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Michelle McCrackinResearcher

About me

Biogeochemist interested in how agriculture, urbanization, energy production, and land use change have influenced nutrient cycling in watersheds, with particular interest in lake and coastal ecosystems.

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.

My research with Baltic Eye is motivated by several questions:

  • Where and how large are agricultural nutrient imbalances around the Baltic Sea catchment and what are opportunities to reduce these imbalances?
  • How large is the “legacy” nutrient pool on land and how important is this pool for eutrophication in the Baltic Sea?

To answer these questions, I use computer models and synthesize ecological and socio-economic datasets to explore cause-and-effect relationships between nutrient loading and ecosystem impacts.

Research projects