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Robin Larkin - Biogeochemistry Lab

St. Mary's College of Maryland

Robin participated in two internships during 2005. During the summer she worked with Dr. Karen Carney. Robin returned during her winter break to do a short internship with Dr. Adam Langley. Following are write-ups from both of her experiences.

During my internship at SERC, I worked in the Biogeochemistry lab with Dr. Karen Carney on various aspects of her research as well as a few of the other ongoing projects in the lab.  The project that I worked on focused on identifying the species and quantity of microorganisms in soil samples from various ecosystems.  I prepared soil samples for phospholipid fatty acid extractions, used DNA data to identify the species of microorganisms in the soil samples, and aligned ribosomal RNA genes extracted from the soil samples for comparison to ribosomal RNA genes of known nitrifier bacteria.  I also participated in this summer's Deep Core Project, where we extracted a six-meter core at the Kirkpatrick marsh and analyzed samples for levels of CO2, methane, sulfate reduction, and iron reduction.  I also participated in various other small tasks around the lab. 
 I learned a lot about the science of biogeochemistry and about lab work in general during my internship. 

During my internship in the Biogeochemistry Lab at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, I worked with Dr. Adam Langley, analyzing root biomass prior to a new elevated CO2 project in the Kirpatrick Marsh.  It has been hypothesized that raising the concentration of CO2 will stimulate root growth.  Soil cores were collected from each site at the marsh and brought back to the lab to be analyzed.  I worked with Dr. Langley to process the cores and prepare the various parts of the cores to be analyzed.  The soil cores were cut into segments and washed.  The soil washed from each core segment was collected and allowed to settle.  A few days later, the water was siphoned off and the remaining slurry was centrifuged.  The supernatant was drained off and the soil was then put into an oven to dry.  The dried soils were weighed and ground for carbon and nitrogen analysis.  After the cores had been washed, the remaining roots were sorted, separating dead roots from live roots.  The separated roots were also dried in an oven, weighed, and ground.  This survey of the current root biomass at the Kirpatrick Marsh is an important part of the elevated CO2 project.  These data collected after processing the cores will be used to precisely compare the effect of the elevated CO2 on root biomass by knowing the current natural conditions in the marsh.
It was a great experience to be able to play such a large role in processing the cores for this project.  I am thankful for the opportunity to work with Dr. Langley and for the Biogeochemistry Lab at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center again.

This coming school year, I will be a senior at St. Mary's College of Maryland.  After graduation, I plan on attending dental school, hopefully at the University of Maryland.

Funding provided by the National Science Foundation - REU