A framework for transdisciplinary radiocarbon research: Use of natural-level and elevated-level 14c in antarctic field research

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Department of Biological Sciences; Great Lakes Research Center


Radiocarbon (14C) is an isotopic tracer used to address a wide range of scientific research questions. However, contamination by elevated levels of 14C is deleterious to natural-level laboratory workspaces and accelerator mass spectrometer facilities designed to precisely measure small amounts of 14C. The risk of contaminating materials and facilities intended for natural-level 14C with elevated-level 14C-labeled materials has dictated near complete separation of research groups practicing profoundly different measurements. Such separation can hinder transdisciplinary research initiatives, especially in remote and isolated field locations where both natural-level and elevated-level radiocarbon applications may be useful. This paper outlines the successful collaboration between researchers making natural-level 14C measurements and researchers using 14C-labeled materials during a subglacial drilling project in West Antarctica (SALSA 2018-2019). Our strict operating protocol allowed us to successfully carry out 14C labeling experiments within close quarters at our remote field camp without contaminating samples of sediment and water intended for natural level 14C measurements. Here we present our collaborative protocol for maintaining natural level 14C cleanliness as a framework for future transdisciplinary radiocarbon collaborations.

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© The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press for the Arizona Board of Regents on behalf of the University of Arizona. Publisher’s version of record: https://doi.org/10.1017/RDC.2021.55

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