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Customer Spotlight: Laboratory of Oceanology @ University of Liège

The University of Liège is using an IsoPrime100 IRMS to investigate marine ecology, especially trophic processes of marine animals

Dr Loïc Michel is a Belgian Science Policy (BELSPO) postdoctoral fellow at the University of Liège’s (ULg) Laboratory of Oceanology, in Liège, Belgium. He co-manages the university’s Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometry (IRMS) platform with Dr Gilles Lepoint. Dr Lepoint, appointed by the Belgian National Fund for Scientific Research (FNRS), is the head of the ‘Stable Isotopes in Environmental Sciences and Trophic Ecology’ workgroup.

Logo of the University of Liège

At present, Dr Michel and Dr Lepoint share their time between their own research and numerous academic collaborations on a local, national or international scale. In each of these projects, Dr Michel and Dr Lepoint are involved in stable isotope analysis, data treatment and interpretation and publication of results. 

Dr Michel and Dr Lepoint operate an IsoPrime100 Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometer coupled with two inlet systems, an Elementar vario MICRO cube for elemental analysis and an Aglient GC-MSD (7890A Gas Chromatograph + 5975 Mass selective detector) coupled to a GC5 combustion interfacefor compound-specific isotope analyses. 

The key theme of the ULg stable isotope laboratory is marine ecology and how natural or anthropogenic fluctuations in animals’ trophic processes can, through cascading effects, exert a wider influence on other organisms. A major research area for the laboratory is to understand the trophic interactions among Antarctic zoobenthos and how stressors linked to climate change impact upon them. Here, Dr Michel have discovered how the increase of sea ice cover can severely disrupt processes which govern the local food web to the detriment of the local invertebrates living there. The team have also studied how organisms in the Antarctic can adapt their feeding strategies to cope with changes environmental conditions and prey availability. 

Meanwhile, Dr Lepoint and his team have focussed on temperate and tropical seagrass meadows and the role of detritus in these ecosystems. Seagrass detritus typically form large aggregates that look unattractive but Dr Lepoints’ research has shown that they are very important from an ecological perspective. They form complex habitats for dozens of animal species that are specially adapted to the transient nature of these detritus accumulations and the seagrass detritus is actually quite important to those food webs. Using this new research should better inform conservation scientists whilst managing competing demands for these natural environments. 

The IRMS instrumentation from Elementar has provided numerous benefits since it was commissioned in 2011. They chose the IsoPrime100 to replace the Optima IRMS system they had in place which was becoming more unreliable and to make their laboratory more efficient as well as increasing their analytical capabilities. With the IsoPrime100 Dr Michel and Dr Lepoint can now incorporate sulfur isotope ratios into their research using the elemental analyzer and also perform compound-specific isotope analysis to investigate trophic ecology at a deeper level. Their platform also happens to be the only IRMS setup in the French-speaking community of Belgium, so it has helped to encourage collaborations with other departments of ULg, as well as with most other Belgian universities and research institutes. 

One particularly beneficial feature of the IsoPrime100 is that Dr Michel and Dr Lepoint have been able to automate large parts of their daily analyses. This is because the IsoPrime100 is a very stable instrument and the features of the vario MICRO cube elemental analyzer support better automation of their sample analysis. This automation allows Dr Michel and Dr Lepoint to sustain an analytical output of over 10,000 analyses a year, whilst leaving time to complete other day-to-day tasks. 

Dr Michel and Dr Lepoint were attracted to Elementar because their laboratory has been a happy user of VG/Micromass legacy IRMS equipment in since the mid-90s and has always been impressed with those instruments. But what really impressed Dr Michel is Elementar’s approach to EA and IRMS. He said:  

With Elementar, EA and IRMS are not a small branch of a large company. They are at the very heart of Elementar’s interests and everything that they do. This is evidenced by their strong commitment to Research and Development.

Dr Michel and Dr Lepoint would happily consider purchasing another IRMS from Elementar. One of the limitations of their system is that the EA dominates their sample throughput and makes it difficult to focus on compound specific analysis with their GC. By hopefully purchasing a second IRMS in the future to dedicate to the GC system, they hope to expand their research themes and improve the lab capabilities.  

About University of Liege’s Laboratory of Oceanology

Despite the city’s geographical position, marine sciences are a privileged research at University of Liège (Belgium). The Laboratory of Oceanology is renowned for its expertise in various fields of marine ecology and environmental sciences, like seagrass ecosystems, marine vertebrate ecotoxicology, trophic ecology and application of stable isotopes, plankton ecology and ecosystem modelling. It is also part of ULg's interfacultary centre for marine sciences (MARE), responsible for over 300 peer-reviewed publications.

Instrumentation installed: 

IsoPrime100 (legacy instrument, successor: isoprime precisION)
vario MICRO cube elemental analyzer (legacy instrument, successor: vario ISOTOPE select)
isoprime precisION with Agilent 7890GC and with Agilent 5975 MSD and GC5 Interface 


University of Liège, Laboratory of Oceanology 
Institute of Chemistry (Building B6c) 
Allée du 6 Août nr. 13 
Quartier Agora 
Sart-Tilman Campus 
B-4000 Liège 

Contact details:


Gilles Lepoint: 

Loïc Michel:


Facility website: (general lab website)

(stable isotope group page)


Selected publications:

For recent publications from the lab, please click here.


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