Latest News

Crime Magazine features Prof Meier-Augenstein,s stable isotope forensic case work

Earlier this week Crime Magazine, an encyclopedia of crime published an article entitled Forensics: Stable Isotope Profiling featuring three criminal cases in which Prof Meier-Augenstein,s experience and expertise in the field of stable isotopes and their application to human provenancing resulted in him being approached by police to help them advance their investigation.

American and Canadian Science Magazines Interview Head of Mylnefield Isotope Signatures

Once again Prof Meier-Augenstein,s experience and expertise in the field of stable isotopes and their application to the provenancing (and authenticity control) of foods resulted in him being approached and interviewed by two science journalists writing for the American Scientist and The Scientist, respectively. Wolfram''''s comments can be found in the articles A Difference Kind of CSI and You Are What You Eat.

Investors in People Silver Award

Mylnefield Research Services Lrd were recently assessed by Investors in People and we are delighted to report that we were judged to have met the criteria for a Silver Award, following on from our Bronze Award in 2009. This is testament to the hard work and dedication of all our staff and acknowledgement of the investments we have made to ensure that we can offer an excellent service to our customers whilst being a great place to work.

Head of Mylnefield Isotope Signatures interviewed for PRI's The World

Owing to his reputation of being one of the few internationally recognised experts in the use of stable isotope signatures of human tissue for human provenancing, Prof. Meier-Augenstein was interviewed by Ari Daniel Shapiro for “Strands of Evidence: Hair Forensics”, a special report about forensic stable isotope analysis of human hair that was aired on PRI's The World. The story went on air on The World this Wednesday (17 Oct 2012). One can also find a sneak peep of the story on the website of The World's partner programme NOVA Science Now.

Dr Helen Kemp approved by FIRMS as a lead forensic practitioner.

Dr Helen Kemp (Senior Research Fellow and Lab Manager of the Stable Isotope Facility in Invergowrie) has been approved as a Lead Forensic Practitioner in the field of stable isotope forensic analysis of drugs by the Forensic Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometry (FIRMS) Network. As a result, Mylnefield Isotope Signatures are now formally recognised to meet the required standard of evidentiary reliability for the forensic examination of isotope signatures in two different classes of physical evidence. Dr Kemp''''s certification as approved Lead Forensic Practitioner for the forensic examination of isotope ratios in drugs such as heroin, cocaine and ecstasy compliments Prof. Meier-Augenstein''''s earlier approval as Lead Forensic Practitioner the forensic examination of isotope signatures in human bone, teeth, hair and nails. The FIRMS Regulatory Framework for Approval includes the following elements; organisation, methods, underlying science, individuals, case work, and quality management. FIRMS is certified to the international quality standard ISO9001 for the approval of forensic practitioners in the field of isotope forensics.

Two International Conferences in 10 Days

Upon invitation, Prof Meier-Augenstein attended the 2012 Joint European Stable Isotope User Meeting (JESIUM 2012) as well as the 11th Internal Isotope Symposium (IIS 2012). The JESIUM 2012 conference was organized and hosted by the Environmental Research Centre Leipzig (UFZ Leipzig) and lasted from 3 to 7 Sep. This international conference is held only every 4 years and attracts scientists involved in fundamental and applied stable isotope research ranging from archaelogy, climate recontruction and hydrology to ecology, pharmacology and food science. Here, Wolfram gave a Keynote on “Ten Years of forensic stable isotope analysis: the good, the bad and the ugly” while also convening and chairing Session 9 on “Food authenticity and isotope forensics”. IIS 2012 was organized by Sanofi-Aventis (a global healthcare leader) and this year took place from 9 to 13 Sep in Heidelberg. Wolfram gave the invited opening lecture for Session 12 “Non-Pharmaceutical Application of Labelled Compounds”. The title of his lecture was “Stable Isotope Forensics: provenancing Pharmaceuticals, Drugs and People”.

