Greg Skrzypek describes his biogeochemistry discipline of stable isotopes as a narrow field with very broad applications.
Associate Professor and ARC Future Fellow Dr Skrzypek, with Dr Pauline Grierson and Douglas Ford, run the stable isotope laboratory on the Crawley campus that is otherwise known as the West Australian Biogeochemistry Centre.
"Our lab is one of the few places in Australia that provides open access to stable isotope analyses for academics, government and industry from WA and around the country," he said.
Stable isotopes are non-radio-active isotopes, which don't decay over time. Their ratios in the environment are perfect tracers of many processes that are not detectable using traditional chemistry.
A/Professor Skrzypek is also convener of the 9th International Conference on the Applications of Stable Isotope Techniques to Ecological Studies (IsoEcol 9), which is currently running at UWA (3-8 August 2014, www.isoecol2014.org).
It is the first time the conference has been held in Australia and it is thanks to his perseverance.
"I applied, unsuccessfully, twice for a development grant from the Perth Convention Bureau (PCB) to go to this conference overseas," A/Professor Skrzypek said. "After my second application had been turned down, PCB contacted me and generously offered to pay for my air fare to attend the last IsoEcol conference two years ago in France. That's where I successfully promoted WA as the next conference destination."
Of the 135 delegates attending IsoEcol in Perth, about 20 per cent are students and thanks to the Australian Institute of Nuclear Science Engineering (AINSE) the conference organisers were able to provide travel grants to Australian and New Zealand students. Other sponsorship allowed registration fee waivers for students from developing countries including Mexico and Guatemala to come to IsoEcol 9.
The conference's major sponsors are UWA, Sercon (which produces instruments for stable isotope research), Rio Tinto, AINSE and CSIRO. It is co-organised with CSIRO and Rio Tinto.