By Emma Fass, Summer Science Writing Intern
As a 2015 Virginia Sea Grant graduate research fellow, Joseph Morina hopes to study an important aspect of tidal freshwater wetland ecosystems—but also to foster a partnership with those who can utilize his research.
He learned the importance of such a partnership while conducting undergraduate research at Curtin University’s Centre for Crop and Disease Management in Australia, an organization that receives funding and wheat samples from farmers in exchange for the farmers getting access to research and consultations with the research team regarding the farmers’ own crops. Morina says the interaction between researchers and end users inspired him.
“When I returned from Australia, I resolved that my future research efforts would always incorporate dissemination strategies to reach those who can utilize my findings to restore and preserve coastal systems,” he says. “My future career will be dedicated not only to basic research that advances our fundamental understanding, but also to the practical application of my findings.”
As a fellow, Morina will research the nutrient cycling of wetlands and the effects this has on downstream coastal ecosystems. Specifically, he will be investigating how the tidal cycle affects microbial nitrogen cycling. In addition, he will study the response of these systems to increasing sea levels, saltwater intrusion, and other effects of climate change.
As part of the outreach project for his fellowship, Morina hopes to educate Virginians about the vital role of microorganisms in wetlands. He plans to develop a microbe workshop that can be presented to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) volunteers and will include hands-on activities. There are four locations throughout Virginia where Morina can travel to educate these volunteers. In addition, he plans to attend the CBF Teachers on the Bay course to demonstrate hands on activities teachers can utilize to engage students in microbial ecology.
Morina received his undergraduate degree in biology from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2013 and is currently pursuing a master’s in biology from that university. In the future, he plans to pursue a PhD in estuarine microbial ecology and to become a professor at a research institute. Morina says, “both science and teaching are passions of mine.”