Record trading performance for MRS Ltd

Mylnefield Research Services (MRS) Ltd, the technology and innovation company that translates scientific research at the James Hutton Institute into commercial products and services has announced record trading results.
In the financial year 2011/2012 MRS Ltd achieved a record turnover in excess of £3m, enhancing profitability and enabling the company to make a charitable gift of £300,000 to the James Hutton Institute. This Gift Aid will enable the Institute to further invest in its research programmes and facilities.
MRS Managing Director, Dr Nigel Kerby said the trading performance had been achieved despite the current difficult financial climate.
Dr Kerby said: “We understand that this money will make a significant financial contribution to the recently announced purchase of land at Berryhill Farm in Angus, extending the scope of our Centre for Sustainable Cropping.
“MRS is delighted to help with this land purchase that will support research of the James Hutton Institute into sustainable crop production and land use.”
Professor Iain Gordon, Chief Executive of the James Hutton Institute, congratulated MRS Ltd on its record performance. He said: “The translation of our science into new crop varieties that meet the demands of an ever-changing world is fundamental to the James Hutton Institute's mission.
“We are very fortunate to have a strong relationship with the farming and food industry through our commercial subsidiary MRS Ltd.”
Notes for Editors:
The James Hutton Institute was formed in 2011 by the Macaulay Land Use Research Institute in Aberdeen and SCRI, the Scottish Crop Research Institute based in Invergowrie near Dundee, Scotland. The Institute encompasses a distinctive range of integrated, world-class strengths in land, crop, water, environmental and socio-economic science. It undertakes a wide range of research for customers including the Scottish and UK Governments, the EU and other organisations worldwide. The institute has a staff of nearly 600 and 125 PhD students.
The Institute organises its research through seven principal themes: Safeguarding Natural Capital, Enhancing Crop Productivity and Utilisation, Delivering Sustainable Production Systems, Controlling Weeds, Pests and Diseases, Managing Catchments and Coasts, Realising Land's Potential and Nurturing Vibrant and Low Carbon Communities.
The Institute takes its name from the 18th century Scottish Enlightenment scientist, James Hutton, who is widely regarded as the founder of modern geology and who was also an experimental farmer and agronomist.
Mylnefield Research Services Ltd was founded in 1989 and has been trading since 1992. It is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the James Hutton Institute and is responsible for commercialising the intellectual property and expertise of the Institute.
More information from: Lorraine Wakefield, Content Manager, The James Hutton Institute, Tel: 01382 568749 (direct line) or 0844 928 5428 (switchboard), Email:

The Wiley Encyclopedia of Forensic Science embraces Stable Isotope Forensics

Owing to their international reputation in the field of Stable Isotope Forensics, Prof Wolfram Meier-Augenstein and Dr Helen Kemp were asked to contribute to an updated version of the Wiley Encyclopedia of Forensic Science. A vital reference work for all professionals working in the field of forensic science, the Wiley Encyclopedia of Forensic Science “provides essential information for forensic scientists, doctors, practicing and academic lawyers, paralegals, police, crime scene investigators, analytical chemists, behavioural scientists, and toxicologists”. Between them Prof Meier-Augenstein and Dr Kemp contributed 4 chapters to this reference work by covering various aspects of forensic Stable Isotope Analysis: 1. General Principles and Limitations; 2. Bone and Teeth; 3. Hair and Nails; 4. Drugs. Wiley have recently published these 4 new chapters and they are now available on-line from the Wiley Encyclopedia of Forensic Science website.

A "Full-House" of stable isotope presentations at EGU 2012

Prof Meier-Augenstein and Dr Helen Kemp attended the annual conference and general assembly of the European Geoscience Union (EGU) in Vienna (22 - 28 April 2012) where on 5 posters they presented recent research findings ranging from the first detailed isoscapes (= isotopic maps) of Scottish freshwater to stable isotope signatures of methamphetamine synthesised from over-the-counter cold medication. Prof Meier-Augenstein also convened and chaired session IG4 on “Isotopes and Isoscapes as Tool for Forensic Provenancing”. The EGU general assembly is one of the largest conferences of its kind, this year attracting 11,275 scientists from 95 countries who gave 13,528 presentations between them.

