Matching Items (48)

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Quantifying Whole-Reach Denitrification in Arizona Streams

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Elevated nitrate (NO3-) concentration in streams and rivers has contributed to environmental problems such as downstream eutrophication and loss of biodiversity. Sycamore Creek in Arizona is nitrogen limited, but previous studies have demonstrated high potential for denitrification, a microbial process

Elevated nitrate (NO3-) concentration in streams and rivers has contributed to environmental problems such as downstream eutrophication and loss of biodiversity. Sycamore Creek in Arizona is nitrogen limited, but previous studies have demonstrated high potential for denitrification, a microbial process in which biologically active NO3- is reduced to relatively inert dinitrogen (N2) gas. Oak Creek is similarly nitrogen limited, but NO3- concentration in reaches surrounded by agriculture can be double that of other reaches. We employed a denitrification enzyme assay (DEA) to compare potential denitrification rate between differing land uses in Oak Creek and measured whole system N2 flux using a membrane inlet mass spectrometer to compare differences in actual denitrification rates at Sycamore and Oak Creek. We anticipated that NO3- would be an important limiting factor for denitrifiers; consequentially, agricultural land use reaches within Oak Creek would have the highest potential denitrification rate. We expected in situ denitrification rate to be higher in Oak Creek than Sycamore Creek due to elevated NO3- concentration, higher discharge, and larger streambed surface area. DEA results are forthcoming, but analysis of potassium chloride (KCl) extraction data showed that there were no significant differences between sites in sediment extractable NO3- on either a dry mass or organic mass basis. Whole-reach denitrification rate was inconclusive in Oak Creek, and though a significant positive flux in N2 from upstream to downstream was measured in Sycamore Creek, the denitrification rate was not significantly different from 0 after accounting for reaeration, suggesting that denitrification does not account for a significant portion of the NO3- uptake in Sycamore Creek. Future work is needed to address the specific factors limiting denitrification in this system.

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2018-05

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Molybdenum biogeochemistry in an evolutionary context: nitrogen assimilation, microbial storage and environmental budgets

Description

Molybdenum (Mo) is a key trace nutrient for biological assimilation of nitrogen, either as nitrogen gas (N2) or nitrate (NO3-). Although Mo is the most abundant metal in seawater (105 nM), its concentration is low (<5 nM) in most freshwaters

Molybdenum (Mo) is a key trace nutrient for biological assimilation of nitrogen, either as nitrogen gas (N2) or nitrate (NO3-). Although Mo is the most abundant metal in seawater (105 nM), its concentration is low (<5 nM) in most freshwaters today, and it was scarce in the ocean before 600 million years ago. The use of Mo for nitrogen assimilation can be understood in terms of the changing Mo availability through time; for instance, the higher Mo content of eukaryotic vs. prokaryotic nitrate reductase may have stalled proliferation of eukaryotes in low-Mo Proterozoic oceans. Field and laboratory experiments were performed to study Mo requirements for NO3- assimilation and N2 fixation, respectively. Molybdenum-nitrate addition experiments at Castle Lake, California revealed interannual and depth variability in plankton community response, perhaps resulting from differences in species composition and/or ammonium availability. Furthermore, lake sediments were elevated in Mo compared to soils and bedrock in the watershed. Box modeling suggested that the largest source of Mo to the lake was particulate matter from the watershed. Month-long laboratory experiments with heterocystous cyanobacteria (HC) showed that <1 nM Mo led to low N2 fixation rates, while 10 nM Mo was sufficient for optimal rates. At 1500 nM Mo, freshwater HC hyperaccumulated Mo intercellularly, whereas coastal HC did not. These differences in storage capacity were likely due to the presence in freshwater HC of the small molybdate-binding protein, Mop, and its absence in coastal and marine cyanobacterial species. Expression of the mop gene was regulated by Mo availability in the freshwater HC species Nostoc sp. PCC 7120. Under low Mo (<1 nM) conditions, mop gene expression was up-regulated compared to higher Mo (150 and 3000 nM) treatments, but the subunit composition of the Mop protein changed, suggesting that Mop does not bind Mo in the same manner at <1 nM Mo that it can at higher Mo concentrations. These findings support a role for Mop as a Mo storage protein in HC and suggest that freshwater HC control Mo cellular homeostasis at the post-translational level. Mop's widespread distribution in prokaryotes lends support to the theory that it may be an ancient protein inherited from low-Mo Precambrian oceans.

