Brittany Wilburn (2021)

“I am grateful to The Wetland Foundation for offering me the Seneca Award for field travel, which has supported a major project of my doctoral research. This award has allowed me to travel to the Tuckahoe National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey to examine the effects of salinity gradients within salt marsh ecosystems on the carbon storage capacity of biochar. Biochar is a soil amendment formed from organic material that is treated to create a carbon-dense material that is often used as a form of plant growth enhancement, as well as a form of carbon burial for climate change mitigation as it is highly stable and not easily degraded. To elucidate the effects of varying salinities on the degradation of biochar in salt marshes, eighty incubation bags filled with pre-weighed hardwood biochar were placed at four locations within Tuckahoe National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey in June 2021. A portion of the bags from each site were collected for analysis in October 2021 and replaced with additional fresh biochar incubation bags to measure changes in biochar mass over an annual and a seasonal period. With the assistance of the Wetland Foundation Seneca Award, this project is able to be ongoing, with further site visits in February and June 2022. In addition to completing a major portion of my dissertation research, this project has also been an opportunity to offer field research experience for undergraduate students. I am greatly appreciative of The Wetland Foundation’s generosity.”