Strontium isotopic ratios are widely used as tracers in geological processes and as indicators of provenance in an archaeological context.

A significant fraction of the Earth’s 87Sr is not primordial, but is produced by the decay of 87Rb. Geochemically, Strontium follows Calcium, while Rubidium follows Potassium; thus, the geological variability of Sr isotope ratios in rocks is a function of both their age and chemical composition, particularly, their Ca/K ratios. Since these parameters can vary widely between different geological environments, and because different geological processes can fractionate rock chemistry in predictable ways, Sr isotopic ratios serve as tracers regarding the origins of igneous rocks. Also of interest to earth scientists is the Sr isotopic composition of seawater, which has varied through geologic time. In this case, variability is set up by the competing rates of sea-floor production, and weathering of continental landmasses. Marine organisms which produce calcium carbonate from seawater will inherit the Sr isotopic composition of the global ocean at that point in time and can be useful for dating sediment from the sea floor.

Archeologists use the isotope ratios of strontium to determine residential origins and migration patterns of ancestral humans. The human body incorporates Sr by way of diet. Since Sr isotope ratios in soils, rocks, and waters vary widely in nature, and are not appreciatively fractionated by biologic processes, the assumption is that the isotope values for strontium in bone and tooth enamel will reflect those in the portion of the biosphere in which an individual lived. Thus, strontium isotope composition provides links to the land where food was grown or grazed.

Depending on the needs of the researcher, our lab extracts Sr by acid digestion; we can digest materials completely, or we can leach readily available material via partial extraction. Sr is then purified by standard cation exchange methods using small-volume Eichrom Sr-specific resin columns, thus minimizing the amount of reagents used and minimizing the reagent contribution to blank levels. We use only high-purity reagents and all work is done in a controlled cleanroom environment.

All Sr isotope measurements are done on a nuPlasma II mass spectrometer fitted with 16 faraday cups and 5 ion counters. 87Sr/86Sr ratios are corrected for mass bias, the presence of Rb, and for isobaric interference of Kr impurities in the Ar gas. We run NBS 987 during all sample runs as a reference check.

We currently only offer solution analyses, using a CETAC dry desolvating system to increase sensitivity; we are in the process of acquiring a laser-ablation setup, and we will announce when this is up and running.

We can measure the 87Sr/86Sr of very small masses of forams, which, when combined with the known evolution of seawater 87Sr/86Sr over geologic time, can be used to help constrain sedimentary age intervals in marine sediments.

Oilfield Brine Studies
Sr isotopic compositions of oilfield brines (produced waters) are often used in tracer studies by petroleum companies or environmental consultants.  By comparing the 87Sr/86Sr of oil-well-produced waters with those of the surrounding aquifers or surficial waters, one can track or monitor the degree of contamination between production waters and spatially associated agricultural, recreational, and drinking water.  For those wishing to enhance these Sr tracer studies by adding C and O isotopes, the high salinity of many produced waters requires a more labor-intensive sample preparation for light stable isotope analysis.  By using ring-down spectrometry for C and O isotopes, we can generate these light isotope data much faster and at lower cost than using traditional zinc-reduction techniques required for the analysis of highly saline water.



Please note: we will be updating our rates for samples received after December 31, 2022, unless you have an existing estimate dated less than one year earlier and have not yet submitted those samples. Our current rates are in the tables below. Rush (expedited) service is not available at this time.

If you require a formal quote, please let us know the sample type, number of samples, isotope system(s) you need measured, and the application. We accept payment by check or online by credit card. UGA clients are encouraged to use their SpeedType. If you need to pay by wire, please contact Janice Lackey. If you plan to pay by purchase order (PO) and you work at a university or large company you will most likely need a formal quote before you can request a PO, which should be done before submitting samples. Please reference the PO No. on your submission form and send a copy of your PO to If you need to pre-pay or set us up as a vendor in your purchasing system, please contact Angela McLendon. For training, demos, or large/ongoing projects please contact us.

Sr extraction and analysis$200
Combined Pb & Sr$300
Sample Size Requirements
•We strongly prefer to do all sample pre-treatment and purification work in-house, as it is imperative to have control over reagent purity and cleanroom conditions. If you have access to suitable preparation labs and wish to do some of this work outside of our facilities, please contact us.
••Per the directive of the University System of Georgia Board of Regents, all University Sytem of Georgia and Emory University clients are billed at lower rates. Please contact us if this applies to your work.
•••Large sample sets can be discounted; please inquire.

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