For MS student, Dani Weisman, October’s trip to the Maryland eastern shore was a well-deserved season finale. For me, it was a long awaited chance to pair the orphaned samples I had been filtering and testing in the lab to tangible sites with life, history, and meaning.
On site, I joined Dani mid afternoon, wiggled into my waders and got right to work. After a flash course in how to set tension on lysimeters and collect water samples from them, we hustled to finish setting the lysimeters to 70 PSI before the sunset. The next day, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, we woke early to purge each lysimeter of the water that was extracted overnight. The lysimeters were set in forested areas, marshes, and transitional areas between the two zones so that we could collect soil pore water and measure the relationships between salinity and nitrogen and phosphorus in soil solution.
Especially on the Eastern Shore, many agricultural sites are connected, via drainage ditches, to the tidal creeks of the Chesapeake Bay. High levels of phosphorous and nitrogen loading in the Chesapeake Bay could lead to “dead zones”. Sea level rise threatens tidal marshes as well as agricultural lands leading to swaths of salt-burned fields that one produced high soy, corn, and wheat yields.
That is why I was drawn Dr. Tully’s lab. We are working on current issues that have big implications for the future of agriculture and ecological systems. With the work in Dr. Tully’s lab, I have been able to put my background in soil science into practice both in the lab and out in the field. Two weeks after collecting the samples, I am happy to announce that all of our samples have been filtered and we are now beginning to run the October samples for characteristics such as electrical conductivity, pH, and phosphorus levels. I am very excited to investigate the bigger story that our sampling data has to tell us!
- by Natalie Agee
Dr. Kate Tully
Kate is an Assistant Professor of Agroecology at the University of Maryland.