ISOcycles – conference Monte Verita, Andi Smith and Angela Lamb

Andi Smith and Angela Lamb.
In October 2017 a small group of researchers descended on the Monte Verita conference centre in Ascona, Switzerland. This fantastic conference centre is the venue of choice for Congressi Stefano Franscini, the international conference platform of ETH Zurich. The conference was aimed at bringing together experts from a range of scientific disciplines to discuss the topic of “Reaching an integrated use of stable isotopes to constrain biogeochemical nutrient cycles.” Andi Smith and Angela Lamb attended from the NERC Stable Isotope Facility at the BGS and here Andi discusses the conference in more detail...

The Monte Verita conference centre is perched on the top of a hill in the Swiss Alps not too far from the Italian border and offers an idyllic spot for a scientific conference. In the early 1900s this hilltop sanctuary was home to a vegetarian colony, nudist retreat and then sanatorium. More recently, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich have adopted the venue as their main conference centre and host a range of events throughout the year.

ISOcycles 2017 was aimed at bringing together researchers who were currently using stable isotope science to help understand nutrient cycling within the environment. The conference was filled with a number of diverse keynote talks and shorter presentations by PhD students, as well as several dynamic poster sessions. One key difference from many conferences was that time was set aside for breakout discussions.

From L-R: The view from the balcony at Monte Verita: at the far side of the lake you can just about see Italy; Even during
 the day trip away from the conference centre there were lots of discussions about isotopes and nutrient cycling,
between enjoying the view and taking some photos that is…
Once broken up into teams we were given a series of “homework” assignments all of which aimed towards us becoming a more integrated group of researchers and asked the question “can the integrated use of stable isotopes help to constrain biogeochemical nutrient cycles in more detail than is currently possible using one isotope approach”. This topic was hotly contested, but the general consensus was that we should become more integrated, using multiple isotopic systems to help understand nutrient cycling as a multidimensional process rather than a diverse set of stand-alone processes. Hopefully by starting these discussions the community will work more closely together in the future to tackle some of the remaining questions in nutrient cycling and dynamics. We are already looking forward to the next ISOcycles in 5 years’ time.

Andi Smith and Angela Lamb are part of the Stable Isotope Facility at the BGS.