Sarah is focusing on tracking non-point source pollution from agricultural practices (such as fertilizer and livestock), lawns, and waste water treatments plants in the Murderkill River, a sub-estuary of Delaware Bay. Leaching of nitrogen compounds causes eutrophication–water quality issues such as excess algae growth, low dissolved oxygen, and turbid waters that harm marine ecosystems. Sarah also hopes to quantify how much nitrogen ecosystems take up before the contaminants reach the ocean.
“We are using a combination of developing approaches, such as stable isotope analyses and high frequency automated monitoring. I hope to use these strategies to model the specific functionality of the Murderkill Estuary in a way that is useful and informative to local land use planners and residents of the watershed.”
Sarah utilizes real-time automated water quality data from the Land/Ocean Biogeochemical Observatory (LOBO). The LOBO unit measures multiple water quality parameters that help researchers understand pollution coming off the watershed and the way the estuary is functioning. It allows scientists to collect more data to see what happens to nutrient loads during storms, droughts, and different seasons. The LOBO site is operated by the University of Delaware in collaboration with the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control and the Kent County Department of Public Works.
“I think Delaware has really beautiful, rich marshes and estuaries. It’s neat to work in one and hopefully show how important they are for improving water quality.”
When not working in the marsh, Sarah likes being outside, riding bikes, swimming, and going to parks.
Sarah is currently working on a M.S. in Oceanography at the University of
Delaware and has a B.A. in Chemistry.