Investigating Faerie Places

The view climbing up Knocknarea

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Brief Summary of Summer Work

This summer my partner and I looked closely at one model of zooplankton population.  Using this model we found that the mortality was one of the most sensitive parameters which implied that it is one of the most sensitive parameters in other zooplankton population models.  This supported the claim that the mortality term need more research and refinement.  Some of the work we did was included in a proposal for a NSF grant to continue research on zooplankton modeling.  We also looked at different types of mortality terms that include predation and competition to limit the growth the population, but more work is need to find which is best, if any.

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End of summer research at Jamestown

The end of summer is upon us, and I have had much time to reflect on the work I have done this summer. Sampling days at Jamestown were hot, humid and mosquito friendly but were often immediately followed up with respite in the traditionally and characteristically frigid geochemistry lab. During the last few weeks of July and the beginning of August, a new facet of my research was finally introduced: UV Digestion of organic matter. Simply put, the goal of analysing drinking water at Jamestown was to determine whether colonists ingested debilitating or even lethal doses of arsenic and iron. Levels of iron are extremely high, but if the colonists allowed the water to sit in open air essentially all the iron in the water would be oxidized and fall out of solution as a solid. Arsenic does not behave this way and any arsenic in the water will be directly ingested. But, what if there is more arsenic in the water that we aren’t detecting because it is attached to organic matter? This is the new question I have started to pick apart by a method involving UV Digestion of organic material. In the lab I allow a UV light to pass through the water samples which destroys organic material, therby liberating any arsenic attached to these molcules. I can then re-analyze water samples to see if there is any increase in arsenic concentration, and whether this increase is lethal. I found a doubling of arsenic in one well located between the banks of the James River and the wall of the fort, and a slight increase of arsenic in the swamp surface waters. UV Digestion has been performed on a few samples, but not enough to draw any sort of pattern (let alone conclusion) regarding this new facet of my research.

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Data availability in a Developing Nation

The experience of collecting data for my project has been enlightening.  In many instances what I had planned to analyze had to be scrapped due to the corresponding data not being available.   Many times data that had previously been collected was unavailable due to numerous reasons, including bureaucratic hurdles, the destruction of data, and in rare cases the unwillingness to share data.  I came to appreciate the difficulty in conducting orignal research, specifically data driven econometrics in a developing nation.

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The end of my stay in Bosnia

Now that my stay in Bosnia is ending, I look back thankful for the unique opportunity that both the Reves Center and the William & Mary Bosnia Project have afforded me. I have meet with multiple economist and policy makers during my stay that have directed me in my search for information on government planning and records, specifically I would like to thank Mr. Cosic from World Bank.

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