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Faces of Gallaudet - Internships

Trolling for Samples

by Seth Gore, Class of 2011

Rami Traurig, a junior biology major and chemistry minor, interned last summer with James Madison University’s Department of Chemistry under the Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program. Dr. Daniel Lundberg, a Gallaudet faculty member in the Chemistry Department, recommended that Rami complement his classroom studies with field research experience in an environmental setting.

Sponsored by the National Science Foundation, REU provides undergraduate college students with summer research experiences within a specific science discipline.

Rami’s research included collecting and analyzing freshwater samples from reservoirs in the Shenandoah Valley and the George Washington National Forest. Rami rode in a two-person boat with a trolling motor to collect samples and used a fluorometer and ultraviolet-visible spectrophotometer for sample analysis.

“The most significant skill I had to learn,” Rami said, “was the technique of using simple and complex laboratory equipment from a pipette bulb to electrical devices such as an ultraviolet-visible spectrophotometer and a fluorometer.” Both devices were for identifying the presence of total phosphorus and chlorophyll a in the freshwater samples that he collected from reservoirs.

Analysis of the samples helped Rami and his colleagues determine the quality of water from select reservoirs, where the quality of the water directs the purpose of the specific reservoir — varying from basic fishing to a source of drinking water. Collected data is submitted to the Virginia Department of Games and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF).

Water with high nutrient levels (warmer, more green in color) is more suited for bass fishing. Water with low nutrient levels (cooler, clear) is more suited for trout fishing and a source of drinking water. If the nutrient state does not meet the desired nutrient level of the reservoir, the VDGIF will create proposals on how to manage the reservoir’s water quality to meet the desired nutrient state.

Student researchers in the REU program have the same opportunity as full-time scientists to share their research. Rami and his fellow student research partner presented their research findings, “Carlson’s Trophic State Index (TSI) of the Shenandoah Valley Reservoirs” at the Summer Research Symposium.

Rami’s field experience has given his resume a stronger foothold for graduate school in environmental science. He’ll be trolling more now in the area of field research.