Keele Ice Lab

The Keele University Ice Laboratory provides dedicated high-precision water isotope and fluorescence spectrometry capability for GGE and the University. The IceLab features a dedicated freezer laboratory for water and ice samples from polar environments.

icelab-logo-440px In order to anticipate and plan for future climate change, we have to understand the past. The study of past climate change is an international undertaking, underpinned by a strong collaborative scientific effort. In tandem with national and international partners including the British Antarctic Survey, the Keele University Ice Laboratory brings together the combined expertise of the GGE Environmental Change research group, providing new capacity in the UK for ice core and water research. IceLab research is driven by the need to understand and develop new methods, such as analysis of ice core ‘biomarkers’, within polar environments in order to inform on key questions surrounding global ocean and atmospheric change, sea ice variability, and humanity’s role in polar ecological change.

rock in ice


The IceLab consists of facilities for sealed ice storage, preparation and analysis, along with a -20C freezer laboratory. The lab contains instrumentation for the analysis of water isotopes, dissolved organic matter (DOM), and cellular material, and is funded by the Faculty of Natural Sciences, Keele University, and GGE.

We are always looking for enthusiastic Undergraduate, Masters and Postgraduate students willing to undertake projects within the IceLab. Past projects include:

  • Isotopic analysis of a snow/firn core from Union Glacier, Antarctica.
  • Fluorescent organic matter analysis of ice core samples from the last glacial-interglacial transition, as preserved in horizontal ‘blue ice’ from the Ellsworth Mountains, Antarctica.

Interested students should contact Professor Chris Fogwill.


Los Gatos Research Triple Water Isotope Analyzer


Water Isotopes from polar environments offer a wealth of information about past climate and environmental change. High-precision water isotope analysis (δD, δ18O and δ17O) is provided by a Las Gatos Research Triple Water Isotope Analyzer (TWIA). The TWIA provides high sample throughput with replicate standard analyses yielding the following long term precision (1σ, 10 runs): Holocene standard: δ18O = -32.79‰ ± 0.11, δD = -252.08‰ ± 0.73, (n=32) and LGM standard: δ18O = -32.79‰ ±0.10, δ2H = -252.08 ‰ ± 0.41 (n=32). The TWIA is maintained and operated regularly with manufacturer-supplied standards to ensure consistent measurement accuracy.

Horiba Scientific Aqualog® Fluorescence/Absorbance Spectrofluorometer

Fluorescence, a type of luminescence, offers an extremely sensitive means to measure minute quantities of fluorescent molecules contained within water samples. Fluorescence capability in the IceLab is provided by an Aqualog-UV-800-C, a compact spectrometry system that measures both absorbance and fluorescence within water samples. Its unique design employs 90° measurement geometry and is ideal for our purposes, being a high-performance research grade spectrometer that is also transportable and field proven. Preliminary studies have demonstrated a clear signal from this technique even in ancient Antarctic ice collected as a part of an Australian Research Council Linkage Project with our partners Antarctic Logistics and Expeditions

Biotek Cytation 1 Cell Imaging Multi-Mode Reader


(A) Fluorescence signatures of two PARAFAC-modelled fluorophores present in Holocene ice samples, measured with the Aqualog-UV-800-C. Absorbance/excitation and emission loading presented in arbitrary, non-normalised units. Component 1 (C1) displayed in green, and Component 2 in grey. C1 displays ‘tryptophan-like fluorescence’ (TLF), with Component 2 (C2) more closely resembling a tyrosine-like fluorophore. Also shown is an example Excitation-Emission Matrix (EEM) from the Holocene ice at Patriot Hills, with protein-like far-UV spectrum fluorescence clearly visible. (B) C1 TLF fluorescence (smoothed) within a contemporary snow core profile. Preliminary data; PARAFAC component characteristics may change during final model validation. Inset map shows the sampling location at Patriot Hills, in the Ellsworth Mountains, Antarctica.

Cellular material in polar ice samples is a valuable palaeoarchive, with ice cores containing trapped microbial organisms from numerous sources via Aeolian transport. The Cytation 1 provides quantitative digital microscopy at up to 60x magnification, allowing for the identification and analysis of preserved organisms within melted ice samples. The reader also features shape identification algorithms and filter-based fluorescence capabilities, which show potential for assistance with the identification of volcanic glass shards and other exotic fractions.

Key Keele staff

Professor Chris Fogwill
Dr Peter Knight
Dr Alix Cage
Dr Antonia Law
Professor Zoe Robinson
Dr Richard Waller
Dr Helen Glanville
Dr Adam Jeffery


Prof. Chris Turney (UNSW, Australia)
Prof Andy Baker (UNSW, Australia)
Dr Tas van Ommen (Australian Antarctic Division, Australia)
Dr Andrew Moy (Australian Antarctic Division, Australia)
Dr Mark Curran(Australian Antarctic Division, Australia)
Dr David Etheridge (CSIRO, Australia)
Dr David Thornton (CSIRO, Australia)
Dr Liz Thomas (British Antarctic Survey, UK)
Dr Ann Power (Exeter University, UK)
Dr John Love (Exeter University, UK)
Dr Nancy Bertler (Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand)
Dr Holly Winton (Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand
Dr Michael Bird (JCU, Australia)
Dr Niels Munksgaard (JCU / Charles Darwin University, Australia)
Dr Francisco Fernandoy (Universidad Andrés Bello, Chile)
Dr Andres Rivera (CECS, Chile)
Prof. Alan Cooper (Adelaide, Australia)
Dr Laura Weyrich (Adelaide, Australia)

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*Accreditation is dependent on the degree route and modules taken