What’s in the Soil? Student Heads to IsoCamp to Learn New Skills for Analyzing Forests

Anna Wade

Anna Wade, a Ph.D. student at the Nicholas School of the Environment, was among 18 Duke University students who received Graduate Student Training Enhancement Grants (GSTEG) in 2017-18 from the Office of the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies for training beyond their core disciplines. Her faculty mentor is Daniel Richter. She shared an update:

With support from GSTEG, I’ll attend a two-week intensive training workshop on stable isotopes this June at the University of Utah. The program, called IsoCamp, trains Ph.D. students and postdocs how to use stable isotopes to model environmental and ecological processes. Jim Ehleringer at the University of Utah is a leading researcher in applications of stable isotopes, and has run the program for over 20 years.

I’ll be trained on how to use a ThermoElectron isotope ratio mass spectrometer (pictured below), how to collect and prepare environmental samples, and how to use isotope-mixing models to interpret the results. This workshop draws in various experts in the field, and will give me a network of professionals to support me in my work on stable isotopes.

ThermoElectron isotope ratio mass spectrometer

The workshop will further my dissertation research on lead (Pb) in southeastern forest soils. Because of this training experience, I’ll have a much better grasp of how to use stable isotopes of Pb to delineate between natural and contaminant sources of lead. The tools and connections I make at IsoCamp will provide solid groundwork for my isotopic research at Duke.


This internal funding mechanism from the Office of the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies encourages doctoral and master’s students to step away from their core research and training to acquire skills, knowledge, or co-curricular experiences that will give them new perspectives on their research agendas. Graduate Student Training Enhancement Grants are intended to deepen preparation for academic positions and other career trajectories.

  • Proposals for 2018-19 were due on February 16; those grantees will be announced shortly.