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2011

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Soot black carbon dynamics in arid/urban ecosystem

Description

Black carbon (BC) is the product of incomplete combustion of biomass and fossil fuels. It is found ubiquitously in nature and is relevant to studies in atmospheric science, soil science, oceanography, and anthropology. Black carbon is best described using a

Black carbon (BC) is the product of incomplete combustion of biomass and fossil fuels. It is found ubiquitously in nature and is relevant to studies in atmospheric science, soil science, oceanography, and anthropology. Black carbon is best described using a combustion continuum that sub-classifies BC into slightly charred biomass, char, charcoal and soot. These sub-classifications range in particle size, formation temperature, and relative reactivity. Interest in BC has increased because of its role in the long-term storage of organic matter and the biogeochemistry of urban areas. The global BC budget is unbalanced. Production of BC greatly outweighs decomposition of BC. This suggests that there are unknown or underestimated BC removal processes, and it is likely that some of these processes are occurring in soils. However, little is known about BC reactivity in soil and especially in desert soil. This work focuses on soot BC, which is formed at higher temperatures and has a lower relative reactivity than other forms of BC. Here, I assess the contribution of soot BC to central AZ soils and use the isotopic composition of soot BC to identify sources of soot BC. Soot BC is a significant (31%) fraction of the soil organic matter in central AZ and this work suggests that desert and urban soils may be a storage reservoir for soot BC. I further identify previously unknown removal processes of soot BC found naturally in soil and demonstrate that soil soot BC undergoes abiotic (photo-oxidation) and biotic reactions. Not only is soot BC degraded by these processes, but its chemical composition is altered, suggesting that soot BC contains some chemical moieties that are more reactive than others. Because soot BC demonstrates both refractory and reactive character, it is likely that the structure of soot BC; therefore, its interactions in the environment are complex and it is not simply a recalcitrant material.

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2013

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Structural studies of the transmembrane and membrane proximal domains of HIV-1 gp41 by x-ray crystallography

Description

The transmembrane subunit (gp41) of the envelope glycoprotein of HIV-1 associates noncovalently with the surface subunit (gp120) and together they play essential roles in viral mucosal transmission and infection of target cells. The membrane proximal region (MPR, residues 649-683) of

The transmembrane subunit (gp41) of the envelope glycoprotein of HIV-1 associates noncovalently with the surface subunit (gp120) and together they play essential roles in viral mucosal transmission and infection of target cells. The membrane proximal region (MPR, residues 649-683) of gp41 is highly conserved and contains epitopes of broadly neutralizing antibodies. The transmembrane (TM) domain (residues 684-705) of gp41 not only anchors the envelope glycoprotein complex in the viral membrane but also dynamically affects the interactions of the MPR with the membrane. While high-resolution X-ray structures of some segments of the MPR were solved in the past, they represent the pre-fusion and post-fusion conformations, most of which could not react with the broadly neutralizing antibodies 2F5 and 4E10. Structural information on the TM domain of gp41 is scant and at low resolution.

This thesis describes the structural studies of MPR-TM (residues 649-705) of HIV-1 gp41 by X-ray crystallography. MPR-TM was fused with different fusion proteins to improve the membrane protein overexpression. The expression level of MPR-TM was improved by fusion to the C-terminus of the Mistic protein, yielding ∼1 mg of pure MPR-TM protein per liter cell culture. The fusion partner Mistic was removed for final crystallization. The isolated MPR-TM protein was biophysically characterized and is a monodisperse candidate for crystallization. However, no crystal with diffraction quality was obtained even after extensive crystallization screens. A novel construct was designed to overexpress MPR-TM as a maltose binding protein (MBP) fusion. About 60 mg of MBP/MPR-TM recombinant protein was obtained from 1 liter of cell culture. Crystals of MBP/MPR-TM recombinant protein could not be obtained when MBP and MPR-TM were separated by a 42 amino acid (aa)-long linker but were obtained after changing the linker to three alanine residues. The crystals diffracted to 2.5 Å after crystallization optimization. Further analysis of the diffraction data indicated that the crystals are twinned. The final structure demonstrated that MBP crystallized as a dimer of trimers, but the electron density did not extend beyond the linker region. We determined by SDS-PAGE and MALDI-TOF MS that the crystals contained MBP only. The MPR-TM of gp41 might be cleaved during or after the process of crystallization. Comparison of the MBP trimer reported here with published trimeric MBP fusion structures indicated that MBP might form such a trimeric conformation under the effect of MPR-TM.

