Home / News and Events / Media Releases / isotope technologies

Experts gather to discuss isotope technologies - 26/03/2018

 Isotope science experts from all over the world are in Wellington this week to share the latest developments in measuring things that are far too small to see yet have an impact on our lives every day. 

About 80 specialists are attending the three-day Australasian Environmental Isotopes Conference at Te Papa. It’s an event that is held every two years and this is the first time it has been held in New Zealand.

The focus is on the use of isotope techniques to investigate, monitor and understand a wide range of environmental processes, ecological dynamics, and human activities.  

Isotope analysis is an impressively versatile toolbox that includes techniques such as radiocarbon dating and mass spectrometry.

"

These novel applications underline the versatility of isotope techniques. Events such as this where information is shared will lead to more innovation, and this is what makes science vibrant and relevant

Mike Sim

"

Applications include managing eutrophication of soils, looking after groundwater, soil and plant interactions, forensic science, climate studies, tracking CO2 emissions, studying marine food chains, population studies for rare animals and birds, and authentication of food.    

Conference organiser Mike Sim, of GNS Science, said it was an honour for New Zealand to host such a prestigious event.

“Isotope analysis was first used in the 1950s and has developed into one of the world’s most useful and versatile analytical techniques.”

Sim said there were many interesting presentations, but one that caught his eye, especially in light of the strong café culture in Wellington, was on a technique to verify if coffee beans were genuinely Fair Trade.

Another will focus on a technique using ‘biogeochemical clues’ to determine the country of origin of insect pests that may be found in New Zealand to help authorities mount an appropriate response.   

“These novel applications underline the versatility of isotope techniques. Events such as this where information is shared will lead to more innovation, and this is what makes science vibrant and relevant.”

During their week in Wellington, conference delegates will visit GNS Science’s National Isotope Centre at Gracefield for guided tours of the Rafter Radiocarbon Lab, the Stable Isotope Laboratory, and the Ice Core Research Facility which stores ice cores from Antarctica at minus 40 degrees Celsius.

The Rafter Radiocarbon Laboratory is the world’s oldest continuously operating radiocarbon dating laboratory. It undertakes dating for clients all over the world.

Laboratory