The MU Limnology Laboratory in the School of Natural Resources is focused on improving water quality through numerous projects and research studies. Limnology, the study of inland waters, includes lakes, streams, ponds and other water sources.
The group, which is made up of faculty, staff, postdoctoral fellows, Ph.D. students, master’s students and undergraduate researchers, studies those water sources in an attempt to make advancements – which in turn improves human health and strengthens the environment.
The newest faculty member in the Limnology Lab is Alba Argerich, an assistant professor in the School of Natural Resources. Argerich has been at MU for eight months and has research interests in water quality, effects of hydrology and morphology on stream function, forest-stream interactions, and ecology of the hyporheic zone.
Argerich earned her bachelor’s in biology and her master’s in environmental biology from the Universitat de Girona, Spain. She finished her Ph.D. in fundamental and applied ecology from the Universitat de Barcelona, Spain.
“Obviously, we need water to live,” Argerich said. “Without clean water, not only are we affected as humans, but wildlife and the environment as a whole is affected. It’s a major issue, and one in which we must put forth a strong effort.”
Argerich served as a research assistant professor at Oregon State University before joining the faculty at MU. Her job was more focused on water quality in a forestry setting. In the School of Natural Resources, she is working more in the agricultural world.
“The nutrient concentrations are very different between the two,” Argerich said. “The water in forest settings is more natural. It’s a bit more altered in agriculture. You have to be creative.”
Argerich is an aquatic ecologist and her biggest focus is on how human activities affect water quality and functional processes in streams. She has numerous projects ongoing, including a paper that was recently published looking at the role streams play in the global carbon cycle.
“We’re trying to understand how a warming climate will affect carbon emissions from the streams,” Argerich said. “The global models that are available account for forests, oceans and reservoirs. Our fresh water systems are not as well studied – but they’re an important piece of the puzzle.”
The study used a standardized approach and was replicated on seven different sites across the continental United States, as well as in Puerto Rico and Australia.
“It’s so important to use the same type of methods to study the same questions,” Argerich said. “It makes it much easier to compare data.”
The grant was funded through the National Science Foundation (NSF) and several other agencies. Argerich collaborated with faculty and graduate students at institutions including University of Georgia, Athens; Kansas State University; École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland; University of Alaska, Fairbanks; University of Vermont; University of Western Australia; Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University; Murray State University; Charles Darwin University, Australia; Florida International University; University of Connecticut, Storrs; University of New Hampshire; University of Notre Dame; and Southern Illinois University, as well as the United States Geological Survey.
“The effort was a multi-site one, which is incredibly important for what we’re trying to do,” Argerich said. “It’s difficult to receive those type of grants. Honestly, working together in this fashion is the only way to answer these type of questions.”
Carbon is taken in through photosynthesis and released through respiration. The balance between those two influences carbon emissions from streams and depends on the temperature. There isn’t much research on the temperature sensitivity, however. That hinders an accurate look at the projection of carbon emissions in a warmer future climate, which is what the team is striving to find out.
“The only way we do massive projects like this are through collaborative efforts,” Argerich said. “We have a diverse group of individuals and it’s exciting to be part of a team of this nature.”