Good Practice Guide for IRMS: Mylnefield Isotope Signatures play a key role.

Prof Wolfram Meier-Augenstein and Dr Helen Kemp of Mylnefield Isotope Signatures have been part of an eight members strong team that produced the recently released Good Practice Guide for Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometry. This Guide was commissioned and published by the Laboratory of the Government Chemist with its production funded in part by the UK National Measurement System. The Guide is available for download from the website of the FIRMS Network or the National Measurement System's Chemical and Biological Metrology website.

Stable isotope signatures help tracing designer drug manufacture

Professor Wolfram Meier-Augenstein, head of laboratory at Mylnefield Isotope Signatures, has recently been involved in a collaboration with scientists at the University of Strathclyde to develop innovative new methods of tracing designer drugs. These are drugs designed to give a 'legal high' by mimicking the effects of illegal drugs such as amphetamine, cocaine and ecstasy.

Although they are potentially dangerous, many of these materials have not yet been classified as illegal drugs. This new class of drugs are difficult to detect with drug tests currently in use. Stable isotope analysis is being investigated as a corroborative method for tracing the source of the raw materials used to make these designer drugs and for providing information about the synthetic route by which they are being made.

The project was presented at the recent 242nd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), which was held in Denver from 28 August to 1 September 2011. A more detailed summary can be found here at the University of Strathclyde's Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences.

Mylnefield Isotope Signatures in TSB Consortium

Mylnefield Isotope Signatures is pleased to announce our participation in a successful Technology Strategy Board (TSB) consortium.

Led by Protium MS Ltd, a leading supplier of equipment for stable isotope analysis and including Mylnefield Research Services and the STFC Space Science and Technology Department, the consortium was set up to develop state of the art portable equipment for stable isotope analysis.

Stable isotope ratio analysis is recognized as a standard technique for identifying adulterated foodstuffs. However applications of the technique in the food and drink industry are limited by the need to send samples back to a laboratory for analysis.

The development of laser based isotope systems has made it possible to perform isotope analysis in field situations. However current isotope laser technology cannot analyse peak shaped signals that arise in applications where gas chromatographic separation is required to investigate individual components with the same level of precision achievable with isotope ratio mass spectrometry based systems. The STFC Space Science & Technology Department has now developed and patented a laser isotope ratiometer with the ability to carry out isotope analysis over short time periods, typically in the millisecond range. This allows, for the first time, a laser system not based on CRDS technology to perform isotope analysis on CO2 peaks generated from chromatographically separated compounds.

As well as Professor Meier-Augenstein's technical expertise in chromatographic systems for stable isotope analysis, Mylnefield Isotope Signatures will provide the consortium with commercial experience as an end-user of stable isotope equipment.

Mylnefield Isotope Signatures in the news.

Following up from our previous news article, we are delighted to announce that respected science magazine of the American Geological Institute, EARTH Magazine has published in its October issue of Vol. 56 (2011) a feature length article on stable isotope analysis and Mylnefield Isotope Signatures. Follow the link for the on-line version of the article that provides an excellent summary of what we do and why it matters to you!

CSI: Crime Scene Isotopes

Mylnefield Isotope Signatures were delighted by an unusual request for information that Professor Meier-Augenstein received recently - namely a request from researcher Jon Wellner at the well known television series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. The research team from CSI are responsible for making sure that the show keeps up to date with the latest developments in forensic science and for making sure that the science is realistically depicted on screen.

Mylnefield Isotope Signatures are proud to announce that Jon was referred to our Head of Laboratory, Professor Wolfram Meier-Augenstein, as a 'world leader in forensic isotope research' to help them with their research.

Stable isotope analysis is a cutting edge technique which has a range of applications in forensic science. For example it has been used to support a police investigation into an illegal people trafficking route used by a Vietnamese organised crime group.

