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Human Paleoecology and Isotope Geochemistry Lab

Human Paleoecology and Isotope Geochemistry Lab

Dr. Douglas Kennett directs the Human Paleoecology and Isotope Geochemistry Lab, a newly renovated lab space housed in the Department of Anthropology at Penn State University. Dr. Brendan Culleton oversees day-to-day research and methods development in the lab for 14C and stable isotope preparation of archaeological materials.

The Human Paleoecology and Isotope Geochemistry Lab includes both dry- and wet-lab areas for sample storage and preparation with standard laboratory equipment including a fume hood, Barnstead NanoPure water purifier, drying oven, freezer and balances. Key equipment for radiocarbon sample prep includes a Hettich Rotofix centrifuge, Virtis lyophilizer, Labconco vortex evaporator, Barnstead programmable muffle furnace, and a vacuum line for sealing radiocarbon samples prior to combustion. The line is made with Swagelok Ultra-Torr fittings on stainless steel drawn by an oil-free Pfieffer turbo pump, and has been modeled on lines in use at KCCAMS. The lab has been swiped for the presence of 14C tracer and maintains constant quality controls on radiocarbon processing with KCCAMS through use of international and internal known-age lab standards (e.g., OX-1, Queets Wood, Beaufort Whale, FIRI secondaries), and will be participating in the Sixth International Radiocarbon Intercomparison (SIRI) in 2013.

Samples for AMS radiocarbon dating are prepped and combusted to CO2 gas, which is sent to the Keck Carbon Cycle AMS Facility (KCCAMS) at University of California, Irvine where it is converted to graphite and the AMS 14C measurements are made. Samples prepped for stable isotope analysis are analyzed at the Light Isotope Lab user facility at Penn State (Dept of Geosciences) on a Fisons NA1500NC elemental analyzer/Finnigan Delta Plus isotope ratio mass spectrometer for organics, and a Gas Bench + Finnigan Delta Plus isotope ratio mass spectrometer for carbonates.