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ABOUT US

Spatio-Temporal Isotope Analytics Lab

The SPATIAL group combines stable isotope techniques with field and laboratory data, modeling, and statistical/data science tools to tackle big-picture problems in the Earth and environmental sciences.

Our team embraces diversity of backgrounds, identities, perspectives, and disciplines to forge new approaches to long-standing natural and applied science problems and identify new challenges to be solved. We are always looking for curious problem solvers who want to collaborate in this work.

Our research is currently structured around four main themes

Paleoclimate

  • Developing Bayesian statistical approaches to improve quantitative interpretation of proxy data
  • Proxy development and proxy system modeling for continental deep-time climate archives
  • Reconstructing coupled climatic, carbon/water cycle, and ecological change over timescales from the Holocene to the Cenozoic

Hydrology

  • Investigating how critical zone processes structure the terrestrial water cycle at scales from soils to cities to the globe
  • Applying novel isotopic data to quantitatively partition evapotranspiration across ecosystem types and climate regimes

Forensics and Movement Ecology

  • Documenting and modeling forensically-relevant patterns of isotopic variation in natural and human-dominated environmental systems
  • Using field data and modeling to understand how environmental isotope signatures are transferred to plant and animal tissues

Informatics and Data Science

  • Developing new approaches to designing and populating community data archives
  • Developing open source software that makes isotope science more robust and accessible

Recent Highlights

PSM Video

Proxy System Model Video

GW Isoscapes

3D Ground Water Isoscapes

IsoBank

The IsoBank Database

OUR TEAM

STAFF

Gabe

Gabe Bowen

Alexis

Alexis Sims

Sagarika

Sagarika Banerjee

Stephannie

Stephannie Covarrubias

POSTDOCTORAL RESEARCHERS

Dustin

Dustin Harper

Alejandro

Alejandro Serna

Kirsten

Kirsten Verostick

Deming

Deming Yang

GRADUATE STUDENTS

Paige

Paige Austin

Kyle

Kyle Brennan

Brenden

Brenden Fischer-Femal

Francesca

Francesca Spencer

UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCHERS


Rylie

Rylie Burke

Peyton

Peyton Fausett

FORMER GROUP MEMBERS

Past
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Gabe Bowen

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Gabe is a native of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and graduate of the University of Michigan (B.S. in Geology, 1999) and University of California, Santa Cruz (Ph.D. in Earth Sciences, 2003). He spent two years as a postdoc at the University of Utah (Dept. of Biology, 2004-2005) before taking a faculty position in Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Purdue University (West Lafayette, IN). At Purdue he helped develop the Purdue Stable Isotope Facility, launch a new research community focused on spatial analytics using isotope data, and initiate a program to develop cyber-GIS infrastructure for the environmental isotope community.

In the summer of 2012 Gabe re-joined the University of Utah as a faculty member in the Department of Geology and Geophysics and founded the Spatio-Temporal Isotope Analytics Lab (SPATIAL) group. The group leverages the outstanding infrastructure at the U, including the SIRFER lab and the Center for High-Performance Computing, and has developed a new lab facility focused on mobile and high-throughput laser spectroscopy for environmental isotope analysis.

Gabe's research interests span the fields of biology and geology, and this is reflected in the breadth of ongoing research in the SPATIAL group. The central focus of this work is on humankind’s impacts on and relationships with Earth’s environment, particularly those that promise to have immediate and important consequences for our continued survival and comfort as a species. The wide-ranging, large-scale changes we are causing in the global water cycle represent one such set of impacts, and have developed as a central theme in many of our research projects. This work focuses on (1) understanding natural environmental change, through study of the geological record, as a baseline or analogue for human-induced changes, and (2) observation and modeling of the current state of the environment and changes therein. Members of the SPATIAL group apply a wide range of tools in their research, including stable isotope ratio analysis, geochemical modeling, and statistical and data science methods.

Email
CV
Google Scholar
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Alexis Sims

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Alexis was born and raised in Utah. She is currently a student at Weber State University studying for a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Alexis started with SPATIAL in March of 2019 as the program coordinator. She is a mother and a wife that enjoys running, camping, hiking and takes pride in planning the SPATIAL short course.

