Natalia (Jaime) Blackburn
- 3rd year Master’s Student
- Advisor: Robert J Orth
- B.S. Biological Sciences, University of California, Davis 2009
Seagrasses are at the center of my Master’s work. These flowering plants live completely submerged in salty or brackish water. Zostera marina, or eelgrass, is the dominant seagrass found in the Chesapeake Bay. Like most seagrasses, eelgrass provides many services that are ecologically and economically very important. Eelgrass beds provide excellent habitat for many organisms, including the commercially important blue crab, striped bass, and spotted sea trout. Of additional significance are the roles these beds play in nutrient sequestration (storage) and sediment stabilization.
My research explores one mechanism by which eelgrass seeds might become buried. We know that the seeds must be buried in order to germinate and grow into adult plants, but how they get buried remains a mystery. The goal of my research is to determine what role the animals living in the sediment have in the burial of eelgrass seeds. I work with four species of polychaete worms that are commonly found the Bay, and run experiments to see how quickly and deeply they can bury seeds.
As for the GK-12 program, I have really enjoyed myself so far, and am looking forward to spending the rest of the year with my teacher and students. Explaining scientific concepts and conclusions to 7th graders is a challenge, but it’s a skill that every scientist should have. If you can’t make a 13-year old understand your work, how will you make their parents understand what you’re doing and why it’s important? I hope that I am able to teach the kids as much as they have already taught me in my few short weeks in the classroom.