Sapelo Island Week One

I recently returned from a week of fieldwork on Sapelo Island, one of the barrier islands along the coast of Georgia in the Southeast United States. It was a gentle introduction to fieldwork in a humid subtropical climate. Our small team of graduate students helped each other measure average stem height and stem count in the marsh. We also worked together to install air temperature probes for a thermal sensing drone fly-over. Finally, I implemented a smart rock sensor by CUAHSI with the help of field technician Dontrece Smith and an undergraduate student taking a summer course on the island. Eventually, I will install a state-of-the-art aquatic CO2 sensor in the saltwater marsh and collect data that will lay the foundation for my doctoral dissertation.

Selfie at the flux tower, US-GCE.

The Georgia Coastal Ecosystems Long Term Ecological Research Flux Tower (US-GCE) was established in 2013 and has been collecting CO2 gas emissions and absorption data at the marsh ever since. Tower data from US-GCE (and other towers scattered across America) is available on AmeriFlux and is managed by scientists at the University of Georgia in Athens, and maintained with the help of staff on the island. I installed a smart rock sensor at the base of the flux tower to measure water depth, temperature, turbidity, pH, and salinity. This data can be used in tandem with the CO2 flux data to determine drivers of gas emission from the wetland.

Scientists, governmental organizations, and the public can benefit from gas flux data for many reasons. Relationships discovered among meteorological variables can help us learn more about past climates, the current climate, and even predict future climates. Information on micro- and mesoscale climates can determine things like the best time to plant crops or even what crops to plant and where, whether a certain activity is harmful to ecosystems or not, or whether an emission management technique works, among other things. Stay tuned for more of my adventures in Sapelo.

Cheers, Jess 🙂

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