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From StFX News: FluxLab draws PhD research back to campus

Posted: Monday, April 14, 2014 at 2:44 pm
FluxLab draws PhD research back to campus

Sara Klapstein

PhD candidate Sara Klapstein is pleased to be back at StFX in earth sciences professor Dr. Dave Risk’s FluxLab while working on her thesis about phototransformation of dissolved organic carbon and rate determination of methylmercury photodemethylation within mercury sensitive lakes in Kejimkujik National Park in Nova Scotia.

The 2010 StFX environmental sciences graduate credits experiences gained during her undergraduate degree with influencing her academic pursuits.

“I was offered substantial research opportunities within the lab, and was prompted to interact first hand with the international scientific community by attending events like the American Geophysical Union Annual Meeting held in San Francisco as an undergraduate…an exciting experience and highly stimulating.”

Ms. Klapstein says working with an effective team in the lab was also tremendously helpful. “The skills I developed then while pursuing my individual work have transferred through my MSc and now PhD.”

She says student success in the FluxLab is highly prioritized by Dr. Risk, who she says encourages interdisciplinary ideas and original thinking. In fact, her PhD is co-supervised by professors at three different Atlantic schools, an uncommon scenario.

Ms. Klapstein says being back at StFX this year has allowed her to re-enter a very supportive research community and to contribute to the experiences of other undergrads and masters students as a mentor. She helped supervise Hillary MacDonell, a joint honours earth science and biology student.

Ms. MacDonell’s project focused on the microbial pathway where microbes prefer to use shorter chain simpler carbon compounds, and Ms. Klapstein’s ongoing research specializes in the ability of more complex carbon compounds to absorb solar radiation and ultimately decompose.

These two reactions both affect carbon pools within the park’s lake systems. Their collaboration is contributing to better understanding reactions involving dissolved organic carbon, and the dissolved methylmercury concentrations and the risk potential for further mercury contamination within the aquatic Kejimkujik food web.

“It’s really satisfying to see how the mutually beneficial cycle of learning continues to thrive here at StFX,” Ms. Klapstein says.

Later this spring, Ms. Klapstein will move to Acadia University, where one of her co-supervisors is based, and devote increased time to lab work and data processing.

NSERC’s CREATE training program in Climate Science is funding her degree.