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Blog OSCAR

Microplastics and Pollutants in The Great Lakes

Written by: Mark Derco

The great lakes are the largest coalition of freshwater lakes in the world and paramount to the success of the cities that border the lakes. However, the success of the lakes depends on the cities around them. For years industry has been contributing to the pollution of the great lakes and with this research we are looking to fill a gap in knowledge that will help us track the movement of these pollutants throughout the great lakes and in other regions of the United States.

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Blog Education OSCAR

First Generation Student Turned Researcher

As a kid, Tom Hutchinson never thought he’d get to be a scientist. Hear him talk about the thrill of DNA extraction and research, all conducted while he is an undergraduate, through the Office of Student Scholarship. Tom was the very first student researcher in Dr. Jen Salerno’s lab. He continued working with her, through the Undergraduate Research Scholar Program, with Dr. Salerno as his mentor.

With the support of George Mason’s Office of Student Scholarship the PEREC team is able to provide students with unique and life-changing research experiences.

Want to know more about Tom’s research? Here’s his video from the 2020 GMU Research Symposium.

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Blog Education OSCAR

Katie Russels Wins Student Excellence Award

Undergraduate Katie Russell conducted research on river herring with Dr. de Mutsert. She presented at the GMU Spring 2020 Symposium, where she was also award the OSCAR Student Excellence Award.

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Blog Education

What Kind of Research Can GMU Students Do?

What kind of research opportunities are open to George Mason undergraduates? Hear from Keith, a student encouraged to apply for a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) by Dr. Cindy Smith. Hear him talk about what it was like to research fisheries with the Gulf of Maine Institute (https://www.gmri.org).

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Blog OSCAR

Chau Pham: OSCAR 2018 Summer Experience

Written by: Chau Pham

I am participating in the 2018 summer OSCAR program as a member of the chemistry team at the Potomac Science Center. My research goal is to quantify the concentrations of endocrine disruptive compounds (EDCs) and pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) in Gunston Cove. By measuring the present of these chemicals in the watershed, we can further examine the effect of bioaccumulation and the water quality after treatment.

The chemistry team worked with water, zooplankton, filters, sediments, clams, submerged aquatic vegetation, and three species of fish, which were collected by the ecology team. Water samples were processed differently from other samples. Firstly, the collected water was filtered through 2 layers of glass microfiber filter GF/F and GF/D. Then, we used 2 different methods to perform solid phase extraction: HLB, to obtain EDCs, and AXCX to collect PPCPs. The QuEChERS method was used for other samples preparation. Finally, all of the samples were transferred in auto sampler vial in order to load into HPLC/MS/MS, which is a powerful and sensitive instrument to identify and

The evaporation step that we used in extraction of micropollutants from water samples

quantify chemical concentrations in nanograms. The chemistry team was divided into 2 groups to analyze data for EDCs and PPCPs. I along with 2 other members have been working with LabSolution software to analyze the data for EDCs drug schedule. We found different species of sunscreen agents, NSAID, as well as herbicides in samples from Gunston Cove watershed suggesting that wastewater effluent and storm water run-off contribute are sources for pollution and bioaccumulation.

Through summer OSCAR program, not only did I gain valuable skills, I also learned tremendous knowledge about current research at George Mason University. My mentors and the PEREC team have worked hard to arrange brown bag seminar every Friday where I can learn about interesting and exciting research, jobs, and projects on environmental sciences.

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Blog OSCAR

Brian Kim: Researching Fish on the Potomac

Students record the length of live caught fish before returning them to the river.

My name is Brian Kim and I am a member of the OSCAR fish team at the Potomac Science Center (PSC). Over the course of this summer, I have been going out to Gunston Cove and Hunting Creek located within the Potomac River to collect fish species. My research focuses on assessing the diet items of the fish species and determining if there is a significant difference between the two locations as well as any differences in submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) and non-aquatic submerged vegetation (NSAV) areas within each location. The most enjoyable part of this experience has been the process of the actual fish collection. There have been two separate trips for each location where we would use a series of seine nets, fyke nets and trawls to catch fish from as little as 10 mm to as large as 530 mm. The trawls were the most thrilling method because we usually caught the largest specimens during each trial. As each trawl was hauled onto the boat, there was a rush of excitement as to see which specimens we caught and how many. Once we had recorded all required data on each fish, the samples were taken back to the Potomac Science Center to begin the process of answering the question “What exactly has each fish species been eating?”

