMSF is at least acknowledged for their analytical input – application number codes should be quoted. We also encourage users to consider promoting their research in NERC’s Planet Earth magazine.


Analysis types

We can measure the following types of samples routinely (those which are non-routine or in development are in parentheses). If there any related analytical techniques of interest then please contact us.

  • 13C/12C of organic samples/constituents, including 13C-labelled samples
  • 15N/14N of organic samples/constituents
  • 2H/1H of organic samples
  • (18O/16O of organic samples)
  • 34S/32S of organic samples
  • 2H/1H of waters, including 2H-labelled waters
  • 18O/16O of waters, including 18O-labelled waters
  • 13C/12C of carbonates
  • 18O/16O of carbonates
  • 13C/12C of dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC)

The node operates three mass spectrometers:-

  • ThermoElectron Delta Plus XP with Flash HT elemental analyser for rapid throughput rapid throughput simultaneous 13C/12C and 15N/14N and of organic matter. This is our "workhorse" instrument, and has the potential to measure 34S/32S, 2H/1H, and 18O/16O in organic material.
  • Thermo Fisher Scientific Delta V Plus with Costech ECS 4010 elemental analyser and both a Thermo TC/EA and HTG-02 high temperature furnace for rapid throughput D/H and 18O/16O simultaneous analysis of organic material. This instrument also serves as a secondary device for dual 13C/12C - 15N/14N analysis by continuous flow.
  • Thermo Fisher Scientific Delta V Plus with a Gas Bench II, for natural abundance isotope ratios of hydrogen and oxygen in waters. This also has the potential for several other types of analyses, including 13C/12C and 18O/16O of carbonates.

The following mass spectrometers belonging to the Isotope Geosciences Unit at SUERC are available to the East Kilbride Node:

  • VG Optima IR-MS mass spectrometer with chromium reduction firnaces for D/H measurements on microlitre quantities of waters.
  • VG Isotech Sira 10 mass spectrometer for 13C/12C and 18O/16O measurements on carbon dioxide samples.
  • AP Trace gas analyser for carbonate or water analyses.

Delta XP Plus and Costech ECS 4010


D‌elta V Plus, Costech ECS 4010, TC/EA and smartscreen