Next Generation: Jacob Oster

November 1, 2017
Chesapeake Biological Laboratory graduate student Jacob Oster is studying mercury accumulation in streams.

Hometown: Lusby, MD
Advisers: Andrew Heyes and Laura Lapham, Chesapeake Biological Laboratory

What are you researching? I study mercury accumulation in small stream ecosystems. I’m looking for an invertebrate species (usually insects) that could serve as an indicator for mercury exposure risk.

Why it makes a difference: Maryland has several rivers and numerous lakes and reservoirs with fish consumption advisories for elevated mercury levels. We still don’t have a firm grasp on why some aquatic ecosystems and food webs have higher mercury levels than others. By studying the route of mercury into fish (what the fish are eating), we may be able to better understand how mercury accumulates.

How did you get interested in environmental science? I was very active in Boy Scouts throughout high school and through some of my camping experiences, I decided I want to learn more about our environment and how we can protect it.

What made you decide to come to the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science? I started pursuing my master’s degree in August 2015. I was impressed with the depth and scope of what UMCES offered, as well as its interdisciplinary approach, and decided I wanted to study here.

Maryland has several rivers and numerous lakes and reservoirs with fish consumption advisories for elevated mercury levels... By studying the route of mercury into fish (what the fish are eating), we may be able to better understand how mercury accumulates.

Share an experience that stands out most about your time with UMCES. My favorite experience so far was assisting on a research cruise on the Research Vessel Sharpe with some students from UMCES and University of Maryland, College Park. We spent a week hunting for sargassum (seaweed) off Cape Hatteras to answer some questions about how sargassum mats affect carbon cycling around the Cape. We didn’t find much sargassum, but this was my first time on a research cruise and I got to help with everyone’s projects and sampling. It was a great experience!

What do you like to do in your free time? In my free time, I like to read nonfiction (Civil War or World War II), practice the ukulele, ride my bicycle, or spend time with my family. I grew up 15 minutes from CBL!

What’s the most important thing people can do to help the environment? I think the most important thing you can do is try to live a more sustainable lifestyle in whatever way you are able to: living in a smaller home, riding a bike to work, if you can, recycling and reusing materials, and giving back to the environment by volunteering or planting native plants in your community.

What are your future plans? I have no idea [laughs]. Wherever I can be the most useful!