Sampling at depth in the Hudson River! (photo credit – Carol Knudson)

As a PhD student at Columbia University and the Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory, I study the dynamics of aquatic and marine microbes through empirical research, satellite data analysis, and the creation of mathematical models. My main project is on microbial water quality in the Hudson River and how the long-term ecological data from this region can be used to make a predictive model of water quality for other urban, coastal water bodies. Overall, I am interested in improving our understanding of how the complex interactions of microbes manifest in larger scale environmental conditions, in addition to linking these discoveries to practical applications.

Research Interests

Theoretical ecology can be used to explain microbial community organization and evolution, such as in the stratified layers of stromatolites, the oldest representation of microbial communities. In my current work, I am exploring how microbial models can be linked to fluid dynamics to predict the mortality and transport of fecal indicator bacteria in the Hudson River.

Mathematical models and remote sensing both offer cost effective methods for analyzing water quality. I recently applied to the NASA Earth & Space Science Fellowship in hopes of gaining funding to relate reflectance data captured by Landsat and MODIS satellites to particle associated microbes. In the Hudson River, fecal indicator bacteria concentrations are highly correlated to particle concentrations, which suggests that turbidity measured via satellite could be used as a proxy for microbial contamination. By combining long-term data on turbidity and microbial concentrations with satellite data, I will create an algorithm that can be used to predict water quality in various urban, coastal regions.

Personal Philosophy

Always time to teach a budding marine biologist! (photo credit – Liz Moscalenko)

I believe that environmental justice and social justice are tightly linked and am excited to be working in a field where I can make these connections and apply them my research. Unfortunately, it is often society’s most vulnerable people who are significantly affected by environmental pollution. With the work of my PhD (and future career) I aim to protect both human and environmental health.

Additionally, I firmly believe that it is in bringing together diverse groups of people that we are able to find new insights into classic fields of scientific inquiry.  I aim to support people of all races, religions, orientations, genders, cultures, etc., so that we can best combat the imminent environmental and social threats our world faces.


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