Jefferson Project – An Exploration of the Hudson Led to Rensselaer

by Mary Martialay on July 11, 2016

(Sherese Morgan, an enthusiastic undergraduate from Yonkers, NY with interests in the field of environmental science, contributed this guest post on her summer research with the Jefferson Project at Lake George. In her junior year, Sherese started working in the laboratory of Rensselaer professor and Jefferson Project director Rick Relyea. Recently, she was awarded a School of Science Summer Undergraduate Research Program grant. As a recipient of the grant, she will be conducting an independent project to study how humans influence and disturb freshwater ecosystems.)

As a child, my parents encouraged me to engage with the environment of my community. I am a true city kid, fortunate enough to have the Hudson River as my backyard. Every Saturday morning, I visited my local library and walked a short distance to explore the Hudson River along the waterfront walkway. The Hudson River has a rich historical context for my city; for centuries, the river has been a means of transportation and recreational use. My interest in environmental science stems from childhood explorations of the Hudson River, in which I learned how humans influence and affect ecological communities. I am happy to have this experience and hope to mentor other city youth in their own exploration of the Hudson River.

My parents also encouraged me to explore my Jamaican heritage. Traveling to Jamaica, I gained exposure to the water quality issues inflicting the many rural regions of Jamaica. Issues concerning the poor infrastructure to supply potable drinking water sparked my interest in maintaining freshwater ecosystems that can serve as a municipal water source.

Exploration of my local environment and family heritage has led to my curiosity in understanding how humans impact freshwater ecosystems. Freshwater ecosystems regulate water quality, and prevent the spread of fatal diseases. The community structure of freshwater ecosystems is important in regulating these services. Therefore, I am interested in studying interactions between different life forms that are vital to freshwater ecosystems and sensitive to environmental disturbances.

My research proposal addresses the affects of modern disturbances on freshwater ecosystems, and particularly on wetland plants. I am interested in studying the effects of road salt run-off and the effects of boat dredging. My proposed questions mesh well with major questions in both conceptual and applied ecological research, and will approach long-standing theories of how biodiversity influences ecosystem stability. I will be conducting my experiments at the Rensselaer Aquatic Ecology Lab, where I will create simplified ecological communities in large water tanks, and manipulate the diversity of these artificial aquatic communities while applying nutrient and dredging disturbances.

I am looking forward to studying contemporary human-influenced disturbances on aquatic ecosystems. I am excited to conduct my own research in the Relyea Lab, and contribute to the Jefferson Project at Lake George. This opportunity allows me to conduct research that is applicable to Lake George, and other aquatic ecosystems around the world that are affected by disturbances caused by human impacts.