What are you researching? My research involves building a computer model that can be used to simulate the numerous ecological, chemical, and physical processes that occur on a restored oyster reef. The purpose of this model is to predict how the filter-feeding activity of oysters affects the water that passes over the reef, as well how the microbial community on the reef processes the nitrogen produced by both the oysters and the algae they feed on.
Why does it make a difference? This research will be used to predict how recent oyster reef restoration projects in the Chesapeake Bay will influence local water clarity, ammonia production, and overall nitrogen removal. Understanding how these parameters are affected by oyster reefs allows us to predict what environmental benefits we can expect to see from constructing oyster reefs (apart from simply increasing local oyster populations). The model will also give managers insight into how to build reef to maximize these environmental benefits and ecosystem services.
How did you get interested in environmental science? I’ve always been interested in the environment and environmental stewardship, and I have been especially fascinated with the unique and complex biological interactions that occur in the marine environment. Therefore, I decided to major in marine science and biology as an undergraduate, and I continue to work in environmental science as a graduate student.
When did you come to UMCES and what made you decide to come here? I came to UMCES in the summer of 2015. Dr. Lora Harris was looking for a graduate student to do mathematical and computer modeling, which I had some experience doing as part of my undergraduate research.
What’s the most important thing people can do to help the environment? Contact your local, state, and national representatives to voice your support for environmentally conscious legislation. Do research on a candidate’s history on environmental issues before you vote. You can also engage in citizen science, local restoration efforts, or engage with grassroots conservation groups. If you have children, it is always a good idea to make sure they are receiving a decent environmental education, and feel free to take them to a nearby state park or forest preserve to help them build their own appreciation for the environment.
When do you anticipate to earn your degree and what are your future plans? I hope to graduate this summer. I plan to use the skills I have developed as a modeler to work for a couple of years before eventually pursuing a Ph.D.