Update: Ocean 180 Video Challenge

Competition was tough this year for the Ocean 180 Video Challenge! I did not win, but I am honored to have been featured as a finalist at all. My video was viewed by 21,000 students all over the world. Considering I had a budget of $0 and filmed my narration in my bathroom*, I think that’s pretty impressive. All the videos are definitely worth a watch, and the competition was a really unique way to challenge myself in scientific communication and outreach.

*I have a really great Bruce poster, but Disney is quite litigious


What is PEREC?

I put together a short video explaining what the Potomac Environmental Research and Education Center is. This was a question a lot of the faculty told me they had to field, so I wrote a short narration and used miscellaneous footage and photos to illustrate PEREC’s research and community outreach. I finally bought a mic (as opposed to the one I “borrowed” from a friend for a year) so there was a bit of learning curve with that.


I recently wrote a blog post for the 5th International Marine Conservation Conference.

Everyone loves the sea. Each year, millions of people all over the world flock to sandy beaches. When digging toes into the warm sand, listening to the waves crash over the ocean, how may people feel connected to the ocean? And how many people take that connection home with them, often far from the coast, and impossibly far from the open sea?

Our connection to the sea, no matter how far inland we may live, runs deep. Snow from the mountain tops melts, running off our roads and lawns into rivers, before eventually emptying out to the sea. With much of that run off comes pollutants, chemicals from our pesticides and sediment from agriculture. These pollutants threaten our health and fisheries, as cans of tuna line grocery store shelves.

Read the rest here.

Taking the Pulse of a Stream

New blog post at PEREC. This one is about one of my favorite labs. Every fall, we take students to two local streams and they determine the health of the river using aquatic invertebrates.

How do you tell the health of a river? This is a question that scientist all over the world struggle to answer. A common method for determining stream health is the Stream Bioassessment.

Damselflies lay their eggs in the water. Damselfly nymphs live under the water and are an example of the type of benthic macro-invertebrate found in Virginia streams.

What is a “Stream Bioassment”?

Because you can’t ask a stream how it’s feeling, we use indirect measures of health for an ecosystem. One way we do this for a stream is by identifying what types of organisms live there. In particular, we look at benthic macro-invertebrates, or the bugs that live in the stream bed.

Read more over at PEREC.Gmu.Edu

What’s at the Bottom of the Potomac River?

I have another blog post up at PEREC!

Each year, researchers and graduate students from PEREC gather data on Gunston Cove, located just downriver from the Norman M. Cole Jr. Pollution Control Plant. This study has been used to determine the health of the Potomac River for over three decades.

How is a river’s health determined?

The health of an ecosystem can’t be measured directly, however, you can make an educated guess by gathering information on the flora and fauna found in an ecosystem. For a river, that often involves looking at benthic macro-invertebrates, or the small animals that live on the bottom of a river.

A good ponar sample includes lots of bottom sediment! Hidden in all that mud are the organisms that will give us a clue to the health of the river. 

The bottom of the Potomac is not just mud, but is a complex ecosystem of organisms that include benthic macro-invertebrates, fish, and submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV). Many “bugs” found in the Potomac begin their lives as larvae that live under the water’s surface. For example, midge larvae (Chironomids) are quite commonly found at Gunston Cove, where they provide food for the fish that swim in the river. Freshwater clams (Corbicula) and snails (Gastropods) are also very common, and their shells are commonly found in the shallow waters near docks.

Continue reading

Hermitage Forest, SCotlant

Environmental History Anyone?

My previous blog post was about my love of Environmental History.

In researching that blog post, I found that I’m not alone in my fascination. There’s a whole Forest History Society and Environmental History Journal! The Forest History Society even has a really cool book about the history of North American Forests. Continue reading “Environmental History Anyone?”