IsoPROTECT Austria

The aim of the project is the systematic creation of a terrestrial and aquatic isotopic landscape of Austria for determining the origin of regionally produced food.

food, origin, soil

The project overview

Area of Science: Natural Sciences
Location: Austria
Used Devices: without PC/Mobile, with PC/Mobile
Equipment of citizen scientists: Computer with internet or smartphone; basic equipment for sampling (e.g. container), preparation (e.g. sieves) and simple soil chemical analysis (e.g. pH measurement) will be provided
Activities of citizen scientists: observing, measuring, analysing, other activities
Suitable for: Youngsters and adults
Project duration: 01.07.2016 - 31.12.2018
Time to join in: 01.09.2016 - 31.12.2018
Expenditure of time: 5 min for registration; 1-3 times about 3h for sample preparation and measurement or development of chemical methods and sending samples to Tulln

Project objective

The Citizen Science project "IsoPROTECT: Protecting regional food production in Austria with isotope and multielement fingerprints" was an extension of the Sparkling Science project CSI: TRACE your FOOD! and was carried out by the VIRIS Laboratory, Department of Chemistry, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna. The primary goal of the project was the systematic extension of the data set for the production of an isoscape of Austria, which serves the proof of origin of local regionally produced food. In addition, the goal was to make the data accessible to a wider public through an online database.

The systematic extension of the 87Sr/86Sr isotope map for soils has been successfully implemented through the participation of 8 food producers and 7 schools. The producers took part in the sampling and provided important additional information on production conditions (e.g. fertilization, liming). Thus, soil samples were collected and further processed from a total of 27 different sites. At schools, the soil samples were dried, sieved, and the parameters pH value and Ca concentration in water extracts were determined. This was followed by a digital transmission of the field measurement data to the VIRIS laboratory via an online form, as well as the delivery of the dried and sieved soil samples for the further mass spectrometric analyzes of the 87Sr/86Sr isotope ratio and the multielement pattern to the VIRIS laboratory. The obtained results showed that all soil samples could be assigned to their origin by 100% using the 87Sr/86Sr isotope ratio together with the concentrations of Mn, Cu, Zn, Rb and Ba.

Individual pupils and teachers participated in the project as part of three school theses and thus contributed significantly to the evaluation and presentation of the data. For example the evaluation of the significance of the field determination of the Ca concentration in comparison to the data obtained in the laboratory of a selected set of samples was conducted as part of a diploma thesis at the HTL Dornbirn. Furthermore, due to the interest of a pupil of the Franziskaner Gymnasium Hall in Tyrol, a cooperation with a developer and operator of Aquaponic plants was started and comprehensive analyzes of the chemical composition of the water were conducted. This was used as a topic for another school thesis. Moreover, this was the first time that the project approached the topic of determining the origin of tomatoes cultivated on liquid media.

With the help of citizen scientists the isotope map for soils was extended. Due to the interest of companies and individual students, new topics and research questions were also included in the project. For example, an optimized measurement method was developed for varying concentrations of macro and microelements in different types of vegetables. The reason for this was the special interest of the producer of Sauwald potatoes on the multi-element fingerprint, since e.g. these are advertised with special potassium content; in addition Styrian seed beans and Lavanttaler asparagus were analyzed in more detail for the multielement pattern. This resulted in the idea of ​​a future systematic "food profiling" as additional information provided by the producers to their customers in order to convey the special composition and quality of a food.

The data obtained have been and will continue to be presented at conferences and published in scientific publications.

The sustainability of the project was made possible by the successful implementation of the IsoPROTECT approach in the newly founded K1 center "FFoQSI" ("Feed and Food Quality Safety and Innovation", in a central strategic area for the "Determination of origin and authenticity of food and feed".

Participating and supporting institutions


Prof. DI Dr. Thomas Prohaska

DI Dr. Andreas Zitek

Project website:

Share this Page