April Abbott ’09 won the best Graduate Student Poster Award for her presentation at the 2010 Joint Northeastern-Southeastern Sections Meeting of the Geological Society of America in Baltimore, Md., earlier this year. She received this award for her research conducted while an undergraduate student at Hobart and William Smith Colleges.
Under the direction of Associate Professor of Geoscience Tara Curtin, Abbott analyzed sediment cores collected from Seneca Lake to study the history of mercury pollution over the past 200 years. Abbott was invited to present her poster again at the national Geological Society of America meeting in Denver, Colo., in November. She was also awarded travel and registration funds from the Geological Society of America to attend the conference.
Abbott’s analyses indicate mercury concentrations in Seneca Lake reached their maximum between 1890 and 1910, which predates peaks observed in other Finger Lakes and neighboring Great Lakes. Most lakes in the northeastern U.S. record a peak in mercury concentration during the early 1970s, coincident with maximum mercury emissions to the atmosphere in the U.S. and the Great Lakes region in particular. Abbott and Curtin deduced that local rather than regional sources of mercury must be responsible for the early peak in mercury concentrations in Seneca Lake. Based on archival research conducted at two historical societies (Geneva and Penn Yan, N.Y.) as well as at HWS and the Cornell University’s New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, they determined that 19th century industry, such as paper mills, tanneries and hatteries, is a potential source for the high mercury concentrations found in Seneca Lake sediment. Abbott and Curtin are putting the final touches on a paper to submit for publication over winter break.
Abbott continues her investigation of lake sediment as a graduate student. She is in her second year at the University of Minnesota at Duluth, taking a full course load toward a master’s in the geological sciences and working in the Large Lakes Observatory. She is using a relatively new temperature proxy called TEX86 (TetraEther indeX of tetraethers with 86 carbon atoms) to determine how lake water surface temperatures changed in Lake Malawi (Africa) over the past 200,000 years.
She graduated from William Smith with a B.S. in geosciences, magna cum laude, and a second major in Asian languages and cultures in May 2009.