The University of Waterloo-Environmental Isotope Laboratory (UW-EIL), a research group within the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, develops and applies isotope technology to the Environment. The UW-EIL resources are used primarily in the fields of Earth Sciences and Biology. Many other environmental applications are available.
Founded in 1971 by Dr. Peter Fritz, UW-EIL is today a modern research facility with an international client base encompassing universities, government agencies, consulting firms and other mainstream institutions.
Richard Heemskerk – UW-EIL’s Manager - has been involved in all phases of the lab's steady growth since 1982. With the experienced technical and scientific team developed over the years, the UW-EIL continues to work on research into new systems design, automation of routine procedures, refinement of field sampling techniques and the ongoing training of graduate students and research fellows. UW-EIL has a staff of 10 technicians most of whom have been with the Lab for more than 15 years.
The UW-EIL is at the fore-front of developing isotopic techniques for research applications, a role that far outstrips that of a routine facility. New frontiers are developing rapidly in the isotope field and access to new techniques is critical to maintaining our position as world class researchers in environmental isotopes. The development of these techniques is time consuming and labour intensive. Individual researchers or even a small group of researchers could only afford to develop some of these capabilities in a very narrow area of application. However, collaboration of UW-EIL with University of Waterloo faculty allows for this success. The UW-EIL is the only major isotope facility in Canada with this concentration of faculty with substantial isotope research interests.
The UW-EIL is promoted through participation in conferences, workshops and publication of papers by the UW group and papers published by clients that report isotope data produced at the Lab. UW-EIL staff have operated exhibit booths at scientific meetings to meet new clients and maintain relationships with existing clients for the last eight years.
The Lab can analyze isotopes of hydrogen (2H, 3H), carbon (13C, 14C), nitrogen (15N), oxygen (18O), sulphur (34S), chlorine (37Cl) and bromine (81Br) in almost any compound in which they occur. These analyses provide what is called an "isotopic fingerprint." Soluble compounds in groundwater, such as nitrate, sulfate, chloride, bromide and dissolved inorganic carbon, are imprinted with an isotopic composition (a "fingerprint") that is related to the sources and processes that affect these compounds in groundwater. Thus isotopic analysis provides information about the origin and fate of these compounds in groundwater.
The UW-EIL actual and future capabilities are intimately linked to the research activities carried out by professors at the Department of Earth & Environmental Sciences. This Department was the home of the worldwide recognized Waterloo Centre for Groundwater Research, one of the two Centers of Excellence that became part of the new Centre for Research on Earth and Space Technology.
The core of professors that apply and develop new applications of isotope techniques include Dr. Ramon Aravena, Dr. Shaun Frape and Dr. Sherry Schiff. These projects continue with the active participation of UW-EIL manager Richard Heemskerk, B.Sc.
Main research areas
Groundwater Flow Dynamics
Deep Groundwater Flow Systems
Groundwater-Surface Water Interactions
Evaluation of Aquitards
Organic Contaminants in Groundwater
Nitrogen Cycle in Groundwater
Forested Watersheds and Wetlands
Paleoclimate and Paleohydrology