Research recap for October 1: WWU obtains new germanium detector, and inside pinto abalone life


Western faculty and students are engaged in exciting research and scholarship in various fields. Each week, Western Today will share short summaries of the latest developments in academic work at the University. Interested in reading in-depth science and research stories at Western? Want more research news? To follow @WWUResearch on Twitter.

Large energy germanium detector

Western will be able to expand its research and education programs in environmental sciences and geology after receiving a grant of $ 124,892 from the National Science Foundation for the purchase of a gamma ray detector at broad energy germanium. Earth has many naturally occurring radioactive elements that emit gamma radiation, says environmental science professor John Rybczyk, who is the grant’s principal investigator, as well as environmental science professor David Shull and the research associate Katrina Poppe. By measuring the amount and distribution of these elements, researchers can estimate the rates of important processes, such as the burial of sediment and organic carbon, the removal of contaminants from seawater, and mixing and transport. significant particulate matter including carbon, metals and organic contaminants. The large energy germanium gamma ray detector will allow WWU students and professors to quantify sedimentary processes, characterize past environments and assess changes in land use, pollution and other conditions natural over time.

The department plans to use this new device to determine how quickly carbon accumulates in marsh and seabed sediments and how quickly particles are transported to estuaries, and it can be used to determine levels of mixing in estuaries such as Bellingham Bay, says Shull. Researchers who wish to piece together the history of lakes and estuaries in our region and better understand the processes that make clam gardens so productive will also be able to use the device in their studies. Teacher-researchers and students will be able to address issues related to climate change and contaminant transport, as well as learn how organisms that live in marine sediments feed and how their activities affect their habitats.

Elizabeth diehl

Elizabeth Diehl is a second year biology graduate student from Oregon specializing in pinto abalone and its environment. Specifically, she focuses on the environmental influences on abalone development. Large-scale reproductive efforts, where gametes are released into the water and come into contact with each other during external fertilization, has become less effective recently due to the low abalone population. Diehl studies environmental factors strongly influenced by climate change, such as water temperature and pH levels, which may be responsible for preventing population recovery. Diehl is the recipient of the WWU Graduate Research Award for his thesis entitled “The effects of temperature and pH fluctuation on the shell and radula morphology of the post-set pinto abalone (Haliotis kamtschatkana)”.

Diehl’s research focuses on pinto abalone and its environment.

Diehl has been heavily involved in marine biology since middle school when she taught summer camp children. She studied abroad in the Bahamas at a high school specializing in island food sources and then studied marine biology at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego. During her gap year between undergraduate and graduate school, Diehl completed two internships in which she welcomed over 1,000 students to Au Sable, Michigan.

Diehl says that in her experience, Western research has been collaborative rather than competitive, with a high priority given to mentorship by her graduate research advisor, biology professor Deborah Donovan. Diehl first considered graduate school at Western when a former WWU graduate school student with a master’s degree in education shared with her her appreciation for her WWU graduate school experience.

Diehl plans to get a doctorate in marine biology and hopes to work as an education director in an aquarium or zoo. To learn more about Western’s work helping pinto abalone recovery, click here.

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