About my research:
I am a third year Masters student in Kristen Buck’s trace metal biogeochemistry lab, and my thesis looks at the remineralization of trace metals and macronutrients following a phytoplankton bloom. Phytoplankton, which include diatoms, dinoflagellates, coccolithophores, and cyanobacteria, are responsible for roughly half of earth’s photosynthetic carbon fixation and serve as the base of the marine food web. Trace metals, which include manganese, iron, cobalt, nickel, copper, zinc, and cadmium, serve as vital nutrients (and sometimes toxicants) for phytoplankton, and are thus play an essential role in governing ocean life. When phytoplankton die and sink, they release these trace metals and macronutrients (e.g., nitrogen, carbon, and phosphorous) as they decay in a process known as remineralization. My research aims to replicate this process in a laboratory setting using cultures of natural Gulf of Mexico phytoplankton assemblages, in addition to monocultures of Pseudo-nitzschia and Karenia, which can contribute to harmful algal blooms. As the phytoplankton decay, I have been tracking the release of trace metals in connection with macronutrients in order to better understand these processes that occur naturally in the oceans. Outside of the lab, I have been involved in sharing science with the community through volunteering with outreach programs including Oceanography Camp for Girls (OCG), St. Pete Science Festival, and St. Petersburg/Tampa March for Science. Eventually, I hope to lead my own academic research lab. I plan to graduate with my Master’s degree in spring of 2019 and afterwards expand my studies in marine trace metals by entering a PhD program elsewhere.
Attending USFCMS was an unexpected path. As a former Pacific Northwesterner, Florida was completely new to me. But the more I learned about USFCMS, the more it seemed like the right fit. I wanted to apply my chemistry background to the interdisciplinary science of oceanography in order to understand how the oceans are governed on a molecular level. Kristen Buck’s lab has provided the opportunity to learn cutting-edge techniques to analytically measure a suite of important marine trace metals at nano- and even picomolar levels. In addition, this research has provided exciting opportunities to take my research from the lab into the field and learn how to perform trace metal research at sea on a few short research cruises. It is truly an amazing time to be studying chemical oceanography!