Leila Grant ’24


Civil and Environmental Engineering

Project Title

Southern Ocean Diatom Nutrient Consumption in the Western Atlantic

Certificate(s): Applications of Computing, Geological Engineering

I worked with sediment samples from a core in the Western Atlantic Antarctic Zone to isolate and clean material from diatoms and to measure the nitrogen isotopes bound within their opal structures. Measuring the nitrogen isotopes bound within fossilized diatoms gives us insight into past nutrient availability and consumption in the Antarctic Zone. Diatoms within the Southern Ocean’s Antarctic Zone consume upwelled nitrate with a preference for lighter isotopes. Records from the Indo-Pacific Antarctic Zone follow a consistent pattern of glacial-interglacial changes in isotope weight. The East Atlantic Antarctic Zone, however, shows a nearly opposite pattern of isotopic change. This new analysis of the Western Atlantic Antarctic Zone gives us more insight into the unique environmental behavior of this sector as well as the opportunity to explore new theories about nitrate transfer. My work this summer familiarized me with the process of research and gave me confidence in pursuing lab-based projects.

Internship Year


Project Category

Climate and Environmental Science


Sigman Research Laboratory, Department of Geosciences, Princeton University - Princeton, New Jersey


Daniel Sigman, Dusenbury Professor of Geological and Geophysical Sciences, Professor of Geosciences; Matthew Lacerra, Ph.D. candidate, Geosciences