Summer at BMC

Sun-soaked postcards from Bryn Mawr College

A Postcard From: Rachel Hager ’15

rachelmethanechambersName: Rachel Hager

Year: 2015

Major: Biology

What’s happening? We’d love to hear how your internship is going! I’m spending the summer doing research at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) in Edgewater, Maryland. Thanks to funding from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Science Horizons Research Internship, I was able to continue my research at SERC on the effects of the Phragmites australis invasion on the biogeochemistry of wetlands. The aggressive plant species Phragmites australis, invades native wetland vegetation in North America, changing the biogeochemical processes of carbon, soil organic matter decomposition, and soil and water chemistry.

My current research focuses on the influence of the Phragmites invasion on carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) emissions within the global carbon cycle. Methane, the second most abundant trace greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, is over 20x more efficient than carbon dioxide at trapping radiation. I’m using methane fluxes, soil incubations, pore water analysis, and extrapolated models to determine the effect of the Phragmites invasion on the biogeochemical processes of carbon.

rachelsoilcoreFor methane flux measurements, I place transparent stackable chambers on top of collared vegetation plots, then take several gas samples throughout a two hour time-span to calculate the production of methane over time. I also create soil incubations from soil cores in different vegetation zones to examine the effect of belowground bacteria on methane production.

My internship has lead to a wonderful summer full of muddy times in the marsh complemented by cooler times inside the lab learning a lot about how to use a wide array of machines to analyze all of my samples. I’m excited to present my findings from this summer in a presentation at SERC in a few weeks and at the Bryn Mawr Summer Science Poster Session in September!

How I heard about my internship: I initially heard about my internship at SERC two years ago as a undergrad student researcher in Tom Mozdzer’s lab at Bryn Mawr. I was an REU intern at SERC last summer, when I fell in love with investigating the effects of invasive species on the biogeochemistry of marshes. This summer, I returned to SERC as a research intern through funding from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Science Horizons Research Internship program.

rachelco2Why I applied for my internship: I worked in Tom Mozdzer’s lab at Bryn Mawr for an academic year before spending last summer as a research intern at SERC. My experience doing research with Tom Mozdzer at Bryn Mawr and at SERC last summer spurred my interest in pursuing research involving the invasion of non-native species on wetlands. Thus, I jumped at the opportunity to return to SERC and spend my summer immersed in the biogeochemistry of marshes!

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