Collaborative Water Program alum Fredrick Cheng, PhD candidate in Civil and Environmental Engineering, has been awarded the American Geophysical Union Horton (Hydrology) Research Grant. Each year this prestigious grant is awarded to up to three students during their candidacy for a PhD degree in hydrology, water resources, or a closely related field.
“Being awarded this grant will help me to continue studying biogeochemical hotspots and the role of different wetland types in landscape nutrient processing,” said Cheng. “Specifically, I’ll be able to visit and collaborate with Professor Amilcare Porporato at Princeton University, who will provide important advice on my research around hydrological and biogeochemical models.”
During his master’s program Cheng and his supervisor, professor Nandita Basu, found that small wetlands have a more significant role to play than larger ones in preventing excess nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilizer from reaching waterbodies such as the Great Lakes.
“When nutrient-filled water headed for the lake hits a wetland, the water slows down and nutrients either get absorbed into the wetland soil or get converted into gas,” said Cheng. “The water leaving the wetlands is much lighter in nutrient-content — meaning less nitrogen and phosphorus for algae to feed on in lakes and reservoirs. Nutrients that are left behind feed the wetland plants.”