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Sagarika Banerjee

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Sagarika has a BS degree in Genetics from Bangalore University, India. She completed two Master’s degrees in Biotechnology and Plant/Soil sciences in India and at the University of Kentucky, respectively. Her graduate research involved livestock antibiotics effects on soil biogeochemical cycling. Her principal research interests revolve around the intersection between plant ecology, soil biogeochemistry, stable isotope, and global environmental change. After moving from Kentucky, she started working in the University of Utah Biology Department as a lab technician. She joined the SPATIAL group as Lab Coordinator in 2015.

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Stephannie Covarrubias

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Stephannie has a bachelor's degree from the University of Utah and Master's from UC Berkeley. Her previous work included using isotopes to map dietary differences among socioeconomic groups within the Salt Lake Valley. She serves as the study coordinator for the FIND-EM project.

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Dustin Harper

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Dustin received a BS in Earth Sciences from UC San Diego in 2010. He first got involved in geochemical proxies of paleoenvironments, including applications of stable isotopes and trace/minor elements in carbonates, while completing his MS in Earth Sciences from Scripps Institution of Oceanography (2012). He received his PhD in Earth Sciences from UC Santa Cruz in 2018. His dissertation focused on numerical simulations and marine proxy-based reconstructions of shifts in mid latitude climate, the hydrological cycle, and ocean pH (acidification) associated with increased atmospheric CO2 levels during the Paleocene-Eocene. Following his PhD, he worked as a postdoc at the University of Kansas on terrestrial paleoclimate and atmospheric CO2 reconstructions during the mid Cretaceous. He has done field work in the Tasman and Norwegian Seas, sailing twice on International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) expeditions (371 and 396). Going forward, Dustin will be involved with the CO2PIP project within SPATIAL, helping to build CO2 proxy models and update Phanerozoic atmospheric CO2 reconstructions.

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Google Scholar
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Alejandro Serna

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Alejandro is interested in the application of stable isotopes for archaeological and forensic research. Native from Argentina, he attended the National University of La Plata, where he studied Anthropology (2012) and obtained his PhD (2018), which was focused on the identification of the ethnicity and provenance of Patagonian hunter-gatherers through the study of oxygen stable isotopes in archaeological human remains and water. During his postdoc (2021) at the same university and in collaboration with the University of Ottawa (Canada), he worked with strontium isotopes and applied machine-learning algorithms to develop an isoscape for paleomobility and forensic research in Patagonia. He recently joined the SPATIAL lab and is eager to be part of the FIND-EM project! He loves being outdoors, practicing martial arts and watching Star Wars.

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Google Scholar
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Kirsten Verostick

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Kirsten has a BA in Anthropology and minor in Studio Art from Baylor University and an MA in Anthropology from University of Texas San Antonio. Her Master's thesis focused on using hair to reconstruct diet from a unique naturally mummified individual from the Lower Pecos region of Texas. She received her Ph.D. in Applied Anthropology with a concentration in Archaeological and Forensic Sciences from the University of South Florida. Kirsten's dissertation focused on using stable isotopes to reconstruct weaning patterns and understand childhood in two different cultural groups living in the same region of Hungary during the Migration Period. She has worked at several different laboratories using both stable and heavy isotopic analysis of human and animal teeth, bone, hair, nail and skin to study climate, diet, disease, and geographic origins for both archaeological and forensic applications. Her work at SPATIAL is focused on the FIND-EM project and using oxygen isotopes to aid in provenancing and identification of unknown service members remains.

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Google Scholar
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Deming Yang

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Deming is broadly interested in the evolution of ancient humans and associated fauna, especially the ecological context of evolution by examining the fossil and sedimentary records. He has a strong interest in using stable light isotopes and other isotope tracers (Sr, Ca, Mg isotopes, triple oxygen isotopes, etc.) to inform diet, physiology, behavior, and environment of the past. Deming's current research is focused on developing mathematical models for paleoenvironmental reconstruction using compound specific isotope records such as leaf wax n-alkanes. He is also participating in the IsoBank project that aims to develop a centralized database for stable isotope data. Deming grew up in Nanning, China, and attended Peking University in Beijing for his Bachelor's degree. After that, Deming lived in Nairobi Kenya for three years, working on fossils housed in the National Museums of Kenya. He then flew State side and completed both his Master's and PhD degrees at Stony Brook University, NY. Deming likes hiking, gardening, and culinary practices.

