UW Environmental Isotopes Lab

The University of Waterloo-Environmental Isotope Laboratory (uwEILAB), a research group within the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, develops and applies isotope technology to the Environment. The uwEILAB resources are used primarily in the fields of Earth Sciences and Biology. Many other environmental applications are available.

Founded in 1971 by Dr. Peter Fritz, uwEILAB is today a modern research facility with an international client base encompassing universities, government agencies, consulting firms and other mainstream institutions.

Richard Heemskerk – uwEILAB’s Manager - has been involved in all phases of the lab's steady growth since 1982. With the experienced technical and scientific team developed over the years, the uwEILAB continues to work on research into new systems design, automation of routine procedures, refinement of field sampling techniques and the ongoing training of graduate students and research fellows. uwEILAB has a staff of 10 technicians most of whom have been with the Lab for more than 15 years.

The UW- EIL is at the fore-front of developing isotopic techniques for research applications, a role that far outstrips that of a routine facility. New frontiers are developing rapidly in the isotope field and access to new techniques is critical to maintaining our position as world class researchers in environmental isotopes. The development of these techniques is time consuming and labour intensive. Individual researchers or even a small group of researchers could only afford to develop some of these capabilities in a very narrow area of application. However, collaboration of uwEILAB with UW faculty allows for this success. The uwEILAB is the only major isotope facility in Canada with this concentration of faculty with substantial isotope research interests.

The uwEILAB is promoted through participation in conferences, workshops and publication of papers by the UW group and papers published by clients that report isotope data produced at the Lab. uwEILAB staff have operated exhibit booths at scientific meetings to meet new clients and maintain relationships with existing clients for the last eight years.

The Lab can analyze isotopes of hydrogen (2H, 3H), carbon (13C, 14C), nitrogen (15N), oxygen (18O), sulphur (34S), chlorine (37Cl) and bromine (81Br) in almost any compound in which they occur. These analyses provide what is called an "isotopic fingerprint." Soluble compounds in groundwater, such as nitrate, sulfate, chloride, bromide and dissolved inorganic carbon, are imprinted with an isotopic composition (a "fingerprint") that is related to the sources and processes that affect these compounds in groundwater. Thus isotopic analysis provides information about the origin and fate of these compounds in groundwater.

The uwEILAB actual and future capabilities are intimately linked to the research activities carried out by professors at the Department of Earth & Environmental Sciences. This Department was the home of the worldwide recognized Waterloo Centre for Groundwater Research, one of the two Centers of Excellence that became part of the new Centre for Research on Earth and Space Technology.

The core of professors that apply and develop new applications of isotope techniques include Dr. Ramon Aravena, Dr. Shaun Frape and Dr. Sherry Schiff. These projects continue with the active participation of– uwEILAB manager Richard Heemskerk, B.Sc.

Main research areas include:

  • Groundwater Flow Dynamics
  • Deep Groundwater Flow Systems
  • Groundwater Geochemistry
  • Groundwater-Surface Water Interactions
  • Evaluation of Aquitards
  • Organic Contaminants in Groundwater
  • Nitrogen Cycle in Groundwater
  • Forested Watersheds and Wetlands
  • Paleoclimate and Paleohydrology
  • Biological Applications

Contact info
Contact: A. Richard Heemskerk
Tel: +1(519) 888-4567 Ext.35838
Address: 200 University Avenue West
City: Waterloo
Prov/State: Ontario
Postal Code/Zip: N2L 3G1
Country: Canada


Review or download the Lab price list


12 Stable Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometers

  • Finnegan DeltaVplus-GC 37Cl
  • Finnegan 253-GC 81Br
  • Finnegan DeltaplusXP-GC 2H, 13C
  • Finnegan DeltaplusXL-EA 13C, 15N
  • GVI IsoPrime-EAHT 2H, 18O
  • Micromass IsoPrime-DI/GC 37Cl, 81Br
  • Micromass IsoPrime-MG/GC 2H, 13C, 18O
  • GVI IsoPrime-TG/MG 15N, 18O, 13C
  • GVI IsoPrime-TG/MG 18O, 13C
  • Micromass IsoChrom-GC/MG 18O, 13C
  • Micromass IsoChrom-EA 13C, 15N, 34S
  • VG PRISM (manifold A, Triple Trap, 2H, 18O, 13C, 15N
  • VG Micromass 903 (automated) 18O, 13C

5 Liquid Scintillation Counters

  • Packard 1550
  • Packard 2500TR
  • 3 - LKB Wallac 1220 Quantulus= tritium

Laser System
  • Los Gatos Research OA-ICOS T-LWIA 2H+18O in H2O

Recent equipment additions and continued upgrading of automated techniques have allowed uwEILAB to provide the accessibility and support to an expanding user group. For example, the recent addition of a Thermal Ionization Mass Spectrometer will benefit cooperative research and create new and possible unique isotopic possibilities for expansion of uwEILAB effort in Ca and Sr isotopes and related isotopic parameters such as Cl, Br and S.

The uwEILAB is the only Canadian laboratory analyzing bromine stable isotopes (both organic and inorganic materials), tritium, and multiple isotopes in chlorinated organics, and pesticides.

The uwEILAB is one of only three laboratories worldwide offering Cl isotope analyses of organo-chloride compounds and it has developed the only continuous flow, compound specific technology for 37Cl analysis on chlorinated solvents on samples with very low concentrations (10ppb).

In order to best serve their customers’ needs, uwEILAB follows stringent calibration of all methods using international reference materials and participates in international lab inter comparative programs. To support the integrity of uwEILAB s results, state-of-the-art technical procedures incorporating Quality Assurance / Quality Control (ISO17025) guidelines are rigorously followed.