Laura BelickaAdvisor: Dr. H. Rodger Harvey
PhD Graduate, '09, Marine-Estuarine-Environmental Sciences
- Bachelors of Science in Geosciences with a minor in Marine Science, Pennsylvania State University, 1999
- Masters in Marine, Estuarine and Environmental Sciences specializing in Environmental Chemistry, 2002
- Thesis: Biochemical Markers of Carbon Source and Transport in the Arctic Ocean
Carbon Cycling in the Arctic Ocean
Laura uses cores of sediment from the ocean floor in order to look at how the organic material from land affects the carbon cycle in the arctic and what might happen if climate change continues
This research, in addition to other work, suggested that there is a large proportion of organic material from land (terrestrial organic matter) that makes its way to the center of the Arctic Ocean. Typically within an ocean basin, this component of organic matter decreases away from the shoreline. However, due to permafrost erosion, large rivers, and sea-ice as a transport mechanism there is a significant amount of terrestrial organic matter in the middle of the arctic. This is important to recognize because organic carbon has a very different biochemical composition depending on whether it is from an oceanic or terrestrial system. For instance, whether the carbon is recycled or preserved over long periods of time is related to the biochemical composition and origin of the organic matter.
Laura's dissertation looks at how the organic material from land affects the carbon cycle in the arctic and what might happen if climate change continues. For example as peat-like permafrost melts it transports carbon-rich terrestrial organic matter to the arctic. Laura is investigating whether this material can be recycled back into CO2 by microbes in the ocean. To do this, she takes a core of sediment from the bottom of the ocean and measures a variety of organic compounds, such as lipids, which provide a fingerprint of whether the organic matter derived from land or ocean. This allows Laura to look at the source of the organic matter that has made it to the Arctic Ocean, and how that material is being transformed (either preserved or recycled). Modeling the amounts of carbon and knowing how/when they are going to be transformed allows scientists to provide more accurate projections about what will occur with continued global climate change.
A Step Toward Creating A Better Carbon Budget for Climate ModelsOne of the main goals of Laura's work has been to incorporate this carbon source information into a budget to understand how much carbon makes it to the Arctic from land and ocean sources and whether it is recycled or preserved. These processes ultimately affect concentrations of atmospheric CO2, so carbon budgets such as these are very important for understanding the effects of climate change on a sensitive region like the Arctic. She has enjoyed the MEES program, in particular its diversity of subject matter, and hopes to apply her geochemical background to the biofuels industry.
Laura is currently a Research Associate at Florida International University, and involved in multiple projects in the Florida Everglades.