Student Earns Environmental Research Grant
At the 10th Annual State of North Carolina Undergraduate Research and Creative Symposium held on the campus of NC State University in November, Chowan University junior Forrest Robinson presented his undergraduate research as one of 500 symposium presenters. His work was supported by one out of only five research grants awarded by North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities. Dr. John Dilustro, Associate Provost and Associate Professor of Biology at Chowan University, sponsored his research project.
Robinson, a Psychology major with a minor in Biology from Denton, NC, focused his project and presentation on environmental sciences with his work at the Meherrin River Field Site, located a mile and a half from the Chowan campus. Since Spring 2013, Chowan’s Department of Biology and Physical Sciences has operated the 115 acre field site through an agreement with the Town of Murfreesboro who owns the property along the river. The site integrates long term biodiversity monitoring into undergraduate education at the nearby university.
Robinson’s project dealt with quantifying forest CO2 soil respiration in the site’s various habitats including a swamp forest, a mixed deciduous forest and a planted pine forest. The soil’s biological activity was measured, as well as other environmental variables, for each of the three forest types.
“I used an infrared Vernier device with a gas sensor connected to a self-made chamber and took readings for three weeks,” Robinson explained. “While I was recording the data, I was also taking soil temperature and soil moisture readings.”
With the assistance of Dr. Dilustro’s son Frank, a sophomore at Ridgecroft School, Robinson also studied soil core samples and performed the lab analysis for soil organic matter using a loss on ignition test.
“You place samples in a furnace that burns all the carbon away, and you subtract the remaining mass and you get the soil organic matter,” Robinson related. “Then I also took core samples and sent them into the North Carolina Department of Agriculture for an additional soil nutrient analysis.”
Robinson shared his findings at the undergraduate presentation where he revealed his results – the swamp forest produced the most carbon dioxide, as well as measured the highest amount of soil organic matter, followed by the mixed deciduous forest and then lastly, the pine forest.
Robinson’s findings will help environmental monitoring, especially in this region, as well as having applications in the growing industry of CO2 storing techniques that can help address and manage CO2 emissions.