General information

Module title Isotopes in geosciences, archaeology and environmental protection
Language English
Module lecturer Michal Jakubowicz, PhD
Lecturer's email
Lecturer position Assistant Professor
Faculty Faculty of Geographical and Geological Sciences
Semester 2021/2022 (summer)
Duration 30


Module aim (aims)

Acquiring the basics of the use of isotopic tools in addressing geological, geographical, archaeological and environmental problems. In particular, the students will be acquainted with isotopic methods of:1) tracing present and past water circulation patterns2) reconstructing a diet, life environment and migrations of animals and humans3) environment and pollution monitoring4) reconstructing geological processes5) dating rocks, minerals and geological events6) reconstructing past environmental conditions and their changes in time.In addition, a short laboratory practice in the Isotope Laboratory of Adam Mickiewicz University will serve to learn the principle laboratory techniques of sample treatment and spectrometric measurements of relative contents of isotopes of neodymium, strontium and lead.

Pre-requisites in terms of knowledge, skills and social competences (where relevant)

Basic knowledge in the fields of geosciences and chemistry


Week 1: Introduction to the isotope and trace element geochemistry; radioactive decay and isotope fractionation; application of isotope studies; origin of elements and their isotopes; radiogenic vs. stable isotopes. Week 2: Principles of stable isotope geochemistry; oxygen isotopes and their use in tracing water circulation, past temperatures and climatic changes; fractionation of oxygen isotopes by animals. Week 3: Carbon and nitrogen isotopes: photosynthesis-related fractionation in plants; carbon isotopes in soils and water; carbon and nitrogen isotopes as tracers of animal and human diet; isotope-based reconstructing ecology, food chains, migration patterns and environmental changes. Week 4: Principles of radiogenic isotope geochemistry; origin of radioctivity; types of radioactive decay; radiogenic isotope systems as dating tools at different time scales. Week 5: Rubidium-strontium isotopic system: strontium isotopes in the Earth's mantle, oceanic and continental crust; changes of strontium isotope contents in seawater in the Earth's history; strontium incorporation by plants and animals; strontium as a tracer of animal and human migrations. Week 6: Samarium-neodymium isotopic system: isotopic tracers in oceanography; neodymium isotope fractionation in the upper mantle and in the Earth's crust; proxies of neodymium isotope composition of past oceans. Weeks 7 and 8: Laboratory practice in the Isotope Laboratory of Adam Mickiewicz University: laboratory techniques of sample treatment and spectrometric measurements of relative contents of isotopes of neodymium, strontium and lead. Week 9: Evaluation test.

Reading list

Brownlow, A. H. 1996. Geochemistry. New York: Prentice HallW.M. White. Geochemistry. An on-line textbook. 1998-2007Allegre, C. J. 2008. Isotope Geology. Cambridge University PressBradley, R. 1999. Paleoclimatology. New York Academic PressHoefs, J. 2009. Stable isotope geochemistry. Springer VerlagSharp, Z. 2007. Principles of stable isotope geochemistry. PearsonDickin, A. 2005. Radiogenic Isotope Geology. Cambridge University PressLeng, M. J. 2006. Isotopes in Palaeoenvironmental Research, Springer