BiographyAdvisor: Dr. Elizabeth Canuel B.S. Marine Science, Texas A&M University—Galveston
I study organic carbon accumulation in a dam reservoir in northern California. The construction of dams is an important source of energy for many communities, but it traps much of the material needed to maintain the health of coastal ecosystems, such as sediments and organic carbon that many organisms use as a food source. My research focuses on measuring the organic carbon that is trapped behind dams in order to determine how rivers and their drainage basins respond to climate events, like floods and storms, and human activities, including dam and road construction. It is fascinating to see how organic carbon signatures differ between sources like plankton and trees and even humans. I use these differences to follow the changing organic carbon sources throughout the 70-year history of the reservoir. My goal is to better understand how organic carbon changes in response to events in a watershed or drainage basin and use that information to explain how dams have changed the transport of materials to coastal systems.
I am excited to be a part of the NSF GK-12 program this year because it gives many of us future scientists the opportunity to practice our communications with diverse audiences. The skills that I will develop throughout this program will leave me better able to present and discuss my research in a way that is clear, understandable, and relevant to a variety of audiences.