Lukas Lamb Wotton, M.S student in the Department of Biological Sciences, is on a scientific journey to identify areas in the coastal Everglades that are most vulnerable to collapse and on a similarly challenging and rewarding journey to help fellow graduate students with the ups and downs of graduate school.
Wotton’s master’s thesis project is part of the Florida Coastal Everglades Long Term Ecological Research (FCE LTER) Program and stems from recent studies that shed light on the impacts that sea level rise has in the Everglades, in particular the collapse of sawgrass marshes as a consequence of salt water intrusion.
The collapse of sawgrass marshes matters a lot – it not only causes elevation loss, further worsening saltwater intrusion, but also releases large amounts of carbon as peat soil breaks down, having big implications for climate change.
Although scientific knowledge concerning the mechanisms and consequences of sawgrass marsh collapse has grown in the past few years, there is not yet a method to evaluate the vulnerability of marshes to this phenomenon. Wotton aims to bridge this gap by developing an index to map marshes in Everglades National Park that are most vulnerable to collapse and then visit these marshes to identify what collapse looks like on the ground. Gaining this understanding is key to protect coastal marshes and their carbon stores.
Wotton’s commitment to the protection of the Everglades, the advancement of science and graduate school go beyond his thesis project. In addition to his research, he has taken on the role of president of the FCE LTER graduate student group, a network that supports students throughout their graduate school experiences and takes Everglades research to the larger community through science communication and outreach initiatives.
Interested in keeping up with his projects and endeavors? Follow him on Twitter @Luke_LambWotton