Next Generation: Hadley McIntosh

March 7, 2017

Hometown: Morris, Minnesota
Adviser: Dr. Laura Lapham, Chesapeake Biological Laboratory

Research area: The Arctic is increasing in temperature faster than anywhere else globally and we need a better understanding of the natural release of methane, an important greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere. My study region in the Western Canadian Arctic has 45,000 lakes, including deep permafrost thaw lakes, shallow lakes that flood annually, and lakes overlying known natural gas and oil fields. I’m working to quantify methane concentration and determine its sources to better understand greenhouse gas dynamics in the Arctic. We wanted to see how lake systems are now and how they could be potentially affected by changes in the future.

Future projections of climate change could be very different if you have all the right information for these Arctic systems. That’s part of what I’m trying to do—to develop initial information so we can put together future projections for climate change.

Why it makes a difference: Methane has been studied extensively, but in Arctic systems, we don’t know how much of it is building up in these lakes and what happens to it. Some of these lakes could be producing huge amounts of methane.

In the winter, these lakes freeze over, removing all the oxygen from the lakes. When the oxygen is removed, microbes come in and happily eat away all the tasty organic carbon, producing methane that slowly builds up throughout the winter. In the spring, all that ice melts and there’s one of two things that can happen to the methane: it can be released directly into the atmosphere, or it can be reconfigured by another set of microbes from a very potent greenhouse gas to a less potent greenhouse gas.

Future projections of climate change could be very different if you have all the right information for these Arctic systems. That’s part of what I’m trying to do—to develop initial information so we can put together future projections for climate change.

What are your future plans? I expect to play a critical role as a communicator between scientists, policy makers, and the general public as a research scientist and policy advisor. I want to work for a government agency as a scientist advising on policy issues or as a policy maker using my strong scientific background to make sound environmental policy.

Why did you choose UMCES? I chose Chesapeake Biological Laboratory to work with Dr. Laura Lapham because her research intrigued me, and I wanted to do interesting, scientifically relevant research that will benefit both the scientific community and society.