On this week’s The Sci-Files, your hosts Chelsie and Danny interview Quercus Hamlin. Quercus is a first-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences working under Drs. David Hyndman, Anthony Kendall, and Sherry Martin in the Michigan State University Hydrogeology Lab. He is entering his 6th year with the group after working as an undergraduate researcher and earning his Master’s degree this past spring. Quercus works on water quality issues from nutrient loading in the Great Lakes region. “Nutrients” refer to the chemical elements nitrogen and phosphorus, which are both essential to plant growth. However, excess nutrients in water can lead to a suite of problems affecting human and biological health, as well as economic industries like tourism and fish. Nutrient water quality problems are present throughout the Great Lakes and have been particularly alarming in Lake Erie, where massive harmful algal blooms have led to drinking water bans in Toledo, Ohio. Quercus’s work primarily includes mapping nutrient inputs in time and space across the Great Lakes Region. His maps answer the question: If we went to any spot in the Great Lakes Region, approximately how much nitrogen is your septic tank discharging? Approximately how much fertilizer was applied to that cornfield? These maps, called SENSEmap, or the Spatially Explicit Nutrient Source Estimate map, are provided to watershed managers and planners through the Tipping Point Planner. He is currently leading a team of undergraduates to expand SENSEmap to the full extent of the Great Lakes states and Ontario, Canada for increased management and scientific use. Quercus also studies nitrate in groundwater across Michigan, a form of nitrogen that is associated with blue baby syndrome and cancer when ingested routinely from drinking water.
If you’re interested in talking about your MSU research on the radio or nominating a student, please email Chelsie and Danny at [email protected] You can ask questions about future episodes here. Check The Sci-Files out on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube!