The Research and Grants Committee of the GPSG presents the Research Spotlight, where we highlight the research carried out by our fellow graduate and professional students.
Spotlights from the 2019-2020 are:
Serena Smith will graduate in May with a Master of Science (MS) degree in Oceanography from Texas A&M’s College of Geosciences. Oceanography is the study of the ocean’s chemical, biological, physical, and geological processes. As a carbonate chemist, Serena is interested in how anthropogenic (human-induced) carbon dioxide decreases the pH of seawater. She also observes how increased oceanic acidity hampers the ability of corals and oysters to grow properly.
One of Serena’s research projects involved studying how Hurricane Harvey affected carbonate chemistry in the Texas shelf and the Flower Garden Banks Marine Sanctuary, a protected coral reef habitat in the Gulf of Mexico. Serena often takes research cruises to the Flower Garden Banks as well as Galveston Bay to collect discrete water samples. Serena takes these samples back to her lab and analyzes them using the Versatile Instrument for the Determination of Total inorganic carbon and titration Alkalinity (VINDTA). The machine measures total alkalinity (the buffering capacity of seawater) and dissolved inorganic carbon, which Serena can then use to calculate pH, partial CO2 pressure, and aragonite saturation state (the thermodynamic tendency of a mineral to either dissolve or precipitate).
Serena received a spring travel award from the Graduate & Professional Student Government. The award helped her offset the costs of traveling to San Diego, California for the 2020 Ocean Science Meeting. The conference provided her an abundance of opportunities to network with experts in her field, including authors of papers she frequently cites. Serena was excited to hear their insights about her research and the possible directions it could take. Additionally, Serena learned new science and research techniques and also practiced sharing her own research, which has made her feel more prepared for her thesis defense in May.
Serena’s life is full of interesting aquatic experiences. She acquired her divemaster certification and also worked as a diver at SeaWorld. During one of her dives, she was bitten by an octopus. On another excursion, she dove deep into a cavern and woke a bunch of sea turtles who were sleeping inside. Serena says some of her best nights of sleep have been on boats.