My interests lie in the field of biogeochemical cycling – figuring out the sources, transportation and fates of different chemicals within an environment, and what the impacts of changes to these cycles are.
Stable isotope techniques are a great way to tease out information from a complicated system. My Master’s thesis work investigated the application of hydrogen and (to a lesser extent) oxygen stable isotopes to the study of natural organic matter cycling. This work had two major focusses. The first: assessing the variability of the hydrogen isotope compositions of major plant biochemicals. The second: determining whether the isotopic signatures imparted during the biosynthesis of plant matter were retained after degradation, transport, and exposure to water masses with different isotopic and chemical compositions, so that they may be used to determine something about the sources and proccessing of organic matter that may occur in estuaries. The results of this work are currently in preparation for publication.
As an undergraduate, I was a research assistant in Prof. Ulrich Wortmann’s Geobiology Isotope Laboratory at the University of Toronto. There my focus was on understanding changes in ocean chemistry that occurred during the Cretaceous period (specifically the Aptian), as evidenced by perturbations in carbon and sulphur stable isotope signatures that are recorded globally. I analyzed sediment cores taken during Leg 123 of the Ocean Drilling Progam for carbon, sulphur and oxygen stable isotopic composition to produce high resolution records, and also explored the effects of changes in oceanic phosphate concentration on the oceanic carbon and sulphur cycles during this time period.
Other Research Projects
I took every opportunity I could to work on research projects during my time as an undergraduate student. As a third year student, I took an experiential research project course which involved 2 weeks of geophysics field work with a team of students in northern Maine, and two semesters of data analysis and report writing. We did ground penetrating radar (GPR) and seismic refraction surveys of a rock glacier, and magnetometry and GPR surveys at two potential archaeological sites. I was responsible for analysis of the GPR data from the rock glacier.
As a second year student, I was part of the Research Opportunity Program, which is a two-semester credit for independent research. I worked with a research group lead by Dr. Brad Bass, using COBWEB a multi-agent simulation software to assess how altering landscapes affects population dyanmics and to identify predictors for determining minimum viable population.
Prior to focussing on Earth Science, I worked at the David Dunlap Observatory in Richmond Hill, ON, home of the largest optical telescope in Canada, as a summer research assistant and tour guide. I performed observations, digitized archival data and worked on calculating orbital parameters for Cygnus X-1, and a number of binary star systems.
I was performing my own experiments even earlier than that – with science fairs. I competed every year until I was 16, and was selected as a member of the Toronto delegation to the Canada Wide Science Fair in 2001 and 2002. At the time, I was fascintated with forensic science. My 2001 project investigated the effects of heat on tool marks on bones, while my 2002 project tested the effectiveness of chemical breathalyzers.