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UMaine Today Magazine


Student Focus

Sampling 143 lakes in 7 states, 8 weeks

Catherine Rosfjord
 

Catherine Rosfjord
Photo courtesy of
The Mitchell Center
 

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Grabbing a little bit of water from a lake can be a lot of work, especially if the waterway is hidden deep in the woods. Bad directions, wrong turns and outdated trail maps make just getting there a challenge. Then you've got to make your way through unmarked trails, bugs, swamps and flooded streams. Out on the lake, you have to hope that it's not too windy to paddle a canoe a few miles, or that your inflatable boat doesn't spring a leak.

University of Maine ecology and environmental sciences graduate student Catherine Rosfjord knows all about the logistics and loves navigating them. As a scientist in the Senator George J. Mitchell Center for Environmental and Watershed Research, she visited 143 lakes in seven northeastern states last summer as part of her study of long-term water quality trends. The lakes were sampled by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1984 as part of the Eastern Lake Survey (ELS). With funding from the Northeastern States Research Cooperative, Rosfjord's resampling will allow scientists to assess changes in water quality in the last 20 years.

It was the fieldwork that first attracted Rosfjord to the ELS project. Before coming to Maine to start her graduate work, she was an instructor with Outward Bound in Asheville, N.C., leading groups on backpacking trips in the southern Appalachians.

With Mitchell Center students and staff, Rosfjord accomplished what it took dozens of EPA employees with a helicopter to do 20 years ago. In less than eight weeks, Rosfjord and crew sampled 143 lakes in Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New York and Pennsylvania.

Data collected will help Rosfjord and other scientists detect changes in water quality. Since the first ELS in 1984, the Clean Air Act was amended to reduce emissions of sulfate, a precursor to acid rain. By measuring water chemistry, scientists can gauge the effectiveness of Clean Air policies.

"I think what we're going to find is that buffering (or acid neutralizing) capacity has decreased in sensitive lakes, so lakes are still acidic even though we have made considerable efforts to decrease acid rain," she says.


On Paper

Kayti Frost's study of the chemistry involved in papermaking has taken her abroad and throughout the state.

This semester, her last as a University of Maine undergraduate, she's working in the lab of UMaine chemical engineer David Neivandt, where she is conducting research to determine how modifying precipitated calcium carbonate affects the physical properties of paper.

Precipitated calcium carbonate contributes to paper's brightness and opacity.

"The experience has helped in terms of confidence in applying concepts," says the senior from Hermon, Maine, talking about her internship, co-op and research opportunities as an undergraduate. "Working hands-on helps you get a deeper understanding about the application and how things work."

In 2003, Frost had a three-month internship in Belgium at Minerals Technologies Inc., one of the world's leading suppliers of precipitated calcium carbonate.

Last year, her co-op assignments were in Maine at Madison Paper Industries and Georgia Pacific.

When she graduates in August, Frost hopes to pursue an engineering career in the pulp and paper industry, or a Ph.D.

 

UMaine Today Magazine
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