Choosing a topic
Amanda Floyd & Linda Blum
Posted July 2005
Photo by Mark Mitchell.
“When a student comes in, I make sure that the work he or she wants to pursue complements what I do,” said Linda Blum, a research associate professor of environmental sciences whose interest in the microbial ecology of salt marshes is longstanding. “At the same time, I don’t dictate a specific project, but make suggestions. There’s a lot of give-and-take.”
Amanda Floyd is working with Blum on understanding how marshes behave, a question that is no longer purely academic as sea levels rise in response to global warming. Marshes act as a critical buffer zone and habitat for many commercially important species. Many marshes, fortunately, can increase their elevation in response to higher water levels, building on a platform of organic material that collects around their base.
The research team is working to characterize the structure and abundance of these microbial communities at different locations within a marsh at the Virginia Coast Reserve Long Term Ecological Research site on the Eastern Shore.
Floyd arrived with a background in molecular biology and ecology, and together she and Blum focused on a DNA fingerprinting technique to identify relationships among microbial communities. “I had worked in the Arctic as a research assistant when I was an undergraduate,” Floyd said. “It was my first exposure to research on ecosystem function and carbon cycles, and I liked it, but I thought it would be nice to do similar research in a warm climate.”