Category Archives: Field Work

Kaktovik Oceanography Program, 2015

A view of Kaktovik, AK and the Brooks Range mountains. Stunning.

This blog is about the Kaktovik Oceanography Program and the wonderful experience I had volunteering with the program in 2015. The KOP is an annual week-long natural science camp for local students in the town of Kaktovik, Alaska. It is hosted by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (thanks Greta Burkhart and Allyssa Morris), and largely coordinated by Ken Dunton’s research group from University of Texas. Students spend the week thinking about ecosystems, evolution, geology, etc., and do a lot of hands-on field work in the local lagoons and coastal habitats. Our goal was to show the participants that doing science is not only important and interesting, but also fun and a potentially viable career path. Continue reading

Watershed Watch: Cunliffe Pond


Map of the ponds within Roger Williams Park (inset shows location of RWP within Rhode Island). We monitor Cunliffe Pond.

Today Brown geology grads, undergrads, and postdocs celebrated our third successful season with the URI Watershed Watch program. The WW, coordinated by the URI cooperative extension, monitors about 120 RI water bodies on a weekly basis from May to October, all through the volunteer efforts of RI citizens. The long-term data (>20 years for some lakes) are used to assess restoration efforts, pollution impacts, climate change impacts, etc. Full information can be found at the URI-WW website. Continue reading

Sediment Coring – Roger Williams Pond

Arial vew of the RWP pond system. Arrows indicate direction of flow. Colored points are sediment sampling locations. (map from Matt Griffin; Brown University Chem1660)

2015 is the year of New England coring expeditions for me. This spring we started out retrieving sediment cores from Siders Pond, MA for ancient DNA work (see previous post). Next I cored Providence-local Roger Williams Park ponds to assess nutrient pollution and heavy metal contamination since European settlement. If you have followed earlier blog posts on our weekly water quality monitoring, you may already be familiar with Cunliffe Pond in RWP. There are a total of 5 ponds in the park, all linked together by small streams and navigable by swan boat. Continue reading

Siders Pond ancient DNA

Analysis of ancient DNA, that is, leftover DNA from long-dead organisms, is a new and exciting area of research. It can give key insights to the history of human, animal, or plant migrations, the diets of ancient organisms, changing microbial diversity, and more. The method is frought with difficulties, mostly related to procurring and analyzing samples free of contamination. Because DNA breaks down over time, the amount of aDNA is relatively small, especially relative to all the potential sources of DNA contamination (for example from your hands, airborn dust and microbes, microbes living next to your environmental sample, etc.) Continue reading

RI Lakes

A recent scientific report determined that there are more than 117 million lakes in the world (Verpooter et al. 2014). Over 200 of these lakes are in beautiful Rhode Island. Rhode Islanders love their lakes, and to ensure that each lake has water safe to drink and nice to swim in, the water quality of each lake in RI is regularly monitored by an army of volunteers. The effort is coordinated by the URI Watershed Watch Program, and one lake, Cunliffe Pond, is monitored by a team Brown University students led by fellow graduate student Marc Mayes and myself. For a full overview of the Watershed Watch program, visit this site. Scroll down to see pictures from Cunliffe Pond.