Ice Core Gas Lab

The ice core gas laboratory enables research at the British Antarctic Survey and the University of Cambridge. We specialise in measuring the concentration and isotopic composition of greenhouse gases in ice cores.

We also develop and run a variety of simple carbon cycle models – mostly box models capable of simulating the atmospheric histories of CO2, CH4 and other greenhouse gases.

Our primary aim is to understand how climate and the carbon cycle have interacted in the past. What happened in the past can tell us about what may happen in the future.  We address questions like:

  • In a warming world, will carbon stored in soil act as a source or a sink for CO2?
  • Can changes in sea-ice around Antarctica affect the ability of the ocean to absorb anthropogenic CO2?

By combining the ice core data we measure in the lab with the predictions from our carbon cycle models, we constrain these and other climate-carbon cycle feedbacks.

Our analytical equipment is largely devoted to highly specialized measurements of ice core gases. We build custom analytical systems that are very good at measuring small air samples and, in some cases, making those measurements continuously.

We currently work on: 

  • A partially automated melt-refreeze gas extraction system for CH4
  • A dry extraction system for the concentration and isotopic composition of CO(led by Amy King)
  • A total air content system (led by Christoph Nehrbass-Ahles)

Core Instruments:

CO2, CH4 and N2O analysis

  • Shimadzu Nexus 2030 dual channel gas chromatograph with FID and BID detectors

Simultaneous COand δ13C-CO2

  • Aerodyne quantum cascade laser spectrometer

Continuous CHand CO analysis

  • SARA cavity enhanced absorption spectrometer (currently on loan from Roberto Grilli and Xavier Fain for a number of joint projects)

Reference Standards:

  • 2x NOAA Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network standards at pre-Industrial and glacial levels for CO2, CH4, N2O, CO and the stable isotopes of CO2.
  • 1x working reference at mid-glacial concentrations

We also work closely with our colleagues in the Godwin Lab at the University of Cambridge where we have access to a suite of gas-source mass spectrometers and other laser-based instruments.

We are always interested in other applications so please feel free to get in touch if you think we can help with your project.  We can reference most measurements to international standards.

Extraction system for carbon dioxide




Funded Projects

  • Royal Society University Research Fellowship: Probing the deepest ice cores for new modes of carbon cycle variability with a novel, ultra-high-resolution CO2 method (PI: Bauska)
  • Royal Society Research Fellows’ Enhancement Award: Augmenting ice core records with continuous histories of CO2, CH4and N2O (PI: Bauska)
  • Isaac Newton Trust Research Grant: History of carbon monoxide from ice cores (PI: Rhodes)
  • NERC Capital Call 2019: UK Relic Air Extraction and Gas Analysis System – UK RArE-GAS (PIs: Bauska, Thomas, Vaughan)
  • NERC Capital Call 2020: LASER-ENVI – A LASER spectrometer-based ENVIronmental Gas and Gas-Isotope Facility (PI: Turchyn with co-Is Rhodes, Bauska, et al.)
  • Antarctic Science Bursary: The Little Ice Age COdrop: Natural, Anthropogenic or Artefact? (PI: King)
  • GC and standard/sample handling system
  • External particpants

    Octavia Rooks (MSci student, University of Cambridge – Department of Earth Sciences)

We work closely with other ice core scientists in the Cambridge, across the UK and around the world.  We also carry out joint research with the Godwin Lab at the University of Cambridge.

Some of our collaborators include:

Interested in joining the team?

Undergraduate opportunities

If you’re currently an undergraduate at the University of Cambridge we can occasionally fund summer work or help you get support from your college to carry out an independent research project.


We are always happy to supervise research projects for MSci and MASt students.  For students from outside the University of Cambridge you can find out more about the MASt program here.


Every year we typically advertise at least one competitively funded PhD project as part of the NERC C-Clear Doctoral Training Programme.  One important note for students coming from outside the UK, particularly students from the US, deadlines are early and applications to programmes like the Gates Cambridge Scholarship can really help you secure the necessary funding.  If you have any questions just get in touch and we can help guide you through the process.


Finishing your PhD?

Looking for your next (international) postdoc?

Looking to lead your first research programme?  The following programmes give your ~5+ years funding plus the resources to fund postdocs, students, and equipment.

Want to focus on new technology? We are always keen to partner with industry to develop new greenhouse gas instruments.  The following major fellowships would be a great way to start your own programme.

Beyond EPICA deep drilling campaign begins

7 December, 2022

Scientists return to East Antarctica this month (December) to locate the oldest ice on Earth. The team is part of an EU-funded research consortium from 10 European countries whose aim …

Drilling of oldest ice on Earth completed

18 February, 2022

The first ice core drilling campaign of Beyond Epica-Oldest Ice has been successfully completed at the remote Little Dome C site in Antarctica – one of the most extreme places …


PRESCIENT (UK Polar Research Expertise for Science and Society) is a joint programme between BAS (British Antarctic Survey) and CPOM (the Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling). The programme supports …


The NERC funded SIWHA_CO2 project “Sea Ice and Westerly winds during the Holocene in coastal Antarctica, to better constrain oceanic CO2 uptake” will be a breakthrough in our understanding of how …