Researching Runoff, Weighing in on Water
It may seem odd to think of nutrients as pollution, but excessive nutrients from farm fertilization and irrigation, and the resulting runoff, can negatively impact surface water and groundwater quality.
To better understand these impacts, and in an effort to improve water quality in the Central Coast’s agricultural regions, Kimberly Null and her students are conducting weekly field campaigns on multiple farm parcels to take direct measurements of water quality.
Null and her students aren’t afraid to get muddy. Sample collection requires digging pits down to the water table. Surface water, groundwater, and tile drain water samples are then brought back to Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, where they are analyzed to capture nutrient variability during different seasons, irrigation events, and crop rotation.
Null’s passion for H2O took hold in the 8th grade.
“I’ve always loved the outdoors, but my 8th grade science teacher really piqued my interest in the environment. I learned the importance of protecting our water resources, and it just stuck with me.”
Through her research, Null hopes to provide new knowledge to growers and policymakers about the best nutrient mitigation strategies for the Monterey Bay region.
Jacqueline Chisholm, ’21 MS Marine Science (concentration in Chemical Oceanography), and Null collect water samples on the Old Salinas River along artichoke fields. Their goal is to evaluate the relative contribution of farm irrigation to water quality. If groundwater enriched in nutrients is influencing surface water quality, then it may require off-farm management (like constructed wetlands and bioreactors) in addition to best management practices on farms to improve surface water quality.
PI: KIMBERLY NULL
Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, College of Science
SPONSOR: California Sea Grant