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2014

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Soil biogeochemical consequences of the replacement of residential grasslands with water-efficient landscapes

Description

As a result of growing populations and uncertain resource availability, urban areas are facing pressure from federal and state agencies, as well as residents, to promote conservation programs that provide services for people and mitigate environmental harm. Current strategies in

As a result of growing populations and uncertain resource availability, urban areas are facing pressure from federal and state agencies, as well as residents, to promote conservation programs that provide services for people and mitigate environmental harm. Current strategies in US cities aim to reduce the impact of municipal and household resource use, including programs to promote water conservation. One common conservation program incentivizes the replacement of water-intensive turfgrass lawns with landscapes that use less water consisting of interspersed drought-tolerant shrubs and trees with rock or mulch groundcover (e.g. xeriscapes, rain gardens, water-wise landscapes). A handful of previous studies in experimental landscapes have shown that converting a turfgrass yard to a shrub-dominated landscape has the potential to increase rates of nitrate (NO3-) leaching. However, no studies have examined the drivers or patterns across diverse management practices. In this research, I compared soil nutrient retention and cycling in turfgrass and lawn-alternative xeriscaped yards along a chronosequence of time since land cover change in Tempe, Arizona, in the semi-arid US Southwest. Soil inorganic extractable nitrogen (N) pools were greater in xeriscapes compared to turfgrass lawns. On average xeriscapes contained 2.5±0.4 g NO3--N/m2 in the first 45 cm of soil, compared to 0.6±0.7 g NO3--N/m2 in lawns. Soil NO3--N pools in xeriscaped yards also varied significantly with time: pools were largest 9-13 years after cover change and declined to levels comparable to turfgrass at 18-21 years. Variation in soil extractable NO3--N with landscape age was strongly influenced by management practices that control soil water availability, including shrub cover, the presence of sub-surface plastic sheeting, and the frequency of irrigation. This research is the first to explore the ecological outcomes and temporal dynamics of an increasingly common, ‘sustainable’ land use practice that is universally promoted in US cities. Our findings show that transitioning from turfgrass to water-efficient residential landscaping can lead to an accumulation of NO3--N that may be lost from the soil rooting zone over time, through leaching following irrigation or rainfall. These results have implications for best management practices to optimize the benefits of water-conserving residential yards.

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Date Created
2015

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Phosphorus cycling in Metropolitan Phoenix

Description

Phosphorus (P), an essential element for life, is becoming increasingly scarce, and its global management presents a serious challenge. As urban environments dominate the landscape, we need to elucidate how P cycles in urban ecosystems to better understand how cities

Phosphorus (P), an essential element for life, is becoming increasingly scarce, and its global management presents a serious challenge. As urban environments dominate the landscape, we need to elucidate how P cycles in urban ecosystems to better understand how cities contribute to — and provide opportunities to solve — problems of P management. The goal of my research was to increase our understanding of urban P cycling in the context of urban resource management through analysis of existing ecological and socio-economic data supplemented with expert interviews in order to facilitate a transition to sustainable P management. Study objectives were to: I) Quantify and map P stocks and flows in the Phoenix metropolitan area and analyze the drivers of spatial distribution and dynamics of P flows; II) examine changes in P-flow dynamics at the urban agricultural interface (UAI), and the drivers of those changes, between 1978 and 2008; III) compare the UAI's average annual P budget to the global agricultural P budget; and IV) explore opportunities for more sustainable P management in Phoenix. Results showed that Phoenix is a sink for P, and that agriculture played a primary role in the dynamics of P cycling. Internal P dynamics at the UAI shifted over the 30-year study period, with alfalfa replacing cotton as the main locus of agricultural P cycling. Results also suggest that the extent of P recycling in Phoenix is proportionally larger than comparable estimates available at the global scale due to the biophysical characteristics of the region and the proximity of various land uses. Uncertainty remains about the effectiveness of current recycling strategies and about best management strategies for the future because we do not have sufficient data to use as basis for evaluation and decision-making. By working in collaboration with practitioners, researchers can overcome some of these data limitations to develop a deeper understanding of the complexities of P dynamics and the range of options available to sustainably manage P. There is also a need to better connect P management with that of other resources, notably water and other nutrients, in order to sustainably manage cities.

