In the summer, 2017, Marnie Tabor, an Athens State biology student, participated in the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab. This is a highly competitive program sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Ms. Tabor worked with scientists to collect sediment and water samples in the Gulf of Mexico to measure chlorophyll levels and conduct other tests. Ms. Tabor presented her research in a poster presentation at the Sea Lab and at the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill Ecosystem Science Conference in New Orleans. She is continuing to develop her research for publication.
Ms. Tabor’s research focuses on marine diatoms in the shallow bays of the Mississippi Sound. According to Ms. Tabor, these small organisms produce “20% of the oxygen we breathe” and are abundant in the ocean, fresh water, and soil. She collected samples from Grand Bay throughout the month of July and found that diatoms do indeed play a significant role in capturing carbon dioxide from the environment, despite the fact that they are so much smaller than sea grass. Interestingly, she found that, while diatoms permeate the water column and sediment, it was epiphytic organisms (diatoms living on the seagrass itself) that were actually responsible for about 75% of the carbon capture taking place in the Bay.
This summer, Ms. Tabor will be continuing this research at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab. “As a biology student minoring in marine science,” she writes, “I see the importance of understanding how these beautiful little ‘glass houses’ impact the world in which we live.” After graduation, Ms. Tabor plans to pursue a career in environmental outreach.