When the sun disappears this winter and a thick snow blanket swaddles Finland’s Arctic tundra, SDSU doctoral student Kimberley Miller will be there, searching for clues to global warming.
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Following three summers working at the SDSU research station in Barrow, Alaska, Miller is now in Finland on a Fulbright grant to complete her research. Her doctoral thesis, guided by David Lipson, Ph.D., examines the interaction of climate change and microbial methane cycling in Arctic wetland soils.
Certain microorganisms living in permafrost produce methane, a deadly greenhouse gas, when iron oxide is unavailable to breathe. Miller hypothesizes that where more iron is available, less methane will be produced. Working with Finnish researchers, she will extract soil samples to measure iron and methane content and compare the results with samples from Alaska.
“I’ve never sampled through snow before,” Miller said. “Most researchers don’t measure during winter, but there is increasing evidence of a fair amount of biological activity in the cold.”
Miller’s exploration will expand knowledge of the interactions between iron and methane in wetland soils, a first step to understanding this important aspect of climate change.
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