Five juvenile fish that were the last meal of a yellow perch.

The majority of my time at the PSC has been spent dissecting the stomachs from the fish samples and opening them up to see what was inside. Each stomach from the fish species differed in some way both internally and externally. The most exciting stomach contents that I have found so far came from a Yellow Perch that had eaten five juvenile fish within the last day it was caught. I was able to identify the five juveniles as three White Perch and two Spottail Shiners. There have been various different prey items in the stomachs such as amphipods, chironomids, gastropods and aquatic insects that must now be analyzed. Using the stomach contents from each fish species, I will be able to determine which prey items are the most impactful as well as how location, habitat and fish species differ in diets. My time at the PSC and with OSCAR has been the most exciting summer during my undergraduate years and I hope that in the future I will be able to return and continue to work on related projects.

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Blog OSCAR

Sabrina: Summer Chemistry Research on the Potomac

Written by: Sabrina Barkat

The presented image is evaporation step that we used in extraction of micropollutants from water samples

My name is Sabrina. I am a current student in OSCAR program for summer 2018. My work is about investigation and fate of emerging contaminants in Gunston Cove of Potomac river in Alexandria.

We extract micropollutants from water, sediment and fish samples and use liquid chromatography-mass spectrum (LC-MS/MS) method to analyze the extracts. We solid phase extract the micropollutants from water samples and use QuEChERS to extract them from sediments and fish and then run the extracts in the LC-Ms/MS instrument and we analyze the results.

After that, we apply the KABAM model to predict the bioaccumulation of chemicals in organisms’ tissues. More interestingly, the work is collaborative, and this gives me a good opportunity to interact with people with different background and be involved in group work.

This research is the best experience in my academic pathway because I feel that I absorb lot of information related to my field and I am surrounded by a huge, friendly and experienced team working with me in the lab. Moreover, this research involves lot of data analysis and use a lot of literature resources where I learn more about my research and related topics and I develop skills in data analysis and time management. I learn from every single step I process, and I strengthen my experience in the lab work, I interact with people with high experience and I learn to work under pressure of time which I can apply in my daily life as well. I, also, should admit that this research is a guide for me to pursuit my graduate program in the same field of study.

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Blog OSCAR

Outreach Events During Summer Impact Research for Undergraduates

Written by: Emily Bohr. Featured Image: Emily at Occoquan Regional Park Grand Opening

Emily Bohr at Water Quality Day, enjoying some of the reptiles brought by a local wildlife center

Hi! I’m Emily, I’m a rising junior at Mason, and I’m lucky to be an OSCAR student this summer! The team I work with is studying the Potomac River, and we work at the Potomac Science Center (a new Mason campus in Woodbridge, VA).

In addition to doing our research, we have been able to do some local outreach events, teaching kids about the water and the invertebrates in it!

The first outreach event was with Fort Belvoir Middle School, when they have their Water Quality Field Day. They come to the Fairfax Water treatment plant, and

Daphnia manga, under a microscope

there are tables set up throughout the whole plant to teach them new things! It was a super fun day, and the kids seemed super interested. Our table was about talking to kids about the water and why river mussels are so important to the Potomac river & also explaining the invasive species (Corbicula clams and mystery snails!)

The second outreach event was at Occoquan Regional park for their grand opening! This day was all about turbidity (how much dirt is in the water, and how clear it is) and also what kind of zooplankton are in the water. There was a microscope with Daphnia manga (a type of zooplankton commonly found in the Potomac River), and jars with different turbidity levels to show the difference.

I love outreach events, they make my job so much fun, and to teach kids about what I do is awesome!

Categories
Blog Education OSCAR

PAID Undergraduate Research Position!

Paid Summer Research for Undergraduates

Have you been following last summer’s OSCAR research on micropollutants in the Potomac? Are you an undergrad who would you love a PAID summer research experience like that? There are TEN positions open!

Apply now at https://gmu-csm.symplicity.com/

Watch the video below to see how much last year’s OSCAR students loved their experience!

Categories
Blog Education OSCAR

What’s in our water?

Curious about the results of of the 2017 summer undergraduate research?  Led by principal investigators Amy Fowler and Kim de Mutsert, the Summer Team Project looked at the effects of micropollutants on the Potomac River watershed. Watch the video to find out what the researchers found and how this experience changed the undergraduates.