Although I am in the School of Oceanography, my lab group studies river chemistry and the processes between land and water that control bioactive elements (carbon, nitrogen, phosphorous and oxygen). We have three primary study areas: the Amazon Basin, Southeast Asia and the Puget Sound. My Master's project specifically looked at the natural production of methane in the flooded forests of the Amazon Basin. During the rainy season, the rivers in the Amazon Basin flood into the surrounding forest creating an anoxic environment for biodegradation. Microbes that normally decompose the material on the forest floor to carbon dioxide cannot function without oxygen. When standing water in the forest is depleted of oxygen, different microbes will decompose the leaves using a metabolic pathway that ends with the production of methane gas. Since methane is a greenhouse gas, scientists are very interested in knowing how humans are changing the natural sources and sinks of methane. My study site was located in the Brazilian state of Rondonia, and contained areas of flooded primary forest as well as flooded pasture. The purpose of my research was to quantify the natural emission of methane in the untouched forest and compare it to the emission observed in the flooded pasture. 

Because my work is in the middle of the South American Continent, you could say that I am a " terrestrial oceanographer". I applied to work aboard the Polar Star as an opportunity to obtain some true oceanographic experience. I was hired to work as part of the CTD crew, but I also plan on conducting an additional experiment in denitrification. Nitrogen can be a limiting nutrient for phytoplankton. This means if not enough nitrogen is present in the water, or if it is in the wrong form, phytoplankton cannot grow. Phytoplankton growth in turn affects how much carbon gets taken out of the atmosphere and put into the ocean. This movement of carbon to the ocean is important for understanding climate change. One way that nitrogen can be taken out of the water is by sediment microbes that convert useful forms like nitrate (NO3 2-) and nitrite (NO2 -) to molecular nitrogen (N2) or nitrous oxide (N2O). Both N2 and N2O are gaseous forms of nitrogen and eventually will diffuse out of the water column and into the atmosphere. We expect there to be significant denitrification in the waters of this cruise because of their interaction with sediments on the shallow, extensive Arctic continental shelves.