That’s right, I’m in Little Rhody this summer! The Ocean State, complete with gorgeous coastline, gargantuan vacation homes, and tourists who can’t drive (so say the residents). I’m studying oceanography with 13 other “SURFOs” (Summer Undergraduate Research Fellows in Oceanography) for an NSF REU program at the University of Rhode Island, Graduate School of Oceanography:
My research advisor, Dr. Rainer Lohmann, mainly works on analyzing persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in the oceans, ranging from our favorite PAHs to pesticides to PCBs and back again, using passive polyethylene sheet samplers:
Ironically, while most people are worried about getting plastic OUT of the ocean, here we are putting them IN for the purpose of scientific research. Passive samplers are among the least expensive and most versatile options available for sampling POPs in the environment, but one issue that consistently arises from their use is the matter of biofouling. Biofouling is when biological material accumulates on objects in contact with water for long periods of time; because our samplers are out in the ocean for weeks/months, this is a major issue for the Lohmann Lab. That’s where my project starts: I want to see how the use of deployment cages (which decrease the level of sampler biofouling) affect the uptake of POPs into the PE sampler.
To that end, fellow SURFO Mike Vansco, graduate student Caoxin Sun, and I deployed some samplers the first week I was at URI, and then I headed up to Greenwich Bay to set out another:
I recently extracted the samplers for analysis by (you guessed it!) gas chromatography mass spectrometry (we just can’t seem to get away from that instrument can we, Max?). No results yet, but definitely by the end of next week!
In the meantime, I guess I just have to hang out in Providence with my 3 awesome housemates,
play badminton in the backyard,
go on weekend sailing adventures,
and enjoy extended beach trips at sunset!
I hope everybody is also having fabulous summers! See you at Haverford in September!