PhD student Rebecca Pickering-Turner is fitting the smaller pieces together to understand the larger picture of the marine environment. She said she's always been drawn to understanding what you can't see.
"I was the kid that pulled stuff apart just to learn how it worked and put it back together. I was also the girl with the rock collection that was constantly covered in mud and wanting to explore," Pickering-Turner shared.
That desire to dig deeper led Pickering-Turner to focus her research on biogeochemical silicon cycling at the sediment-water interface. Specifically, she's looking at reverse weathering processes, production and dissolution of biogenic silica, the natural abudance and fractination of silicon isotopes, and sediment sorption capacities.
"These topics may seem extremely specific and part of a small niche, but they tie into the large scale elemental cycles of the ocean," Pickering-Turner said. "By gaining a better understanding of the way things work on a small scale we can fill knowledge gaps that currently exist and apply our results to larger ecosystems within the marine environment."
Pickering-Turner began her college career in Marine Biology, but said she found that Geochemistry was the better fit.
"Everything is tied together somehow, and the marine environment is the largest example of that. What’s cooler that using the past and the elements the earth gives us to try and solve future problems," Pickering-Turner excitedly shares.
In talking with her, you can see and hear she has a passion for what she does.
"I started my program here at DISL with a geology background, and wanted to create a truly interdisciplinary approach in biogeochemistry looking at all the systems of a specific marine environment; biological, geological and chemical. I would like to be remembered for crossing traditional disciplinary boundaries and combining experimental and analytical approaches in both biological and geological aspects of the ocean. In order to fully understand elemental cycling we have to think outside of the box to better understand driving forces and unlock the keys to our past and future."
Her desire to learn from the past offers no surprise that her favorite marine animal is the long-extinct trilobite.
"They roamed the oceans for millions of years and dominated in every ecosystem that they faced. To this day, the exact reason why they became extinct is still unclear, but I think the mystery makes it more exciting! Overall, they are pretty awesome and I would have a tank full if they were still around."
Pickering-Turner's undergraduate degree is from Eckerd College. She has a M.S. from Georgia State University, and joined the University of South Alabama and Dauphin Island Sea Lab program in 2015 under Dr. Jeff Krause.
She hopes to one day complete a post-doc overseas to examine how processes she studies here effect other environments and elemental cycles worldwide.