Storm passing at Lennox Head, NSW, Australia

As native of the lake-dotted north woods of Minnesota, I grew up with a magnetic fascination for the tranquility and complexity of open water. This attraction led me to pursue a career in aquatic biogeochemistry, the study of transformations of chemical elements by physical processes and living organisms. I now have the opportunity to study how aquatic ecosystems respond to human changes, such as nutrient runoff from farm soils and physical alterations to natural shorelines.

I recently traveled to Australia as part of NSF’s East Asia and Pacific Summer Institutes to continue my Ph.D. research. I carried out this research at Southern Cross University, an institution nestled in the countryside along Australia’s easternmost coastline. My central research question dealt with how microbial communities that process and remove nutrients in the coastal ocean are impacted by changing environmental conditions, such as nutrient supply and sources of dead plant and algal matter.