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Date Created
2011

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Element use and acquisition strategies in biological soil crusts

Description

Biological soil crusts (BSCs) are critical components of arid and semiarid environments and provide the primary sources of bioavailable macronutrients and increase micronutrient availability to their surrounding ecosystems. BSCs are composed of a variety of microorganisms that perform a wide

Biological soil crusts (BSCs) are critical components of arid and semiarid environments and provide the primary sources of bioavailable macronutrients and increase micronutrient availability to their surrounding ecosystems. BSCs are composed of a variety of microorganisms that perform a wide range of physiological processes requiring a multitude of bioessential micronutrients, such as iron, copper, and molybdenum. This work investigated the effects of BSC activity on soil solution concentrations of bioessential elements and examined the microbial production of organic chelators, called siderophores. I found that aluminum, vanadium, copper, zinc, and molybdenum were solubilized in the action of crusts, while nickel, zinc, arsenic, and zirconium were immobilized by crust activity. Potassium and manganese displayed behavior consistent with biological removal and mobilization, whereas phosphorus and iron solubility were dominated by abiotic processes. The addition of bioavailable nitrogen altered the effects of BSCs on soil element mobilization. In addition, I found that the biogeochemical activites of BSCs were limited by molybdenum, a fact that likely contributes to co-limitation by nitrogen. I confirmed the presence of siderophore producing microbes in BSCs. Siderophores are low-molecular weight organic compounds that are released by bacteria to increase element solubility and facilitate element uptake; siderophore production is likely the mechanism by which BSCs affect the patterns I observed in soil solution element concentrations. Siderophore producers were distributed across a range of bacterial groups and ecological niches within crusts, suggesting that siderophore production influences the availability of a variety of elements for use in many physiological processes. Four putative siderophore compounds were identified using electrospray ionization mass spectrometry; further attempts to characterize the compounds confirmed two true siderophores. Taken together, the results of my work provide information about micronutrient cycling within crusts that can be applied to BSC conservation and management. Fertilization with certain elements, particularly molybdenum, may prove to be a useful technique to promote BSC growth and development which would help prevent arid land degradation. Furthermore, understanding the effects of BSCs on soil element mobility could be used to develop useful biomarkers for the study of the existence and distribution of crust-like communities on ancient Earth, and perhaps other places, like Mars.

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Date Created
2012

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Landscape planning and biogeochemistry: estimating and analyzing carbon sequestration efficacy in dryland open space

Description

Despite public demand for climate change mitigation and natural open space conservancy, existing political and design efforts are only beginning to address the declining efficacy of the biotic carbon pool (C-pool) to sequester carbon. Advances in understanding of biogeochemical processes

Despite public demand for climate change mitigation and natural open space conservancy, existing political and design efforts are only beginning to address the declining efficacy of the biotic carbon pool (C-pool) to sequester carbon. Advances in understanding of biogeochemical processes have provided methods for estimating carbon embodied in natural open spaces and enhancing carbon sequestration efficacy. In this study, the benefits of carbon embodied in dryland open spaces are determined by estimating carbon flux and analyzing ecological, social, and economic benefits provided by sequestered carbon. Understanding the ecological processes and derived benefits of carbon exchange in dryland open spaces will provide insight into enhancing carbon sequestration efficacy. Open space carbon is estimated by calculating the amount of carbon sequestration (estimated in Mg C / ha / y) in dryland open space C-pools. Carbon sequestration in dryland open spaces can be summarized in five open space typologies: hydric, mesic, aridic, biomass for energy agriculture, and traditional agriculture. Hydric (wetland) systems receive a significant amount of moisture; mesic (riparian) systems receive a moderate amount of moisture; and aridic (dry) systems receive low amounts of moisture. Biomass for energy production (perennial biomass) and traditional agriculture (annual / traditional biomass) can be more effective carbon sinks if managed appropriately. Impacts of design interventions to the carbon capacity of dryland open space systems are calculated by estimating carbon exchange in existing open space (base case) compared to projections of carbon sequestered in a modified system (prototype design). A demonstration project at the Lower San Pedro River Watershed highlights the potential for enhancing carbon sequestration. The site-scale demonstration project takes into account a number of limiting factors and opportunities including: availability of water and ability to manipulate its course, existing and potential vegetation, soil types and use of carbon additives, and land-use (particularly agriculture). Specific design challenges to overcome included: restoring perennial water to the Lower San Pedro River, reestablishing hydric and mesic systems, linking fragmented vegetation, and establishing agricultural systems that provide economic opportunities and act as carbon sinks. The prototype design showed enhancing carbon sequestration efficacy by 128-133% is possible with conservative design interventions.

