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Laser-induced fluorescence spectroscopy has been employed to characterize a plume produced in nanosecond laser ablation of metallic neodymium. Kinetic energy distributions of ions and neutrals in the plume were investigated as functions of processing parameters such as laser fluence and ambient gas pressure. Population distributions of metastable levels in the ablated atoms were also measured. These investigations provide preliminary data for the design of a new type of resonance photo-ionization laser ion source.