Isotopes in Spatial Ecology and Biogeochemistry (SPATIAL Short Course)


The SPATIAL (Spatio-temporal Isotope Analytics Lab) Short Course represents a bridge between theory and measurement, introduced in ITCE Course 1, and regional-to-continental scale research. It builds on the skills and knowledge base developed in Course 1 or equivalent stable isotope biogeochemistry coursework to introduce current research themes in large-scale ecology and environmental Earth science, theoretical and technical aspects of assembling and working with large, spatially distributed datasets, and analytical and computational tools available to support such work. The course emphasizes stable isotopes as a research tool, and their unique capacity to address many ecological problems, but also stresses the integration of isotopes with other data types and methods within a geospatial framework.


Morning lectures focus on the theoretical underpinnings of spatial structure in a range of isotopic systems and how these are applied to address scientific challenges in multi-scale ecological, biogeochemical and Earth science research. Afternoon laboratory sessions introduce students to tools and techniques for working with spatially explicit environmental datasets, including geodata identification, acquisition, management, and analysis, using real data from published and unpublished sources.


Earth surface systems - Environmental, biological, and anthropogenic controls on ecological and biogeochemical structure

Fluid systems - Source, transport, and reactive process controls on the distribution of isotopic and other biogeochemical tracers

Animal systems (including humans) - Inference of behavior, physiology and movement from spatial data; animal influences on biogeochemical systems


The SPATIAL course will assume that incoming students are familiar with the fundamentals of isotopic fractionation in key Earth systems (water cycle, carbon cycle, nitrogen cycle, plant and animal systems). These topics will be reviewed briefly during relevant lectures, but not covered in detail. Graduates of ITCE Course 1 or individuals with equivalent experience will be given preference in admissions decisions. Experience with GIS or spatial analysis is not required but beneficial.


  • June 12-23, 2017
  • Venue: Frederick Albert Sutton Building, University of Utah
  • Enrollment limit: 25 (lecture + lab), 10 (lecture only)
  • Graduate level credit hours: 6 (lecture + lab), 3 (lecture only)
  • Fees: $2,300 (lecture + lab), $1,150 (lecture only)
    • Includes all course materials, TRAX pass, lab resources, and several evening meals when evening lectures occur.
    • Financial support available to a limited number of graduate students. If interested, please apply for participant support when submitting your course application.
  • Lodging: Lodging rates are negotiated each year, and range from about $60-$140 per day, depending on room type and occupancy.
  • Meals: Dinners are provided when evening lectures are scheduled (5-6 meals), and hot breakfast is included in the hotel lodging. Attendees are responsible for all other meals during the course. (For your convenience, hotel rooms have fully equipped kitchens for the preparation and storage of food.) There are other dining options on or near campus.
  • Application window for the 2017 course will be December 5th, 2016 through February 3rd, 2017.

2016 Course Schedule

To view last year's schedule of lectures and events, click here.




ITCE News!

New Instructional Video Module on Biogeography and Isotope Fractionation in C3 & C4 plants with Christopher Still! Check out all of the videos at the bottom of the 'Summer Courses' tab!


New Publications - Two new papers by SPATIAL alum Sean Brennan involving salmon migration (here) and using dendritic network models to improve Strontium isoscapes (here)!


New Blog Post - Former SPATIAL student Katie Wedemeyer-Strombel discusses her experience as a SPATIAL student last summer! (Check it out here!)


Awards - Former ITCE post-doc Jennifer Cotton has received an NSF Macrosystems Biology Grant. Congratulations, Jen! (Check out the NEON press release here!)

New Publications - Former SPATIAL student Chabi Djagoun's work on carbon isotope niches in herbivores in a west African savannah is now available in Mammalian Biology - Free download until Nov 7th! (Check it out here)


New Publications - Former SPATIAL student Giovanny Mosquera in two new publications involving high elevation tropical ecosystems (Hydrological Processes and Hydrology and Earth System Sciences)


Awards - Congratulations to Jim Ehleringer for receiving the prestigious Rosenblatt Prize for Excellenc! (Read more here.)


Presentations - Several SPATIAL & IsoCamp instructors and past students represented at the 10th annual (ISOECOL meeting in Tokyo!) last week.

Archived ITCE News


IsoMAP: WebGIS for Isotopes

IsoMAP is a dynamic, online workspace for spatial analysis, modeling and prediction of stable isotope ratio variation in the natural environment. The initial realease of the IsoMAP gateway is now live and supports precipitation isotope ratio modeling. Visit IsoMAP to learn more or to start making isoscapes today!