Reflections from Elizabeth Whiddon

About the Project

I worked on the project, "Aquatic biogeochemical cycling: inland waters carbon fluxes" under Rob Striegl, Sarah Stackpoole, and Sydney Wilson out of Boulder, CO after being nominated by my professor, Joel Blum. Our project was located in the Upper Mississippi River Basin, where Sydney, Sarah, and I spent a week collecting water samples and running a LGR (Los Gatos Research) gas analyzer to obtain methane and carbon dioxide fluxes in varying watersheds. The sample sites ranged from first order streams to the great Mississippi River, and samples were being taken monthly over the past two years to achieve an accurate representation of the chemical composition and physical parameters of the different rivers in the watershed. I helped analyze for alkalinity, TDN, DOC, major anions, ammonium, iron, and UV in the lab. I began working with the group after much of the data had been collected over the previous two years, and was fortunate enough to then get the opportunity to work with the very detailed dataset. I used pH, alkalinity, and temperature values to calculate a dissolved inorganic carbon concentration using a geochemical modeling program, PHREEQC. I looked at how these concentrations changed spatially and temporally, and used data from co-located discharge stations to calculate fluxes. My goal is use RLOADEST to further calculate dissolved inorganic carbon loads throughout the basin.

Most Memorable Experience

Working in Boulder was the most memorable part of the experience. I have never worked for such a caring and intelligent group of people. The support system there is unbelievable, and I am very thankful to have worked in that office. I'm also thankful to have worked for Sarah Stackpoole, as she recognized where my interests were and allowed me to work with that side of the project, as well as with other researchers in the Boulder office. If I could have, I would have worked with everyone... Such a great group of people! We had a "student bullpen" with around ten students, and there was another NAGT student! We would all camp in the mountains on the weekend together when we weren't doing field work. The people in the Boulder office really made the experience memorable, and they also made it easy to want to work hard to produce well-supported research.

Career Goals

My career goals at the time of participation in the project were to work for the USGS after the summer was complete, and to improve my computational skills.

How the program contributed

I have been given the opportunity to work on a very significant project, with a USGS researcher in the Boulder office, that allows me to gain experience working with coding language to run models of water quality stream trends. I would have never been given this opportunity if it wasn't for the Cooperative Summer Field Training Program, so thank you!!