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Paige Austin

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Paige attended UC Irvine where she studied public policy and physical sciences. She has worked for multiple universities on projects ranging from whole ecosystem biogeophysics to soil microbial ecology. These projects have included forest fire dynamics, plant physiological ecology and ecohydrology. She also worked for USGS where she studied forest demographics, dry land biogeochemistry and restoration. Paige had the opportunity to work with students in an internship program where they combined education and outreach with plant physiological ecology and restoration while engaging with local community partners. She recently worked in the regulatory sector where she focused on grants and incentives, instrumentation and dry land stabilization. Paige has joined the SPATIAL Lab as part of a continental-scale evapotranspiration project.

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Kyle Brennan

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Kyle Brennan is a Salt Lake City local. With the Wasatch mountains as his playground, he naturally gravitated towards studying Geoscience at the University of Utah where he earned his B.Sc. He then moved to Germany to receive his Masters in Geology at the Ludwig-Maximilians Universität München where his research focused on characterizing the geochemical remagnetization of the Northern Calcareous Alps. Now he is back and excited to join SPATIAL, where his work is focused on contributing powerful Sr isotope biogeochemical tools to understand, track, and manage the last productive wild salmon stocks of North America. He is also interested in building models to quantify how interactions between aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems affect (i) transport of organic carbon and inorganic nutrients in rivers, (ii) hydrological connectivity and evaporation across river basins, and (iii) controls on spatial variability in bioavailable contaminants across river basins due to anthropogenic activities.

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Brenden Fischer-Femal

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Hailing from Eugene, OR, Brenden attained a B.S. in Geology from University of Puget Sound, minoring in Environmental Policy and Decision-Making. An undergraduate research experience at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University focused on compound-specific stable isotopic studies of paleosols and modern soils in the Great Plains. Currently working on his PhD at the University of Utah, he is studying responses of soil processes to rapid climate change over the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum. Brenden is particularly interested in this time period as a modern climate change analogue and would like to predict possible future changes in soil processes.

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Francesca Spencer

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Francesca was raised in Ames, IA and attended the University of Iowa where she completed an Honors BS in Biochemistry, BA in Italian, and minors in Chemistry and Criminology. She is currently working to complete her MS in Geology and her work in the SPATIAL lab involves the application of stable isotopes to forensic science and determining origins of remains based on the chemistry of teeth.

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Rylie Burke

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Rylie was raised in the small town of Chester, New Hampshire and is attending the University of Utah to study Environmental Geoscience. As a junior, she joined the SPATIAL group to work on the NEON plant and soil project. She is currently working on organizing incoming samples from terrestrial sites and analyzing their water isotope data to observe cross-ecosystem patterns of transpiration. Post-undergrad she hopes to attend a graduate program in Oceanography.

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Peyton Fausett

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Peyton grew up in Price, UT before coming to school at the U. He is pursing a degree in Geology with a minor in Environmental and Sustainability Studies. After graduating, Peyton plans on pursing a graduate degree to pursue geological research. He started with SPATIAL during Summer of 2021 and assists with sample preparation and lab research for the FIND-EM project.

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Former Group Members

Scott Allen (postdoc 2018-2020) Current position: Assistant Professor, University of Nevada Reno

Clement Bataille (Ph.D. 2014) Current position: Associate Professor, University of Ottawa

Kali Blevins (lab manager, 2014-2015) Current position: Energy Geosciences Institute

Sam Carter(undergrad, 2018-2020)

Zhongyin Cai (visiting Ph.D. student, 2016-2018) Current position: Postdoc, Yunnan University

Savahnna Cunningham (undergrad, 2015-2016) Current position: Energy Geosciences Institute

Richard Fiorella (postdoc 2016-2018) Current position: Postdoc, Los Alamos National Laboratory

Stephen Good (postdoc 2013-2015) Current position: Associate Professor, Oregon State University

Galen Gorski (lab tech 2013-2014) Current position: Postdoc, UC Berkeley

Jessica Guo (postdoc 2018-2020) Current position: Research Statistician, University of Arizona

