Originally, I was interested in exploring how N-fixing plants restore fertility to degraded soils. During my master's research under Dr.s Feng Sheng Hu and Jeffrey Dawson at UIUC, this interest expanded to investigating the impact of N-fixing green alder (Alnus viridis) on aquatic productivity in a sub-alpine watershed in SW Alaska. In Alaska, aquatic productivity in many watersheds is also impacted by marine-derived nutrient subsidies from spawning salmon. Conclusions from my master's research showed that watershed alder cover did correlate with increased aquatic productivity and that alder could potentially contribute up to 300 times more N than that released by spawning salmon to the watershed.
My PhD research aims to get a better picture of the N and P biogeochemical cycling between terrestrial and aquatic systems in this SW Alaskan watershed. Specifically, I would like to integrate the use of GIS, study of landscape ecology and lake microbial communities into a larger dataset to get a more complete picture of how N and P inputs from alder and salmon are being cycled in the watershed.