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Nitrogen removal by salt marshes in the Elkhorn Slough, California

For my master's research under Dr. Margaret Zimmer, I studied the influence of tidal inundation on nitrogen removal (via denitrification and anammox processes) in salt marsh soils of the Elkhorn Slough. 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 (check out the NOAA reserve's annual water quality report card). 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 (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. 

View my MS thesis

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Image by Jeff DeWitt
Image by Elyse Turton

Macroinvertebrates as an indicator of water quality in the Fishburn Experimental Forest, Virginia

I sorted, identified, and counted over 3,000 freshwater macroinvertebrates as an undergraduate researcher under Dr. Mike Aust. The genus classification of freshwater macroinvertebrates are used as a proxy for stream health. At Slate Branch, located in the Fishburn Forest and operated by Virginia Tech, I assessed stream health 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 watershed before, during, and following forest disturbance.

Exploring benthic macroinvertebrates in oyster reef habitats at the Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences, Virginia & Maryland

As a summer laboratory technician in a benthic ecology lab, 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.

Image by Matthew Essman