Seminar – Matt McCarthy

Matt McCarthy | UC Santa Cruz
Presenting: "Individual Amino Acid Stable Isotope analysis in Ecology and Paleoecology: new tools for understanding primary production, food web connectivity, animal migration, symbioses and beyond."
Hosted by the Executive Director, Petra Dekens

MLML Seminar | April 10th, 2024 at noon

Watch the Live Stream here or here


In the past two decades compound-specific isotope analysis of amino acids (CSI-AA) has exploded, moving from a novel analysis performed by a few labs to an increasingly mainstream technique, employed across a steadily increasing range of disciplines from ecology, archaeology, paleoceanography, geomicrobiology, and biogeochemical cycle research. Amino acid stable carbon (13CAA) and nitrogen (15NAA) measurements remain the best developed applications, with D/H ratios of AA  and molecular position-specific isotopes representing the next frontier. Most work to date has focused on establishing trophic connectivity and baseline isotope values in modern and palaeoecological applications. This talk will present an overview CSI-AA techniques and potential applications, focused primarily on coupling 15NAA and 13CAA potential to establish trophic connectivity, primary production and nutrient sources at the base of food webs, and applications coupling CSI-AA with isoscape to understand animal migration or shifts in feeding zones.  Finally, it will focus on new potential and emerging applications, such as exploring symbioses in extant organisms as well as microfossils.


Mathew McCarthy is a marine organic geochemist and  Professor of Oceanography at University of California Santa Cruz.   A chemist by training, he studied bio- and organic chemistry at UC San Diego Rodger Revelle college, followed by two years working as a chemist on  Methyl Mercury contamination in the Mediterranean at the International Atomic Agency - Marine Environmental Studies Laboratory in Monaco.  Returning to the US, he received his PhD from University of Washington in Oceanography and Organic Geochemistry in 1998, working with John Hedges on new approaches to understand structures and bioavailability of marine dissolved organic matter.  After his PhD he received a Chateaubriand Fellowship to study in Paris, was then a Carnegie postdoctoral fellow at the Carnegie Geophysical lab in Washington DC,  and finally received a University of Hawaii young investigator award to work on interactions between microbial loop processes and DOM production, before coming to UC Santa Cruz as an assistant professor in 2001.

The McCarthy Lab focuses on developing and applying organic and stable isotope methods to address a wide range of biogeochemical, paleo-oceanographic and ocean ecology questions.   A main focus has been developing compound-specific amino acid isotope techniques and approaches