2019-2020 / OCEA0027-1

Applications of stable isotopes in marine sciences


15h Th, 15h Pr

Number of credits

 Master in biology of organisms and ecology (120 ECTS)3 crédits 
 Master in oceanography (120 ECTS)4 crédits 


Gilles Lepoint, Loïc Michel


Gilles Lepoint

Language(s) of instruction

French language

Organisation and examination

Teaching in the first semester, review in January


Schedule online

Units courses prerequisite and corequisite

Prerequisite or corequisite units are presented within each program

Learning unit contents

Analysis of the natural distribution of stable isotopes (= non-radioactive isotopes) of light elements C,H,N,O,S) is used to tackle multiple marine ecology and biogeochemistry topics. The course is divided in 3 parts: 1. General presentation of stable isotopes and theory of isotopic effects and fractionation; 2) Illustration of some applications of isotopic tracers in marine ecology and biogeochemistry; 3) Practical part based on a scientific question and aiming to help students design a sampling protcol, get familiar with isotopic ratios measurements (including sample preparation) and data analysis (use of mixing models and isotopic niche models).

Learning outcomes of the learning unit

1. Present stable isotopes (nature, properties, measurement methods).
2. Present their use in marine ecology and biogeochemistry (food webs, carbon and nitrogen cycle, water cycle).

Prerequisite knowledge and skills

Basics in chemistry and ecology.
This course is mostly adapted for students using these techniques in their master or PhD research or willing to inform themselves on trophic ecology methods.

Planned learning activities and teaching methods

PPT presentations.
Students will perform isotopic measurements (carbon and nitrogen) on organic samples that they collected themselves to get familiar with use of stable isotopes in trophic ecology.
Practical work presenting several methods of data analysis.

Mode of delivery (face-to-face ; distance-learning)

Attendance in person (+ problem-based practical part).
Oral course: 6 theoretical sessions + 1 tutorial class session.
Practical work: one day (sampling), 2 days (sample preparation, isotopic measurements) + time dedicated to data analysis and report writing.
Schedule to be established with students.

Recommended or required readings

Powerpoint presentations used for the class will be given to students.

Assessment methods and criteria

Individual practical work report (written evaluation, no oral presentation) + written exam (open questions). Evaluation in french or english.

Work placement(s)

Organizational remarks

Attendance to theoretical sessions and practical work mandatory.


Dr. Gilles Lepoint, Laboratoire d'Océanologie, 04/366.33.27, G.Lepoint@uliege.be
Dr. Loïc Michel, Ifremer Brittany, Loic.michel@uliege.be