Nutrient cycles affected by society

I am drawn to water. Whether I see a lake, stream, pond, coast, or even a fountain, I am immediately attracted to it; I can’t help myself. I think my affinity for water results from spending time boating on the abundant lakes in and around Michigan (USA), where I grew up. But I am worried that society is not doing enough to protect our water resources.

Extensive algal blooms can close beaches, contaminate drinking water, and degrade water quality. Algal blooms can be a symptom of nitrogen and phosphorus over-loading — nutrient pollution — a growing global problem. Nutrient pollution also contributes to low oxygen areas (also called dead zones or hypoxic zones), reduced water clarity, reduced biodiversity, and nitrate-contaminated groundwater.

To address nutrient pollution, policy makers and resource managers must understand how nutrient loading affects water resources. It is critical to understand the sources, transport, transformation, and removal of nutrients along the land-to-coast continuum. For my research, I am interested in how agriculture, cities, energy production, and land use change influence nutrient cycling in aquatic ecosystems, particularly lakes and coastal areas. My work considers multiple spatial scales, from plot level to continents and uses field observations, experiments, models, and data synthesis. Currently, I use spatially explicit models to understand sources and fates of nutrients at large scales. I am interested in synthesizing ecological and socio-economic data sets to explore cause-and-effect relationships between nutrient loading and ecosystem impacts. My background in finance and accounting has been particularly useful for working with models and large data sets.