David Gillikin - Research Corp Cottrell College Science Award

Award Date: May 2011


Assistant Professor of Geology, David Gillikin, has been awarded the Single Investigator Cottrell College Science Award through the Research Corporation for Science Advancement.  The $35,000 grant for Dr. Gillikin's project "Developing archives of aquatic chemistry from freshwater mussel shell geochemistry: Stable isotopes, trace elements, and biomineralization" will support the development of a sustainable research program and enhance undergraduate involvement in research activities


With increasing urbanization, water quality of rivers has become a major concern. Therefore, this proposal seeks funds to develop ultra-high-resolution archives of water chemistry from freshwater mussel shells. This will be the most complete and the highest resolution calibration study to date, with a suite of environmental parameters being monitored weekly for more than one year. Several hypotheses on the controls of δ13Cshell will be evaluated with the aim of developing a δ13CDIC proxy. A freshwater δ13CDIC proxy could provide indications of past pH, soil respiration, stream productivity, and anthropogenic pollution. δ15N in shell-bound organic matter has the potential of recording wastewater inputs into rivers. This project would be the first ever δ15Nshell calibration study and has the potential of providing a tool to reconstruct pollution events on a sub-seasonal basis. Shell growth rate and growth-lines will be investigated as a proxy of temperature and food availability. Element to calcium ratios can be utilized to understand ion fluxes and pollution loads in freshwater systems, but there are few calibration studies. Once these proxies are calibrated, shells can be used to develop baselines of water chemistry and provide insight on anthropogenic effects on rivers, which will assist with water-quality management decisions.