As an MSc student at Florida State University, my research focus is identifying and tracing natural and anthropogenic organic matter sources at Wakulla Springs – one of the largest and deepest freshwater springs on Earth. I use optical measurements (fluorescence and absorbance) and ultrahigh resolution mass spectrometry to characterize dissolved organic matter (DOM) throughout sinks and conduits in the Wakulla Springs Basin to delineate DOM sources to the spring outflow. These measurements tie together land use and origin of the DOM to assess drivers of water quality found at the major springhead.
Based on my interest in the underlying mechanisms of carbon fluxes to the atmosphere, I am conducting research on the carbon priming effect at the terrestrial-aquatic interface. Priming is a possible mechanism by which labile organic carbon inputs increase the bioavailability of the more stable DOM in riverine systems, thus making it more susceptible to mineralization. Beyond looking at its potential to stimulate biogenic CO2 production from previously stable components of the DOM pool, I will investigate if the microbial community selectively utilizes certain components based on preferences in age or quality. Currently I am focusing on DOM in blackwater systems using techniques such as bioincubations, dissolved organic carbon analysis, fluorescence spectroscopy, and FTICR-MS to distinguish various constituents of the DOM pool. In the near future I will conduct further research on the priming effect in permafrost regions due to the potential for a large positive feedback with climate change in these systems.