The $5,000 scholarship that comes with the award will allow McFarland to study depressional wetland microbial communities, such as bacteria, archaea, and fungi. These are essential in processing excess nitrogen-based nutrients, like ammonium and nitrate. “With the funds from this scholarship, I will be able to assess how successful young wetlands are, at removing excess nitrogen from their water sources,” states McFarland.
During her study, McFarland will be sampling restored and natural wetlands, as well as several areas within each wetland to get both inter- and intra-wetland microbial variation. “By including assays of different microbial characteristics specifically relating to the removal of nitrogen” she notes, “I will be able to better define the differences between restored and natural wetland systems in their ability to remove excess nutrients.” McFarland’s study will take place on the Delmarva Peninsula where she will visit ten restored systems and five natural reference systems.
Her advisor, associate professor Dr. Andrew Baldwin, believes that McFarland’s work on microbial communities in restored wetlands is likely to yield important insights into how ecosystem functions develop following restoration. “On her own initiative she developed this project, which is part of her larger master’s thesis research on ecosystem development in restored depressional wetlands in agricultural landscapes,” says Dr. Baldwin, who directs an active research program in wetland plant and ecosystem ecology.
ENST Department Chair Dr. Wiliam Bowerman is proud of Eliza's initiative in finding this grant to study coastal wetlands. “Wetlands are a significant part of our environment, and I hope that Eliza’s findings contribute to a better understanding of this important ecosystem.”