Documenting the evolution of a five-pond restoration wetland
Moro Cojo Slough, California
In the spring of 2022, I taught a research capstone for graduating seniors at CSUMB. This catalyzed a collaboration with the Central Coast Wetlands Group at their newly constructed 35-acre restoration site, Tottino II. Our fourteen student class mapped the topography and bathymetry of the site, completed biotic assessments of plant and invertebrate communities, and assessed water quality of the five-pond system including adjacent agricultural inputs.
By summer 2022, Climate Aware took on three undergraduate researchers through CSUMB's UROC program. The interns studied birds, vegetation plus water quality, and invertebrates. Two interns earned Outstanding Undergraduate Research Poster at UROC's symposium, and we sampled the first aquatic vertebrate at Tottino II!
Nitrogen removal in salt marshes
Elkhorn Slough, California
For my master's research (2018-2020) under Dr. Margaret Zimmer, I studied the influence of tidal inundation on nitrogen removal in salt marsh soils of the Elkhorn Slough and co-founded two research sites. The Elkhorn Slough is California's 3rd largest estuary, and feeds into the iconic Monterey Bay. Rich soils of the Elkhorn Slough watershed support a large agricultural sector comprised of mostly berries and leafy greens. As a consequence, the Elkhorn Slough faces impairment in surface water quality indicative of widespread fertilizer use.
My team built a laboratory-based method for measuring nitrogen removal from wetland soils. We found that wetland soils inundated by the tide most often removed the highest potential rates of nitrogen and that the rhizosphere (i.e. roots) of common pickleweed may host a rich community of nitrogen-transforming microorganisms, even during plant dormancy. Results suggest that the Elkhorn Slough may act as a nitrogen sink during winter.
Macroinvertebrates as an indicator of water quality
Fishburn Experimental Forest, Virginia
I sorted, identified, and counted over 3,000 freshwater macroinvertebrates as an undergraduate researcher under Dr. Mike Aust between 2016 and 2017. The genus classification of freshwater macroinvertebrates are used as a proxy for stream health. I assessed stream health of Slate Branch following decades of forest management practices in the watershed. According to macroinvertebrate genus groups, I found that Slate Branch was unimpaired by forestry practices taking place in the surrounding watershed. This was largely due to rigorous best management practice implementation throughout the experimental watershed before, during, and following forest disturbance.
Exploring benthic macroinvertebrates communities in oyster reefs
Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences, Virginia & Maryland
I worked as a lab tech in Jenny Dreyer's benthic ecology lab in summer 2015. I sorted, identified, and counted marine macroinvertebrates to contribute to Dr. Lisa Kellogg's research on oyster reef restoration in the Chesapeake Bay. I aided in constructing experimental benthic chambers and accompanied scientific divers on two occasions, where I observed benthic chamber installment and collection in the bay. I also visited the Eastern Shore laboratory to take part in oyster processing, or the step before we sorted macroinvertebrates.