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2012

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Biogeochemistry science and education: part one, using non-traditional stable isotopes as environmental tracers : part two, identifying and measuring undergraduate misconceptions in biogeochemistry

Description

This dissertation is presented in two sections. First, I explore two methods of using stable isotope analysis to trace environmental and biogeochemical processes. Second, I present two related studies investigating student understanding of the biogeochemical concepts that underlie part one.

This dissertation is presented in two sections. First, I explore two methods of using stable isotope analysis to trace environmental and biogeochemical processes. Second, I present two related studies investigating student understanding of the biogeochemical concepts that underlie part one. Fe and Hg are each biogeochemically important elements in their own way. Fe is a critical nutrient for phytoplankton, while Hg is detrimental to nearly all forms of life. Fe is often a limiting factor in marine phytoplankton growth. The largest source, by mass, of Fe to the open ocean is windblown mineral dust, but other more soluble sources are more bioavailable. To look for evidence of these non-soil dust sources of Fe to the open ocean, I measured the isotopic composition of aerosol samples collected on Bermuda. I found clear evidence in the fine size fraction of a non-soil dust Fe source, which I conclude is most likely from biomass burning. Widespread adoption of compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) has increased their importance as a source of environmental Hg. Isotope analysis would be a useful tool in quantifying this impact if the isotopic composition of Hg from CFL were known. My measurements show that CFL-Hg is isotopically fractionated, in a unique pattern, during normal operation. This fractionation is large and has a distinctive, mass-independent signature, such that CFL Hg can be uniquely identified from other sources. Misconceptions research in geology has been a very active area of research, but student thinking regarding the related field of biogeochemistry has not yet been studied in detail. From interviews with 40 undergraduates, I identified over 150 specific misconceptions. I also designed a multiple-choice survey (concept inventory) to measure understanding of these same biogeochemistry concepts. I present statistical evidence, based on the Rasch model, for the reliability and validity of this instrument. This instrument will allow teachers and researchers to easily quantify learning outcomes in biogeochemistry and will complement existing concept inventories in geology, chemistry, and biology.

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Date Created
2014

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Photo-chemical and microbial degradation of dissolved organic carbon in the Colorado River system

Description

The focus of this thesis is to study dissolved organic carbon composition and reactivity along the Colorado and Green Rivers. Dissolved organic carbon (DOC) in large-scale, managed rivers is relatively poorly studied as most literature has focused on pristine unmanaged

The focus of this thesis is to study dissolved organic carbon composition and reactivity along the Colorado and Green Rivers. Dissolved organic carbon (DOC) in large-scale, managed rivers is relatively poorly studied as most literature has focused on pristine unmanaged rivers. The Colorado River System is the 7th largest in the North America; there are seventeen large dams along the Colorado and Green River. DOC in rivers and in the lakes formed by dams (reservoirs) undergo photo-chemical and bio-degradation. DOC concentration and composition in these systems were investigated using bulk concentration, optical properties, and fluorescence spectroscopy. The riverine DOC concentration decreased from upstream to downstream but there was no change in the specific ultraviolet absorbance at 254 nm (SUVA254). Total fluorescence also decreased along the river. In general, the fluorescence index (FI) increased slightly, the humification index (HIX) decreased, and the freshness index (β/α) increased from upstream to downstream. Photo-oxidation and biodegradation experiments were used to determine if the observed changes in DOC composition along the river could be driven by these biogeochemical alteration processes.

In two-week natural sunlight photo-oxidation experiments the DOC concentration did not change, while the SUVA254 and TF decreased. In addition, the FI and ‘freshness’ increased and HIX decreased during photo-oxidation. Photo-oxidation can explain the upstream to downstream trends for TF, FI, HIX, and freshness observed in river water. Serial photo-oxidation and biodegradation experiments were performed on water collected from three sites along the Colorado River. Bulk DOC concentration in all samples decreased during the biodegradation portion of the study, but DOC bioavailability was lower in samples that were photo-oxidized prior to the bioavailability study.

The upstream to downstream trends in DOC concentration and composition along the river can be explained by a combination of photo-chemical and microbial degradation. The bulk DOC concentration change is primarily driven by microbial degradation, while the changes in the composition of the fluorescent DOC are driven by photo-oxidation.

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Date Created
2015