Adrian Wackett, Sebastian Pérez-López receive NSF fellowships
The students’ projects aim to explore the carbon-climate feedback in boreal landscapes and analyze sedimentary deposits of Mars-like environments in Chile.
Two geological sciences students have been awarded Graduate Research Fellowships from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The award recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported STEM disciplines.
Adrian Wackett, an incoming PhD student with Associate Professor Jane Willenbring, will be working at the nexus of geomorphology and biogeochemistry to understand how boreal wildfires affect rates of soil erosion and carbon sequestration over decades to centuries.
His project, titled “Forcings and feedbacks among fire, erosion, and soil carbon cycling in boreal landscapes,” aims to address a knowledge gap about the role of soil erosion in ecosystem carbon recovery trajectories across wildfire-affected landscapes. Soils are the largest terrestrial carbon reservoir on Earth, and a disproportionate amount of this soil carbon is stored in high latitude boreal forests.
“Understanding the interplay between erosion and soil carbon dynamics will be increasingly important for understanding global carbon cycles and ecosystem recovery trajectories in the coming centuries,” Wackett said.
Stanford undergraduate Sebastian Pérez-López, who will enter a graduate degree program at Brown University in the fall, will be using the hyper-arid conditions of the Atacama Desert, Chile, as a comparable environment to Mars. His project, which is titled “Atacama Salt Caves as a Mars Analog for Subsurface Evaporite Deposits,” aims to expose subsurface areas that may be able to support life.
“Subsurface environments can offer protection from extreme radiation levels and serve as more stable environments suitable for life, but to date have largely been overlooked due to the inherent limitations of remote sensing that gives us mostly surface data,” said Pérez-López, who became involved with planetary science through Mathieu Lapôtre and his Earth & Planetary Surface Processes Lab.