Nutrients help fuel marine primary production and urea is an important dissolved organic nitrogen source. The understanding how urea cycles in estuarine environments is the underlying concept of my research. In the marine environment, urea originates from a mixture of natural and anthropogenic sources. Natural sources include bacterial release and excretion from zooplankton or fish, while human-based sources include wastewater effluent, industrial waste, and fertilizer runoff. In recent years, the human input has grown considerably, especially in reference to fertilizer usage. I propose to create both an infographic and a short film that will introduce stakeholders and the general public to urea sources and how it is studied.
The infographic I plan to create will explain the sources of urea and why we care about estuarine urea loading. The infographic will be visual, with cartoon representations of human and natural sources feeding with arrows into a river. The first version will include 2-3 short facts to engage the audience as to why urea sources are important in coastal marine ecosystems. I plan to make this version broad enough to distribute to the public events such as VIMS Marine Science Day, at HRSD, or online. The infographic will be constructed using Adobe Illustrator and InDesign. With this outreach product, I hope to expand public knowledge and awareness of sources of urea in coastal ecosystems beyond just excretion.
An additional version will be created to illustrate the same sources feeding into a chemical diagram of the urea cycle. This version will allow me to present the results of my dissertation work to an academic audience. My dissertation includes analysis of the sources of urea in the York River, VA and this infographic will be useful for scientific presentations.
Isotope tracing is a staple method of my research and is used for both uptake rates and tracing nutrient sources. This is a complex concept that can be difficult to convey to an audience without a chemistry background. The second outreach product I plan to create is a short educational video on isotope tracing. This video will explain how naturally occurring stable isotopes may be utilized to trace sources of compounds based on differences in natural abundances.
The video will give a brief explanation of isotopes and how they can be present in different amounts. I hope to design this video to mirror the aforementioned infographic. Using colors to represent the different isotopes I will use urea sources as an example. I will then show the isotope “colors” being consumed by a phytoplankton. This video will be made as a short (2-minute max) whiteboard animation that will be distributed via social media and uploaded to YouTube.