Yusuf Jameel (Ph.D. 2018) Current position: Research Manager, Project Drawdown

Casey Kennedy (postdoc 2008-2011) Current position: Research Hydrologist, USDA

Zhongfang Liu (postdoc 2009-2011) Current position: Professor, Tongji University

Alex Lowe (undergrad 2012-2015) Current position: PhD Student, University of Washington

Chao Ma(postdoc 2017-2019) Current position: Assistant Professor, Chengdu University of Technology

Sarah Magozzi (postdoc 2017-2020) Current position: Postdoc, Fano Marine Center

Bianca Maibauer (M.S. 2013) Current position: Chevron Corporation

Eileen Miller (ITCE program assistant, 2014-2017) Current position: High school science teacher, Colorado

Erik Oerter (postdoc 2014-2016) Current position: Research Scientist, Lawrence Livermore National Lab

Annie Putman (Ph.D. 2019) Current position: Hydrologist, USGS

Stephen Ruegg (undergrad, 2012-2014)

Aya Schneider-Mor (postdoc 2007-2009) Current position: Researcher, Geological Society of Israel

Karan Sequeira (programmer 2016-2018) Current position: Wargaming Chicago

Griffin Siebert (undergrad 2015-2016) Current position: Probably snowboarding?

Rose Smith (postdoc 2016-2018) Current position: Stream Ecologist, Sageland Collaborative

Vishnu Srinivasaraghavan (undergrad 2010-2012) Current position: Engineer, Little River Research

Jeremy Stalker (postdoc 2010-2011) Current position: Associate Professor, Jacksonville University

Amy Steimke (undergrad, lab manager 2012-2014) Current position: Idaho Department of Environmental Quality

Crystal Tulley-Cordova (Ph.D. 2019) Current position: Principal Hydrologist, Navajo Nation Department of Water Resources

Justin VanDeVelde (Ph.D. 2012)

Hannah Vander Zanden (postdoc 2013-2016) Current position: Assistant Professor, University of Florida

Dylana Watford (M.S. 2015) Current position: Science teacher, Houston

Samantha Weintraub (postdoc 2014-2016) Current position: Biogeoscientist, NEON

Tina Woltz (undergrad 2015-2016) Current position: PhD student, UC Santa Barbara

PROJECTS

A SAMPLE OF OUR WORK

SPATIAL Short Course

Each summer since 2013 a dozen faculty and 20 students from around the globe gather in Salt Lake City for this intensive, interdisciplinary training experience. Click the photo to learn about the course and the community that it nurtures.

Project FIND-EM

The SPATIAL group is collaborating with U.S. government agencies to develop new isotope-based approaches supporting the identification and repatriation of remains of service members lost overseas. Click the flag and visit the FIND-EM website to learn more about the project and how you can help.

Open-Source Software

Our group seeks to support open science by developing software that enhances the accessibility, transparency, and reproducibility of research. Click the figure to visit our GitHub organization and see our projects, including the assignR and isoWater R-packages.

Paleo-CO2 Reconstruction

Geological evidence strongly suggests that major changes in atmospheric CO2 concentrations have occurred throughout Earth's history, but quantitatively reconstructing these changes is a major challenge. Click the logo to learn about our community-engaged project to transform paleo-CO2 reconstruction, or watch some videos introducing the effort.

Community Databases

Sharing data makes science easier, better, and more valuable. For researchers using stable isotope data, the near-universal need to interpret new measurements in the context of existing ones amplifies the importance of archiving and sharing high-quality data. Click the logo to visit the global Waterisotopes Database, or check out the multi-disciplinary IsoBank project.

Evapotranspiration

About 70% of continental precipitation returns to the atmosphere as evapotranspiration, but the physical and ecological controls on this flux are poorly understood. Click the figure to learn how we are using data from the National Ecological Observatory Network to quantify evapotranspiration processes, or read a related study led by our partners at Oregon State University.

CONTACT US

UU
Department of Geology & Geophysics
University of Utah
115 S 1460 E
Salt Lake City, UT 84112
Phone: (801)585-7925
Email: gabe.bowen@utah.edu