As the population grows, human settlements are expanding into more ecologically sensitive areas and the impact of human-derived pollutants are becoming clear. Our work at the anthropogenic ecotone addresses: 1) how the juxtaposition of human development and natural areas affects ecological processes, and 2) how human-derived pollutants are processed and transported within natural systems. Past research in this area includes: understanding how stormwater discharge from coastal communities impacts salt marsh resilience and function; quantifying the effects of dams/reservoirs on greenhouse gas production in the riparian and littoral zones of rivers and lakes; and evaluating the consequences of winter road salt application on soil ecology.
Currently, we are working with collaborators to quantify the load of microplastics (polyethylene, plastic polymers, and synthetic fibers <5 mm in diameter) in the Mississippi River watershed; these pollutants will eventually make their way into the Gulf of Mexico. It is estimated that >90% of plastics in the surface ocean are microplastics, and the densely populated Mississippi River basin is likely to be a significant source.
2016-2017- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, Marine Debris Program- Quantifying and Characterizing the Mississippi River’s Contribution of Microplastic Debris to the Gulf of Mexico. PI: J.L. Conkle; co-PIs: E.A. Hasenmuller, L.G. Chambers, J.R. White
2014-2015- Saint Louis University, Presidential Research Fund- Identification of Regional Sites, Data Sources, and Collaborations to Support Studies of Sustainable River-Reservoir Systems. PI: A.L. Cox; Co-PI: L.G. Chambers and D.M. Hanes
2011-2012- Florida Sea Grant, Nutrient Dynamics Graduate Research Grant – Urban Stormwater, Carbon Cycling, and Sea Level Rise