Next Generation: Emily Russ

January 31, 2018
Horn Point Laboratory graduate student Emily Russ examines where sediment comes from and where it goes. Listen as she explains the problems some sediment bring to the Bay and how she grew to love this work.

Hometown: Morganton, NC
Adviser: Cindy Palinkas, Horn Point Laboratory

Emily Russ was fascinated by Cindy Palinkas' research and came to UMCES to study under her. Photo by Cheryl Nemazie

What are you researching? I research where sediment comes from (source) and where it goes (sink). Specifically, my research has focused on how much sediment comes from the Susquehanna River or from shoreline erosion, and where it gets deposited in the Chesapeake Bay.

Why does it make a difference? Sediment is considered one of the main pollutants contributing to water quality degradation in the Chesapeake Bay. Also, sediment often has nutrients or other chemicals attached to it, which can negatively impact water quality. It is important to understand from where this sediment is being eroded to manage sediment input to the Chesapeake Bay.

How did you get interested in environmental science? I grew up in western North Carolina, and spent a lot of time outdoors hiking with my family.

Sediment often has nutrients or other chemicals attached to it, which can negatively impact water quality. It is important to understand from where this sediment is being eroded to manage sediment input to the Chesapeake Bay.

 

Why the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science? I came to UMCES in August 2014. I had been emailing different professors I wanted to work with on a Ph.D. After talking with Cindy Palinkas, I was fascinated by her work and really interested in coming to a place that was very interdisciplinary. I felt like UMCES would be the best fit for me, and I feel like I made the right decision.

Emily Russ is focused on how much sediment comes from the Susquehanna River or from shoreline erosion, and where it gets deposited in the Chesapeake Bay. Photo by Cheryl Nemazie

Share an experience that stands out most about your time with UMCES. My first official days of graduate school at Horn Point Laboratory involved me doing fieldwork on the Susquehanna Flats. I had very limited fieldwork experience, and I was not sure how to be helpful. My adviser and her faculty research assistant were both in the water, and I was the only person on the boat. We were taking vibracores, which are these aluminum tubes that are shaken into sediment through vibrations using the aid of a lawnmower engine. I was really struggling to start the engine. The faculty research assistant jokingly told me that I needed to start the engine in order to finish my dissertation, and at that moment it roared to life, scaring all of us. That is the story I remember when I’m having a rough day; I remember to persevere.

What’s the most important thing people can do to help the environment? I think it is important to know that every little bit helps: recycling, composting, properly disposing of pet waste.

What are your future plans? At this point I am very open to any job opportunities; however, I am applying for the Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship from Maryland Sea Grant, which is a one-year fellowship that helps recent graduates or advanced graduate students obtain policy experience.