One of the many requirements for participants in this food study is a Bachelor's degree from an accredited institution, preferably in engineering, biological or physical sciences, mathematics, or computer science. All applicants were required to propose research to be conducted during their time in the Mars Analog Habitat. For the results of the food study to be applicable, the working conditions of the participants must closely resemble those of astronauts who conduct research in space.
I received my Bachelor's of Science from Western Kentucky University, where I majored in Biological Sciences and minored in Mathematics.
Currently, I am a second year Masters student at New Mexico State University in the Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Ecology department. I plan on defending my thesis and graduating this May (remember Zing Phrase #13? Graduation or Death!) Since the research I proposed to the Hi-SEAS review committee is a continuation of my present research, I feel it would be helpful to introduce you to the world of algae cultivation for biodiesel production.The main goal of my project is to address limitations of algae cultivation methods through an aquatic ecology approach. Increasing lipid production in these systems while minimizing the invasion of non-target algae will improve the cost of algal biofuel. The simplest approach would be to manipulate environmental factors to simultaneously promote algal growth and limit competitor or predator growth.
Perhaps you've heard of ethanol, or another source of renewable biofuel? The energy stored in algae lipids may be refined in a similar process to create biodiesel. Microalgae are ideal sources of energy because they are capable of year-round production, require less water than terrestrial crops, and produce valuable co-products.
|Nannochloropsis salina and other organisms|
'Invading organisms' are usually dispersed by the wind (and right now New Mexico has plenty of that to go around) and can include diatoms, rotifers, ciliates, and cyanobacteria. They are pests to the algae industry when they munch all the nutrients meant for the target algae or munch the target algae themselves!
Our species, Nannochloropsis salina, was selected due to exhibit high growth rates, lipid productivity, and a wide tolerance range for different environmental parameters. Meaning, these guys might be small, but there is strength in numbers and they'll be tough against competitors and predators. Salinity, pH, and temperature are valuable environmental parameters to utilize for our purposes. Each parameter is the focus of a pair of experiments:
|2012 Temperature Experiment|
- Nannochloropsis Growth and Invading Organism Occurrence at Different Levels of [Salinity, pH, Temperature]
- Nannochloropsis Lipid Accumulation
|2010 Salinity Experiment|
I hope you now feel confident with your new algae cultivation knowledge. More important than being able to conduct research is being able to communicate the concepts and results to the public successfully. I hope I've been able to do that today. Please ask questions if you are interested in learning more!
I will try to speak more in depth about different aspects of the life of a graduate student. But for now, thanks for reading along with me. Please also check out my new 'Experiences' tab for a taste of the fun life as a scientist can entail!
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