A carbon cycle detective in action…
A little more about the carbon cycle fingerprinting work that I have been involved with since my time at Lund University. I completed the sampling and experimental work for the chemical fingerprinting project described in the blog post “Fate of terrestrial organic matter in the marine environment”. I was able to successfully combine both mass spectrometry data with UV absorbance data to trace the sources and reactivity of dissolved organic matter in the environment. But what does this really mean? Much like a forensic analyst who can use the unique fingerprints at a crime scene to identify a suspect, I measured a lot of aspects of DOM in Swedish waters and broke those measurements down into what can considered a unique fingerprint of the carbon in the water. Where does it come from? Has it changed along its journey down the river? How?
Mass spectrometry is a great tool that can give us insight into the molecules that form the mixture of DOM, and UV spectroscopy can tell us about how those same molecules affect the colour of water. We get lots of information about the system by combining them, but it can be overwhelming. Looking for specific fingerprints of sources (i.e. forest streams or high-altitude mountainsides) and reactivity (photochemistry or microbes) can help to breakdown these large amounts of data and understand the role that this pool of carbon plays in the global cycle. Turns out, the fingerprinting was really successful and I am now applying the same approach to carbon in the Arctic Ocean, a sensitive marine environment.
Read the published paper on fingerprinting here