My research interests
The evolution of my dissertation has been driven by my desire to prepare myself to be an ecosystem ecologist and biogeochemist who, through interdisciplinary collaborations, can improve our understanding of agricultural groundwater quality and quantity for the benefit of food security in a world with a changing climate and increased reliance on groundwater.
In the spring of 2014 I installed soil porewater samplers at the LTER Resource Gradient Experiment. They draw soil water from three different depths across the Gradient, allowing me to track the progression of nitrate leaching, carbonate weathering, phosphate precipitation and other biogeochemical pathways as water moves downward from the root zone and enters the carbonate-containing C horizon. This approach provides a novel look at how agronomic practices influence the fate of inorganic carbon from ag lime and how groundwater irrigation acts as a source of or sink for CO2. Furthermore, calcium carbonate re-precipitation in the upper C horizon may play an important role in protecting water quality in the Great Lakes basin by encouraging co-precipitation and immobilization of phosphate. I am also conducting social science research exploring how corn irrigators in the St. Joseph watershed make decisions about lime and groundwater use, so that when I scale up my findings at the LTER the numbers better reflect what is happening in the real world. And I will gain a better understanding of the human dimensions of carbon and water use in a changing world.
Check out this 2.5 minute video below about my PhD research. I originally made it for the NSF GK-12 program at the Kellogg Biological Station. Filming and editing by Lucas Hamilton.
Prior research/professional experience
Wright Lab manager, Duke University, Durham NC. Community ecology field and lab research with Dr. Justin Wright. Sept 2007 - August 2012.
Participated in writing articles, presented research at professional meetings, mentored undergraduate student research, managed lab assistants
Farmhand, Fickle Creek Farm, Efland, NC. Part time work at a small, sustainable produce and livestock farm. July 2010 - July 2011.
Plant Ecology Research Assistant, Commonwealth of Dominica, West Indies and Lab Technician, Clemson University, South Carolina. Tropical plant ecology and invasive plant ecology and genetics with Dr. Saara DeWalt. June 2006 - Aug 2007.
National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates, Flathead Lake Biological Station, University of Montana, near Polson, Montana. Summer 2005. Through this internship I worked with Dr. Ric Hauer (U. of Montana) and Dr. Emily Bernhardt (Duke University) to develop a research project investigating the nutrient limitation of periphyton in the Nyack Floodplain of the Middle Fork of the Flathead River, comparing between upwelling and downwelling sites. I was also the field assistant to Dr. Brian Reid, then Ph.D. student of Dr. Hauer’s.
Internship at Omar Torrejos National Park, El Cope, Cocle, Panama & Fortuna Forest Reserve, Chiriqui, Panama. Summer 2004. Worked with Ph. D. student from Institute of Ecology at the Univ. of Georgia on his research investigating ecosystem-level effects of tadpoles on tropical mountain streams; part of a larger NSF-funded study, “Collaborative Research: Response of Tropical Stream Ecosystem Structure and Function to Amphibian Extinctions,” involving PI’s from Drexel University and Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.