, Volume 175, Issue 3, pp 781–789 | Cite as

Deconvolution of isotope signals from bundles of multiple hairs

  • Christopher H. Remien
  • Frederick R. Adler
  • Lesley A. Chesson
  • Luciano O. Valenzuela
  • James R. Ehleringer
  • Thure E. Cerling
Physiological ecology - Original research


Segmental analysis of hair has been used in diverse fields ranging from forensics to ecology to measure the concentration of substances such as drugs and isotopes. Multiple hairs are typically combined into a bundle for segmental analysis to obtain a high-resolution series of measurements. Individual hair strands cycle through multiple phases of growth and grow at different rates when in the growth phase. Variation in growth of hair strands in a bundle can cause misalignment of substance concentration between hairs, attenuating the primary body signal. We developed a mathematical model based on the known physiology of hair growth to describe the signal averaging caused by bundling multiple hairs for segmental analysis. The model was used to form an inverse method to estimate the primary body signal from measurements of a hair bundle. The inverse method was applied to a previously described stable oxygen isotope chronology from the hair of a murder victim and provides a refined interpretation of the data. Aspects of the reconstruction were confirmed when the victim was later identified.


Stable isotope Mathematical model Inverse methods 



CHR conducted this work as a University of Utah Research Training Group Fellow through NSF award #EMSW21-RTG and as a Postdoctoral Fellow at the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis, an Institute sponsored by the National Science Foundation, the US Department of Homeland Security, and the US Department of Agriculture through NSF Award #EF-0832858, with additional support from The University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Supplementary material

442_2014_2945_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (2.3 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 2323 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christopher H. Remien
    • 1
  • Frederick R. Adler
    • 2
    • 3
  • Lesley A. Chesson
    • 3
    • 4
  • Luciano O. Valenzuela
    • 3
    • 4
  • James R. Ehleringer
    • 3
    • 4
  • Thure E. Cerling
    • 3
    • 4
    • 5
  1. 1.National Institute for Mathematical and Biological SynthesisUniversity of TennesseeKnoxvilleUSA
  2. 2.Department of MathematicsUniversity of UtahSalt Lake CityUSA
  3. 3.Department of BiologyUniversity of UtahSalt Lake CityUSA
  4. 4.IsoForensicsSalt Lake CityUSA
  5. 5.Department of GeologyUniversity of UtahSalt Lake CityUSA

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