A few years ago, I was studying the effects of salinity on soil greenhouse gas production and denitrification rates in coastal wetlands of Louisiana. Meanwhile, I did not know there was a saltwater intrusion (SWI) problem facing coastal agricultural systems, especially in the Lower Eastern of Maryland (LES). Saltwater intrusion occurs when saltwater moves further inland, often leaving farmlands unproductive, and possibly displacing nutrients into downstream waters (Ardón et al. 2013; Ardón et al. 2017; Tully et al. 2019). Kate Tully’s lab, among others, are looking to tackle this environmental challenge head-on. I had the pleasure of working as a research technician on this project for 8 months.
During my first day of fieldwork in the summer of 2018, I met Kate Tully and Elizabeth de la Reguera at our rental van, packed up, and drove 3 hours to the LES of Maryland for a day of plant germination and survival counting. It was about 90°F with oppressive humidity and a constant threat of mosquito and tick bites. This does not compare to latter days in the summer, with heat indexes rising closer to 106°F. Here are a few other technician duties that I typically performed:
Research Technicians play an important role in large-scale, long-term, and interdisciplinary projects like this one. I am lucky to have been able to work with such an impressive team and be in charge of coordinating the biogeochemistry analyses for an important environmental challenge. I am definitely looking back on the Good Ol’ Days with rose-colored glasses!
Ardón M, Helton AM, Scheuerell MD, Bernhardt ES (2017). Fertilizer legacies meet saltwater incursion : challenges and constraints for coastal plain wetland restoration. Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene 5:41.
Ardón M, Morse JL, Colman BP, Bernhardt ES (2013). Drought-induced saltwater incursion leads to increased wetland nitrogen export. Global Change Biology 19:2976–2985.
Tully KL, Weissman D, Wyner WJ, Miller J (2019). Soils in transition : saltwater intrusion alters soil chemistry in agricultural fields. Biogeochemistry.
-By Natalie Ceresnak