Photo of Bruce Vaughn

Bruce Vaughn

We measure carbon and oxygen isotopes in air and ice to better understand Earth systems, including the carbon cycle, past climate, and methane. 

Learn about the Stable Isotope Lab 

Institute news

Infrastructure in London

London produces a third more methane than estimates suggest (Imperial College London)

Researchers from Imperial College London have performed new measurements using data from INSTAAR's Stable Isotope Lab (Sylvia Englund Michel). They found London produces 30-35% more methane than previously thought. Previous estimates suggested 25% of London's methane is from natural gas leaks, but the new study says it's up to 85%. Read more
While kneeling in the snow, Bruce Vaughn displays an ice core segment, northeast Greenland

Faces of the Front Range: Bruce Vaughn and Bradley Markle look to save the world by understanding it (Denver Post)

Denver Post profile of a visit to the Stable Isotope Lab, where Bruce Vaughn and Brad Markle shared ice cores, knowledge, and what keeps them going while researching the climate past and present. To read this article, you may need to enter your email address. Read more
Researcher works in a stable isotope lab that contains lots of blue and beige gas flasks

New analysis shows microbial sources fueling rise of atmospheric methane (NOAA Research News)

The sudden and sustained rise in atmospheric levels of the potent greenhouse gas methane since 2007 has posed one of the most significant and pressing questions in climate research: Where is it coming from? Now a research team has tested the leading theories for surging methane levels by analyzing the stable carbon isotope ratios (δ13C-CH4) from methane captured in a large set of global air samples to determine if one of the theories is more feasible than the others. Read more
More institute news for SIL


Lab news


SIL survives the covid times


Lab members on a Zoom call

When the world shut down, we kept the lab running. There were some hard days, troubleshooting instruments over face time, working odd hours so there weren't too many of us in the lab at a time, delivering flasks and pfps out the back door. .. but we did the best we could. Field seasons in Greenland and Alaska were canceled, which was disappointing to say the least. And amidst all the craziness, keeping up with the website was not a high priority! Lab meetings over zoom kept us in touch, and we took the opportunity to invite notable guests to speak to us, including Dr. Eric Steig (University of Washington), Dr. Heiko Moossen (Max Planck Institute), Dr. Peter Sperlich (NIWA, NZ), and Dr. Thomas Rockmann (Utrecht University, The Netherlands). We have working almost normally since summer of 2020. We enjoyed some outside happy hours in the cold, gratefully embraced the arrival of vaccines, had a brief respite from masks in the summer and are now on board with masks and boosters as we move into another winter. Along the way, we said goodbye to Alyssa Johnson and Seth Kurtz (we miss you guys!), Abby Thayer rocked her PhD dissertation, and both Will Skorski and Chloe Brashear defended their Masters theses. Abby now has a job in environmental consulting, Will is off to South Pole, and Chloe joined us as a PRA. Oh, and did I mention that we hired a new faculty member, Dr. Bradley Markle? Maybe I'll add some more detail about all this big news ... when we get a new website, coming soon! November, 2021.


SIL finds solidarity at GGMT


Sylvia leads the discussion section of stable isotopes of greenhouse gases at an international meeting in South Korea

Sylvia leads the discussion section of stable isotopes of greenhouse gases. 

In early September 2019, Sylvia and Bruce, along with lots of NOAA colleagues, went to the 20th WMO/IAEA Meeting on Carbon Dioxide,
Other Greenhouse Gases, and Related Measurement Techniques (GGMT-2019) on Jeju Island, South Korea. This meeting, started by Dave Keeling and formerly called the CO2 experts meeting, is a gathering of people who make careful measurements of greenhouse gases for atmospheric monitoring. These are our people! Sylvia presented a talk called "JRAS-06 or bust - The INSTAAR Stable Isotope Lab revises its ties to primary standards and releases a revised data set of d13C-CO2 and d18O-CO2", referring to a change in our local realization of the VPDB-CO2 scale. Stay tuned for more on that. Sylvia also presented a poster regarding error in our methane isotope measurements, and Bruce presented a poster regarding the drone as a tool for atmospheric sampling. It was a great meeting, despite a near-direct hit by Typhoon Lingling. And Korean barbeque is amazing. September 2019


SIL is flying skyward!

Black Swift Technologies UAV launches from the surface of the Greenland Ice Sheet at EGRIP camp.  The UAV flies to nearly 5,000 feet above the surface, measuring temperature, relative humidity, pressure, and then takes 6 air samples autonomously.  Navigation is via a tablet, and is per-programmed.  Launch is pneumatic powered at 6-G force. 

Following a successful proof of concept run in 2018, and some Boulder-based testing, our drone team returned to EGRIP in summer 2019 with a vengeance. Sporting the  new Blackswift S2 fixed-wing UAV, we took to the skies sampling water vapor up to 1600m! Here is our maiden flight ... with many more to come!  June 2019.