The RIEL MAFIA ready to roll


The RIEL MAFIA ready to roll

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We are pleased to announce that the power of mobile stable isotope analysis (SIA) is now available here at RIEL.

The Mobile Australian Field Isotope Alliance (MAFIA) is a collaboration between James Cook University (JCU), Charles Darwin University (CDU) and the Australian National University (ANU).  We were delighted to find out last week that we were successful in being awarded a LIEF (Linkage, Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities) grant by the Australian Research Council (ARC). This project builds on a previous successful exploratory LIEF project (MIMES: Mobile Isotope Monitoring for Environmental Studies).

The MAFIA Project leader is Prof Michael Bird (JCU) and Chief Investigators are Prof John Nott (JCU), Assoc Prof Lindsay Hutley (CDU), Prof Karen Gibb (CDU), Prof Graham Farquhar (ANU) and Dr Lucas Cernusak (ANU).  The Project Researcher is Dr Niels Munksgaard who is a joint appointee with JCU and RIEL (in the Environmental Chemistry and Microbiology Unit).

Stable isotope analysis (SIA) can be used as a fingerprint, tracer, and encoder of environmental information. This approach is now widely employed in many disciplines including geoscience, marine and terrestrial biology and ecology, hydrology, climatology, oceanography, environmental science, physiology, global change science and archaeology.

Through the first LIEF grant MIMES established a world-leading capability for high-resolution field isotope studies. MAFIA extends the capabilities we developed in MIMES to a total of six isotope instruments (three H2O instruments and three CO2 instruments).

RIEL will host one H2O instrument ( to arrive early 2013) and one CO2 instrument (already available). The MAFIA partnership enables instruments to be transferred between institutions as required.


If you are interested in the potential use of stable isotope analysis in your research, please contact the MAFIA! I am happy to discuss these unique capabilities with you. 

We know from our experience with MIMES that having sophisticated analytical equipment that is able to be deployed in the field – whether in a vehicle or on a boat — enables very exciting work to be done, and generates invaluable data for high quality publications.  A sample of some of publications generated from MIMES is listed below.

Bass, A., Bird, M.I., Munksgaard, N.C. and Wurster, C.M. (2012). ISO-CADICA: Isotopic - Continuous, automated dissolved inorganic carbon analyser. Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry, 26, 639-644.

Munksgaard, N.C., Wurster, C.M. and Bird, M.I. (2011). Continuous analysis of δ18O and δD values of water by diffusion sampling cavity ring-down spectrometry: a novel sampling device for unattended field monitoring of precipitation, ground and surface waters. Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry, 25, 3706–3712.

Munksgaard, N.C., Wurster, C.M., Bass, A. and Bird, M.I. (2012a). Extreme stable isotope variability revealed by continuous rainwater analysis. Hydrological Processes 26, 3630-3634.

Munksgaard, N.C., Wurster, C.M., Bass, A., Zagorskis, I. and Bird, M.I. (2012b). First continuous shipboard δ18O and δD measurements in sea-water by Diffusion Sampling – Cavity Ring-down Spectrometry. Environmental Chemistry Letters 10 (3), 301-307.

Munksgaard, N.C., Davies, K., Wurster, C.M., Bass, A. and Bird, M.I. (2012c). Field-based Cavity Ring-Down Spectrometry of δ13C in soil-respired CO2. Isotopes in Environmental and Health Science (Accepted Oct 2012).