Alaska university buys device to ID, understand organisms - InfoNews

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Alaska university buys device to ID, understand organisms

March 27, 2019 - 6:42 AM

FAIRBANKS, Alaska - The University of Alaska Fairbanks has a new instrument for researchers to identify organisms from samples the size of fingernails and where those organisms are from and what they eat.

The Alaska Stable Isotope Facility purchased a gas chromatograph isotope ratio mass spectrometer. The instruments give researchers a deeper understanding of organisms, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported Tuesday.

For example, it can be used with a mammoth fossil to help researchers understand what it ate and where it lived, said Matthew Wooller, director of the facility.

"The new instrument, what's kind of cool about it, is you'll do some chemistry at the front end in the fume hood where you take that piece of fingernail and you break it down into a constituent of amino acids," Wooller said.

Researchers then measure isotope composition of individual amino acids, leading them to various bits of information to understand the organism.

The instrument was purchased with a $140,400 grant from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust and matching funds from the university.

It will allow students and faculty to "increase the volume of research they are doing in biological, geological and environmental science, which will lead to more discoveries and a better understanding of the world around us," said Moses Lee, senior director for scientific research and enrichment programs for the trust.

The instrument won't be used only to research organisms from Alaska, Wooller said.

"We do analyses, contract analyses, for researchers and student projects from all over the state of Alaska and across the U.S. and even internationally," he said. "People send us samples from all over."


Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner,

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