Stanford University
Researchers deploying a midnight cast of cylinders for water samples while wearing whimsical costumes.

(Photo credit: Patrick Monreal)

Climate through chemistry

Patrick MonrealBS ‘22Earth Systems Program


“The interdisciplinary nature of the Earth Systems Program gives you basic knowledge of a wide variety of environmental fields, but also allows you to home in on your specific interest, which for me was chemical oceanography,” said Patrick Monreal, BS ’22, said about earning a degree in Earth systems. “It is simply an exciting major with field opportunities throughout California and all over the world.”

In the summer of 2021, Monreal pursued a field opportunity of his own as a NOAA Hollings Scholar and worked closely with a group he was connected to by graduate students in Earth systems Professor Karen Casciotti’s Marine Biogeochemistry Lab. From there, he participated in a research cruise through the South Pacific to study trace metal chemistry in hydrothermal vents and gain experience in oceanographic field research.

Apart from data collection, lab work and research, Monreal enjoyed capturing photos of his experience. One of these photos, which shows his research fellows collecting water samples in pajamas, recently placed first for the In the Field category in the 2021 Stanford Earth Photo Contest. 

Still, he said his photo only scratches the surface of portraying the time and effort that went into sample collection and lab work during the cruise.

“Our chemical analyses give more data to global biogeochemical models,” Monreal said. “It will add to understanding the role of hydrothermal vents in ocean and even climate health.”

Monreal’s experience has only made him more enthusiastic about oceanographic research. He plans to pursue a PhD in oceanography and apply his expertise to similar projects to better understand how the chemistry of the ocean influences past, present and future climates.

Visit the Hohbach Hall photography wall in Green Library to see Monreal’s photo and the other 2021 winners.

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