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Stable isotope analysis is the measurement of the presence of stable elemental isotopes in organic and inorganic samples. Common isotopes to measure are hydrogen (H), carbon (C), nitrogen (N), oxygen (O), and sulfur (S). Stable isotope analysis consists of the preparation of a liquid, solid, or gaseous sample and then analysis by mass spectrometry. The isotope abundance is usually presented as a atom percentage or as a ratio of the heavier (minor) stable isotope to the lighter (major) isotope, like 13C/12C, where 13C is the stable isotope. The primary consideration for stable isotope analysis is the selection of isotope. Diet and environment are common influencers of the incorporation of stable isotopes into materials. Therefore, stable isotope analysis is useful for fields from archeology to zoology. Examples include: determination of historical diets or migration patterns in archeology, studying past weather patterns in meteorology or geology, and assessing if evidence shares the same source in forensics. Stable isotope analysis can be used to measure glucose metabolism, total body water, and energy expenditure as well. (Credit: Brooke Anderson-White)
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