Alex Dominguez ’16
Chemical and Biological Engineering
Analysis of Mechanisms of Nutrient Cycling in Floodplain Lakes of the Lower Mississippi River
My summer was spent addressing the problem of over-nitrification in the Mississippi River. The river has a watershed that encompasses a massive area, causing a great deal of nitrate-based farm fertilizer to make its way into the river. Ultimately, these nitrates are the catalyst of hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico. The first step to solving this problem is understanding how nitrogen can be removed from the system. Through a bacterial process called denitrification, nitrates can be broken down to nitrogen gas and removed from the river. Throughout the summer we collected water and sediment samples from different parts of the river system and analyzed them in order to find conditions that can maximize denitrification. With this knowledge, the river can be managed to increase biodiversity and combat over-nitrification. Personally, I was just as comfortable in a lab coat as I was up to my neck in swamp water. The vastness of the Mississippi River alongside its flora and fauna provided the perfect antithesis for the atomic level analysis we were doing in the lab. This opportunity really helped me appreciate the interdependence of systems in biology and I hope to pursue more biological research in the future.
University of Mississippi Department of Biology, Oxford, Mississippi
Lars Hedin, Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; Clifford Ochs, University of Mississippi