Robin Barnes - Phytoplankton Lab

Humboldt State University, Arcata, CA

Work in the phytoplankton lab is lots of fun and always wet.  The lab technicians frequently go out into the field to retrieve water samples for analysis performed back in the laboratory.  Turbidity, chlorophyll concentration, particulate absorbance, total suspended solids (TSS), water absorbance and attenuation, and chromophoric (colored) dissolved organic matter (CDOM) are quantified from these analyses.  This last water quality is the pith of my independent project.  My project with Dr. Charles Gallegos aims at restoring and protecting submerged aquatic vegetation.  This vegetation has diminished significantly since the 1960ís due to deteriorating water quality.  An increase in TSS and chlorophyll in the water column have led to a substantial reduction in light reaching the benthic vegetation.  Dr. Gallegos is striving to help bring back the aquatic vegetation by monitoring levels of TSS and chlorophyll in the water, and if possible, to help reduce human and natural stressors that increase their concentrations.  CDOM is another factor that affects the optical water quality of water, and thus the vegetation.  CDOM absorbs light at specific wavelengths and reduces the amount of light that reaches the benthos, although to a lesser degree than either TSS or chlorophyll.  Photochemical and bacterial decomposition reduce the CDOM concentration within the water column.  My first project attempts to quantify the extent of CDOM degradation caused by light and bacteria.  My second related project utilizes sediment cores taken from the Rhode River to characterize the optical properties of particles with different settling rates.

Robin's internship was funded by the Smithsonian Women's Committee.

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