Research Q & A
What’s your hometown?
I am from just down the Mississippi river in Hastings, MN.
How did you get started/what drew you to your area of study?
Growing up in Minnesota, I have always had a passion for water and spent much of my time fishing and recreating on our local lakes and streams. Now, I want to learn more about our aquatic ecosystems so we can better manage and protect them in the future.
What are you currently working on?
I am currently looking at greenhouse gas production and emission from Minnesota lakes and ponds. Microorganisms in lakes and consume and break down organic material into carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4), which makes freshwaters an important natural contributor of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. If we know more about what controls these processes, we can manage our lakes and ponds to have less emissions.
How are you working toward that goal?
This summer I measured greenhouse gas emissions from 26 ponds around the twin cities area, looking at physical, chemical, and biological properties that contributed to emission rates. Ponds can have large emissions of greenhouse gases, especially the potent greenhouse gas methane (CH4). I found that methane emissions were tightly correlated with duckweed coverage on the surface of ponds, as well as with nutrient levels in the pond. These results can give us a plan of attack on how to better manage local ponds in the future.
What advice would you give to someone who wanted to follow in your footsteps?
Everyone can do science! Sometimes people think that science is for only the most intelligent people, or people that love math, etc. However anyone who is passionate and curious about the natural world can excel in science.
I measured greenhouse gas emission rates form the surface of ponds using a floating chamber (on the left) attached to a portable gas analyzer. If a gas (such as CO2) is concentrated in the water, it will diffuse across the water surface into the atmosphere, similar to when you open up a new can of pop (the hiss is the concentrated CO2 escaping). With the float on the water, it captures the gas escaping the surface and we can measure the rate of emission.
One of the ponds studied in this project. The surface is almost entirely covered with duckweed, which I found can increase emsisions of CO2 and methane.