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Matthew Stillwagon

Global Change Fellow Alumnus | Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources | North Carolina State University

Spring 2018 Global Change Fellow

Statement of purpose:

I am interested in how climate change affects biogeochemical cycles in aquatic and wetland habitats. I have focused my graduate work up to this point on studying dissolved carbon, with my MS thesis focusing on the effects of seasonal changes in temperature on the release of dissolved organic carbon by benthic algae. Since 2015 I have been working on my PhD with Dr. Marcelo Ardón, studying the effects of sea level rise and saltwater intrusion on coastal wetlands. By studying how seawater impacts wetland soils, I aim to help preserve these valuable ecosystems, as well as help residents and managers on the APP understand how these landscapes will change under the stress of continued climate change and sea level rise.

Description of research:

My PhD research focuses on how sea level rise and saltwater intrusion are altering nutrient storage and cycling in coastal wetlands in North Carolina. Seawater moving into historically freshwater environments can be expected to lead to shifts in the biotic and chemical composition of these systems as well as altering biogeochemical cycles. While the mechanisms of saltwater intrusion are relatively well understood, less is known about how ecosystems are being affected by saltwater intrusion, which limits our ability to predict how they will respond to sea level rise in the future. I will use a combination of monitoring, field manipulation, small scale laboratory experiments, and historical water quality data to study how saltwater intrusion impacts nutrient cycling in soils and surface water on the Albemarle-Pamlico Peninsula in North Carolina.