Stable Isotopes help unravel the mysteries of coral

Prof Wolfram Meier-Augenstein and Dr Helen Kemp of Mylnefield Isotope Signatures, were recently involved in a major collaboration of internationally recognised marine biology institutes, including the Centre Scientifique de Monaco, the Marine Environment Research Centre in La Spezia, the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in France and the University of Plymouth Marine Biology and Ecology Research Centre.

The aim of the collaboration was to study the complex food chains and symbioses associated with temperate coral species. By allowing researchers to trace the movement of carbon and nitrogen containing organic compounds through the marine environment, stable isotope profiles provide a uniquely effective tool for unravelling these complex food webs.

Corals are one of the principal marine calcifying organisms, converting dissolved mineral ions into solid calcium carbonate. They play a major role in regulating global carbon cycles and are a major carbon sink. As corals grow over thousands of years, their skeletons build up a record of their environmental conditions (temperature, salinity, CO2 concentration and nutrients). This 'environmental archive' provides important information for modelling the past, present and future of the global climate.

The paper was published by the American Society of Limnology and Oceanography (ASLO). The abstract can be found here on the ASLO website.

Head of Mylnefield Isotope Signatures awarded position as Visiting Professor at RGU

Head of Mylnefield Isotope Signatures and JHI Principal Scientist, Dr Wolfram Meier-Augenstein takes up a position as Visiting Professor within the School of Pharmacy and Life Sciences at Robert Gordon University (Aberdeen) from 1st June 2011. Dr Meier-Augenstein joins a prestigious team of forensic practitioners and analytical scientists in the Environmental and Forensic Sciences Research group at the School of Pharmacy & Life Sciences and is already involved in the supervision of a joint MSc and a joint PhD project.
Dr Meier-Augenstein is well known for applying knowledge gained from his fundamental and basic research and his expertise in Stable Isotope Forensics to criminal and environmental case work.
Dr Jonathan Snape, MRS''s commercial director commented: "I am delighted by Dr Meier-Augenstein''s appointment, which is well deserved and clearly recognises the leading nature of our stable isotope research and its application to food authenticity and forensic science."

Dr Meier-Augenstein approved by FIRMS as a lead forensic practitioner.

Mylnefield Isotope Signatures are delighted to announce that our Head of Laboratory, Dr. Wolfram Meier-Augenstein has been awarded a Certificate of Approval as a Lead Practitioner in the field of isotope forensics by the Forensic Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometry (FIRMS) Network. As a result, Mylnefield Isotope Signatures are now formally recognised to meet the required standard of evidentiary reliability for the forensic examination of isotope ratios in human bones, teeth, hair and nails.

Dr Jonathan Snape, Commercial Director of Mylnefield Research Services commented, “On behalf of everyone at MRS, I would like to congratulate Dr Meier-Augenstein and his team. This certification is a well deserved tribute to their high standards and professionalism.”

The FIRMS network seeks to develop the scope of stable isotope techniques in forensic applications and raise awareness of the current potential of isotope ratio mass spectrometry in forensic science. FIRMS also aims to bring together scientists from as wide range of disciplines as possible who employ IRMS in their own fields, thereby focusing their knowledge and expertise on crime detection and reduction.

The quality management system underpinning the operation and management of the FIRMS network as well as its Approval Procedure for forensic practitioners in the field of isotope forensics is accredited to ISO 9001:2008 standards

JHI Principal Scientist and head of MIS to join Science Advisory Board of Oritain Global Ltd

Oritain Global Ltd is an internationally operating company based in New Zealand and provides a certification service for food provenance / food authenticity of regional speciality foods. Oritain have recently asked Dr Meier-Augenstein to join the Oriain Science Board (OSB) to advise Oritain on science matters relating to food provenancing, food authentication and other forensic applications.

The main function of the OSB is to critically assess the science offered to Oritain clients. In the food authentication branch Oritain offer "traceability control measures" and as such have a function as independent auditors of claims of authenticity and/or geographical origin. It is this scientific independence and excellence that we need the OSB to guarantee. The other main aspect is the ethical aspect. Although Oritain is a business, the shareholders believe that the company should profile itself as an ethical business and the integrity of the science and interests of both clients and general public should come before profit.

