Graduate Student | Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering | North Carolina State University
2023 – 2024 Global Change Research Fellow
Statement of purpose:
My research interests are inspired by my love of chemistry. Studying water quality and contamination puts chemistry into an applied context. Contamination shows how humans influence and sometimes disrupt the biogeochemical cycles of our ecosystems. My hopes for the planet and its species is that we acknowledge how our practices can contribute to environmental contamination and make strides to form more sustainable relationships with our lands, air, and water. I find contamination fascinating, and I have pursued the topic in undergraduate internships, as an engineering consultant, and now in graduate school. I believe contamination is two-sided. The scientific side is the day-to-day activities of finding the pollutant source and tracking how the pollutants move in the environment, while the public-facing side deals with the societal impacts of contamination once it is found. As an engineer, I have specialized in the scientific side but as I grow in my career I want to play a role in communicating the science to decision-makers and the affected public.
Description of research:
I am interested in how climate change, specifically sea-level rise, could be creating novel mechanisms for contamination. My graduate research is focused on the dynamics of fecal bacteria contamination at the watershed and municipal-level spatial scales. At the watershed scale, I use remote sensing and machine learning to predict water quality advisories in estuaries where shellfish are grown, while at the municipal-level scale, I conduct fieldwork to assess the effects of tidal floods on coastal water quality and potential exposure to public health.
Natalie Nelson (Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, NCSU)