Scripps follows UNOLS recommendations for stable isotope use at sea for the Academic Research Fleet. The following Scripps requirements are summarized from Finding and Recommendations for the use of Stable Isotopes (15N and 13C) within the ships of the US Academic Research Fleet (6 September 2016).


The use of stable isotopes 15N and 13C within the skin of the ship should not present contamination issues for natural abundance science. The case for 13C is a bit trickier due to the concerns of 14C contamination. Taking proper precautions to prevent 14C contamination will minimize this risk.

Required Procedures


  • As part of the precruise planning process, scientists intending to use stable isotopes should notify the Scripps Shipboard Technical Support (STS) department so that shipboard activities can be appropriately coordinated.
  • Also as part of the cruise planning process, contact the University of Miami SWAB program to scheduled a post-cruise vessel inspection.
  • Prior to sailing, the scientist should contact the stable isotope manufacturer to learn and understand any potential for radioisotopic contamination from the stable isotope, and communicate the findings to the Scripps STS department.

Aboard the vessel

  • Stable isotope users should practice good chemical hygiene habits as recommended or required by their home institution.
  • Stable isotope work should be properly labeled, and be conducted in a contained area.
  • Gloves should always be used with labeled stable isotopes, and be removed prior to leaving the work area.
  • Stable isotope spike should be kept away from all sampling equipment (such as niskin bottles).
  • Spills of any sort should be reported immediately to the shipboard STS technician so cleanup can be promptly conducted under the auspices of the STS technician.
  • Stock solutions should have secondary containment.
  • The stable isotope work area should be thoroughly cleaned using best practices (dilute acid solution) after use.

During the vessel demobilization

  • The ship should be surveyed for contamination by the SWAB program when the vessel returns to port after stable isotope work.