Well, well, well…

Rainwater, stream water… what about groundwater? This was one of the pieces of my project that. although being central to my research question, came into play fairly late in the game. I want to prove that not only 22Na provides an accurate age for water, but that it can provide accurate ages at a greater resolution, along a single groundwater flowpath. The diagram below illustrates one single flowpath. Water enters at a point on a slope, and as it travels through the ground, is youngest at point A, getting older and older until it eventually enters the stream. If I were to sample water from points A, B, and C, would aging the samples with 22Na provide successively older ages? This is the question I am still trying to answer.

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Seeking clarity

So after processing and retrieving all the sodium from the water, quantifying the concentration of 22Na provided another challenge. To do this, I used a scintillation cocktail. As the 22Na deyaed, it released beta particles. These particles interact with the cocktail and cause it to flash. By counting these flashes, I could determine the quantity of 22Na in the sample.

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A new question

My research was a summer of complications; questions I posed about my methods or my results, issues that reared their heads, caused me to think and rethink and rethink my project. One such additional issue was that of throughfall chemistry. The rainfall I had been collecting was from out in the open, but streams are never isolated out in the open. Rainfall interacts with the ecosystem: trees, plants, and soil. How does the ecosystem affect rainfall chemistry? To answer this question, I looked at throughfall chemistry. Throughfall is defined as the water that hits leaves and is then shed off.

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Over hill and dale

To the field!

 

If rain water was time zero, a stream can be considered time final. Water is rained down, moves over or under the ground, and ends up in a stream. Previous William & Mary geology students tested stream water, and I followed in their footsteps.

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No rain, no gain

As I stated in my very first post, my research focuses on using 22Na to obtain an age for groundwater and stream water. In pursuit of this goal, my research project had many different components. Naturally, each one had a different methodology for which I had to work the kinks out. The “kinks” themselves varied, from poor efficiencies to not having the right sized tubing for my pump! I ran into most of these issues with my first research component – rain water.

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