One of the main challenges was choosing which of the hundreds of applications of stable isotope analysis to describe in the article. (Another challenge was describing the science involved in a way that would be accessible to students in Grades 8 through 12 — clear language, sidebars and diagrams helped with that.) Eventually, I settled on a timeline structure, and chose examples to support it:
- collecting evidence about global temperatures during Earth's most recent ice age,
- identifying the source of cod eaten by English sailors in the sixteenth century, and
- protecting populations of African elephants for the future.
Once the structure was established, it was time to gather detailed information to answer the questions readers might want to ask: What isotopes are used? How are they analyzed? What can we learn from this analysis? What can't we learn? Why is this analysis important? That was the fun part.
Once the article was written, it was accepted, edited, and published. And I did learn more about isotopes.
Did you know stable isotope analysis can help prosecute elephant poaching and ivory trafficking?