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NCBS Intern Report: Biogeochemical Dynamics of Urban Stormwater Ponds

Written by 2021 UF/IFAS NCBS Summer Intern, Annabel Schreiber

This summer I had the opportunity to work in Dr. AJ Reisinger’s Urban Ecosystems Ecology lab with Ph.D. student Audrey Goeckner. Audrey’s research looks at dissolved nitrogen and carbon gases in urban stormwater ponds and natural undisturbed ponds and small lakes. These gases are being used to understand nitrogen removal (N2 gas) and greenhouse gas production (CO2, CH4) from engineered versus natural ponds and lakes.

Fieldwork

Audrey, fellow intern Katie, and I spent a week in Bradenton, FL for fieldwork in a large residential community called Lakewood Ranch. We sampled from various stormwater ponds throughout the community, collecting from different depths of the water column. After each day of sampling, Audrey, Katie, and I would head back to hang out and filter samples for analysis later on.

We observed many different types of ponds; some had lots of vegetation, others had little to no vegetation. Most ponds in Lakewood Ranch were surrounded by houses, but there were several with roads, golf courses, or forested areas surrounding the water. It was fascinating to see how the water quality varied from pond to pond. Many ponds were brownish and greenish from algae in the water, while others were pretty clear with a dark tint. When we would filter the samples at the end of the day, the filters showed the various hues of browns and greens from each pond. Katie and I were so intrigued by this that we even tried to make a gradient of colors with the filters!

The week after we were in Bradenton, we sampled natural, undisturbed lakes and ponds from the UF IFAS Ordway-Swisher Biological Station. This location is not open to the public, so it was completely natural and untouched land. The lakes were beautiful, and I felt so fortunate to see them. My favorite one was called Lake Barco, which was a crystal clear blue lake with cold water; we were almost tempted to jump in!

Thank you NCBS

Overall, this internship was an amazing experience that taught me so much. People often overlook urban ecosystems as being ecosystems because they aren’t natural. Urban stormwater ponds are an important factor in growing populations because they provide some semblance of habitat for displaced wildlife (though limited) and also play an important role in our water cycle in Florida. They must be kept healthy because that water will make its way into natural ecosystems, as well as back to us. Thank you to NCBS for this opportunity!

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