Dr Meier-Augenstein will join an advisory board whose membership already includes eminent scientists of renown such as (in alphabetical order): Prof. Jose Almirall (Florida International University, USA); A/Prof. Russell Frew (Otago University, NZ); Chairman A/Prof. Jurian Hoogewerff (Oritain Global Ltd.); Dr. Mark Woolfe (Ex-UK Food Standards Agency); Prof. Daniel Wunderlin (National University of Cordoba, Argentina).

Stable Isotopes at the European Geosciences Union

Mylnefield Isotope Signatures drew the eye of the blogosphere at the 2011 General Assembly of the European Geosciences Union (EGU). Posters presented by Dr Wolfram Meier-Augenstein and Dr Helen Kemp on a wide range of forensic applications of stable isotope analysis, attracted great attention, especially from EARTH magazine. Read their blog article here.

Mylnefield Isotope Signatures invests in new instrumentation

In order to increase capacity and to be able to offer shorter turn-around times to clients, Mylnefield Isotope Signatures have recently purchased a new EA-IRMS system from Thermo-Fisher for bulk isotope analysis. This new instrument is comprised of a Delta V Advantage coupled via a ConFlo IV module to a Flash Elemental Analyser (EA). One of the key features of this new instrument is its high abundance sensitivity, which will benefit applications and research areas where sample amount can be a limiting factor. Owing to the new instrument's increased sensitivity, typical sample amount for organic materials required for a single analysis is 0.1 - 0.3 mg. Furthermore, the Flash EA is equipped with a Thermal Conductivity Detector (TCD) permitting concurrent generation of relative elemental abundance data (rel.%N and rel.%C) in addition to d15N values and d13C values.

Stable Isotopes in historical research

Thursday 6th May at 9.00pm sees the transmission of the first in a four part BBC2 documentary series “History Cold Case” filmed at the University of Dundee - Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification and at the Stable Isotope Forensic Laboratory based at SCRI.

The programmes, each dealing with an individual skeleton, follow the work of forensic scientists (including Drs Meier-Augenstein and Kemp from Mylnefield Isotope Signatures) as they apply cutting-edge techniques, including stable isotope profiling to investigate human remains in an attempt to shed light on their life histories.
From a mummified child found in a cellar to a medieval knight buried underneath a Scottish castle, the team apply their expertise in what promises to be a ground-breaking documentary series.
Further transmission dates, Thursday 13th, 20th and 27th May BBC2 at 9.00pm

“History Cold Case”

The programmes, each dealing with an individual skeleton, follow the work of forensic scientists (including Drs Meier-Augenstein and Kemp from Mylnefield Isotope Signatures) as they apply cutting-edge techniques, including stable isotope profiling to investigate human remains in an attempt to shed light on their life histories.
From a mummified child found in a cellar to a medieval knight buried underneath a Scottish castle, the team apply their expertise in what promises to be a ground-breaking documentary series.
Further transmission dates, Thursday 13th, 20th and 27th May BBC2 at 9.00pm

Stable Isotopes in Environmental Forensics.

Dr S.M Mudge and Dr Wolfram Meier-Augenstein have co-authored a chapter for the recently published “Environmental Forensics - Proceedings of the 2009 Annual Conference” (R.D. Morrison & G. O'Sullivan [eds.], Royal Society of Chemistry (2010), ISBN 1-84755-258-7).

The chapter deals with stable isotope techniques for tracking and evaluating sewage wastes and includes compound specific isotope data made available by the Mylnefield Isotope Signatures hybrid GC-MS/IRMS system. Developed by Dr Meier-Augenstein, this equipment permits the simultaneous recording of GC-MS and compound specific IRMS data.

The science of environmental forensics aims to solve the problems associated with environmental contamination of all kinds. “Environmental Forensics - Proceedings of the 2009 Annual Conference” is the first in a series of publications that will which will archive key presentations from the annual conferences sponsored by the Society of Environmental Forensics.