Mitacs Grant Enables Research Partnership On Soil Respiration

Ms. Gabriel, a StFX master’s graduate who is completing her PhD at Dalhousie University under the supervision of StFX earth sciences professor Dr. Lisa Kellman, and Dr. Susan Ziegler at Memorial University as part of the NSERC CREATE Program in Climate Sciences, received a $15,000 grant from the Accelerate Mitacs internship program. Its aim is to fund a research project that links companies with talented graduate students in the final stages of their studies, giving students a competitive advantage. Ms. Gabriel’s research is in partnership with Eosense, a Dartmouth, NS, company founded by StFX graduates Dr. Nick Nickerson and Gordon McArthur and earth sciences professor Dr. Dave Risk that develops technology including sensors and chambers that measure greenhouse gases from soils and water bodies. In this research, they are looking to find reliable measurements of carbon cycling. “Measurement of carbon uptake and release is being carried out across the world at networks of sites,” she explains. “The North American contingent is called Fluxnet, where carbon flux above a forest is measured at eddy covariance towers, but these measurements are subject to errors and data gaps. “However, the accuracy of these measurements is currently critical so we obtain reliable estimates of carbon cycling. The goal of this research is to determine how measurement of soil respiration in the “footprint” below an eddy covariance tower can assist the eddy covariance community in improving carbon balance estimates,” she says. INVALUABLE EXTENSION OF RESEARCH “This experience has provided me with an invaluable extension of my research into soil carbon cycling, soil respiration, and a view of how my research can be integrated into a wider community of international research,” Ms. Gabriel says. “Beyond this, my experience working with this company has provided insight into a new avenue, applied research.” Ms. Gabriel was already familiar with the work of Dr. Nickerson and Mr. McArthur, who she first met while completing her Master’s in Earth Sciences at StFX. “At the time we were all working on soil respiration. Several years have passed, and now as I am finishing my PhD in Earth Sciences at Dalhousie, I was seeking out ways to expand my set of research experiences. My first thought was to find an opportunity to work on an industry project with these talented researchers. It is a nice fit with my master’s research into soil respiration, but is a chance to extend my knowledge beyond what I have considered before.” As part of this project, Ms. Gabriel installed a set of soil respiration chambers at the famous Howland Forest in central Maine, an old growth forest that has been the site of much research over the past 20 years, and is one of the original eddy covariance sites in Fluxnet. “We are collaborating with researchers to determine how our measurements compare to theirs at the ground level and how this scales up to the forest level measured by eddy covariance towers,” she says. Ms. Gabriel also traveled to Florida in August to present their preliminary research at the Ecological Society of America conference. She says there will be further opportunities to present this work and publish the findings.