Wednesday, April 22, 2015

URSP Student Ronald Bacon Examines the Organic Matter Composition of Fluvial Particles in the Pohick Creek Sub-basin of the Potomac River

My father ever since I was young has had a fish tank at first it was a freshwater tank but when I was about 10 years old, he converted it to a saltwater tank. Having these tanks in the house growing up inspired my fascination with marine life, in particular corals reefs and their inhabitants. While maintaining a coral tank myself and enduring the trials and tribulations that follow I gained a deep appreciation for the chemistry that is involved in simulating an environment that is conducive to a coral reefs health.  When I was taking a class with Dr. Foster and he mentioned that he was an aquatic chemist I immediately knew I wanted to run some thoughts I had from my experience with my own tank and the issues that plague reefs today. I went after class one day to his office and we started a conversation that would lead to a project that focuses on looking at an aquatic environment and what variables can possibly be altered by anthropogenic effects.  The project may not be focused on a coral reef but the experience of collecting and analyzing data of a waterway is valuable experience contributing to my long-term goals.  
The experiment focuses on the carbon nitrogen ratios of a stream that is in an area of high urbanization with lots of surrounding impermeable surface to see if this ratio is affected by urbanization. To do this we have chosen to look at three areas, one that is an area of high urbanization, one low to minimal urbanization, and one downstream from a wastewater plant. To accomplish this, one day every two weeks I go out into the field and collect water samples from these three locations to be brought back to the lab. On another day I will in between classes go the lab and filter the samples and prepare them to be analyzed for carbon nitrogen content. In preparing the samples, I must remove inorganic carbons by treating it with hydrochloric acid.  After treatment, I found my samples had increased in weight even though the inorganic carbon was removed this was due to the fact that the carbonates were replaced with a heavier chloride making the samples gain weight. Chemistry.