Environmental Science: Processes & Impacts Collections

Environmental Science: Processes & Impacts (ESPI) is the home for high-impact research that advances our understanding of environmental chemistry in natural matrices. Here, we’ve brought together all of our latest Article Collections, Themed Issues, and Editor’s Choice collections to enable you to easily navigate to content most relevant to you. We hope you enjoy reading the papers in these collections!

Ongoing Collections:

Themed Issues: 

 


Editors’ Choice Collections: 

 

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Environmental Chemistry of Water, Sediment, Soil and Air: Early careers meeting

Join us for this one-day meeting on the Environmental Chemistry of Water, Sediment, Soil and Air for PhD students, postdoctoral researchers, and early career scientists in industry.

You will have the opportunity to share your research in a supportive environment, network with fellow early career scientists, and hear about the career opportunities available to Environmental Chemists.

When and Where

11th March 2020 09:30-17:30

The Royal Society of Chemistry, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London, W1J 0BA, United Kingdom

Abstract Submission

We invite you to present your latest research as either a platform presentation or as a poster.

A prize will be awarded for the best oral and poster presentation.

Please use the template provided to prepare your abstract and email it to Dr Tom Sizmur (t.sizmur@reading.ac.uk) by 9am on Monday 17th February 2020

Registration

This event is FREE for RSC members who submit an abstract for a poster or oral presentation before 9am on Monday 17th February 2020 (a code will be provided that enables registration without charge).

Otherwise, registration is £25 for RSC members and £45 for non-members registering before the early bird deadline on Monday 17th February 2020 (£35 for RSC members and £55 for non-members up to the standard registration deadline on Monday 2nd March 2020).

Please register here

Keynote Speakers

Dr Laura Carter

Laura Carter is a University Academic Fellow in Soil Science at the University of Leeds. Laura’s research focuses on understanding the fate and uptake of emerging contaminants in the natural environment, with particular focus on soil-plant systems. Laura has recently been awarded a UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship (£1.2M) to investigate the risks of emerging contaminants in agricultural systems, following land application of sludges and wastewater (e.g. pharmaceuticals, microplastics).

Antony Poveda

Antony originally studied Neuroscience at the University of Manchester. This was followed, eventually, by a Masters in Science Communication from UWE. He has been part of the team running the online STEM engagement project I’m a Scientist since 2015. In that time Antony has supported hundreds of scientists in taking part, helping early career researchers engage school students across the country whilst developing their own communication skills.

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Emerging Investigator Series: Marlene Ågerstrand

Marlene Ågerstrand is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Environmental Science (ACES) at Stockholm University. She received a PhD from the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm in 2012, and did a post doc at Stockholm University 2012-2016. Her research concerns regulatory (eco)toxicology, with a focus on the assessment and management of chemicals. Aspects of interests include the use of expert judgment and science in hazard and risk assessments. The aim of her work is to improve the understanding of the decision-making process in chemicals regulation.

Read Marlene Ågerstrand’s Emerging Investigator Series article “Use of behavioural endpoints in regulation of chemicals” and read more about her in the interview below:

Your recent Emerging Investigator Series paper focuses on use of behavioural studies in chemicals regulation. How has your research evolved from your first article to this most recent article?

I started my career evaluating the importance of voluntary environmental initiatives from the pharmaceutical industry, and then moved on to evaluating chemicals regulation. Through various collaborations throughout my career I have had the opportunity to broaden my knowledge and research field. Currently, I look forward to continue the collaboration with the group of ecologists and ecotoxicologists I meet when writing this paper on the use of behavioural studies in chemicals regulation. It has been extremely rewarding to be introduced into this research field. It is such a privilege to have a work that constantly offers the opportunities to learn new stuff, and animal behaviour is such a fascinating field.

What aspect of your work are you most excited about at the moment?

I have two PhD-students that are starting just now and I look forward to working with them. They both have valuable experiences from experimental work and human health assessments that I think will benefit our joint projects. We will continue evaluating the European chemicals regulation, focusing for example on the REACH regulation. When doing my PhD I had a really supportive supervisor and I look forward to developing my tutor skills.

In your opinion, what are the most important questions to be asked/answered in this field of research?

Research on regulation of chemicals has largely focused on how science is used in decision-making but we also know that other factors, like value judgements and economic considerations, can influence how decisions are made. To fully address and understand the complexity of decision-making natural science researchers need to collaborate with social science researchers. I look forward to doing that.

What do you find most challenging about your research?

Since my research to a large extent is based on literature studies, lack of transparency in the regulatory system is a limiting factor. One of my overarching research goal is to understand how science is used, or not used, in decision-making. If hazard and risk assessments (i.e the basis of chemicals management) and the underlying studies are not publicly available it limits the possibilities to perform the research. But I sense that change is coming. Everywhere in society we see demands for increased transparency, and also in this field.

In which upcoming conferences or events may our readers meet you?

I usually attend the SETAC Europe meeting but I will unfortunately not go to the meeting in Dublin. I am trying to reduce my CO2-emissions so flying is not an option at the moment. I have travelled by train to several meetings in Europe and it works surprisingly good so I will stick to that for a while. It helps to have a department that supports environmental friendly choices, e.g. by paying the difference between the flight ticket and the train ticket.

How do you spend your spare time?

With family and friends, preferably doing outdoor activities. Climbing, orienteering, mountain biking, cross-country skiing and skating are preferred sports. Eating Vietnamese food is also prioritized. I have always prioritized my spare time (and sleeping) and I think that has been important for my health and thereby my continued career in academia.

Which profession would you choose if you were not a scientist?

I need to feel strongly motivated to do a good job, so if I worked outside academia it would have to be something within sustainable development. We only have one planet.

Can you share one piece of career-related advice or wisdom with other early career scientists?

The best thing I did in my early career was to start networking. It has opened so many doors and resulted in interesting and rewarding research collaborations. I also think it has contributed to making my research more relevant for stakeholders, and thereby increased the societal impact of my work. I started by attending meetings, emailing people I wanted to get to know, and organising sessions and other events. This is time-consuming in the beginning but after a while it gets self-generating and you can enjoy the fruits of your labour.

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Air pollution science and policy – a Christmas conference

It seems that everyday we open our newspapers there’s another story on air pollution. In the last few months I’ve seen reports that air pollution is damaging my brain, my eyesight and evenmaking me go bald. It’s not just traffic that’s to blame. I read that the solvents in my home printer are adding to the problem and that there are air pollution problems near airports, on the underground and in train stations.

This December Burlington House, home of the Royal Society of Chemistry, will once again host an air pollution conference that will explore the science behind these issues. It’s not all bad news. Looking beyond the newspaper headlines there’s some positive stories too.

Cities are investigating and introducing new measures to meet legal limits for air pollution and protect their citizens. The demonstrators who are taking to the streets and demanding urgent action to tackle our climate crisis are also demanding clean air.

In 2019 the UK Government launched its new Air Quality Strategy, embracing the science that says that air pollution stems from many sources and that we need to tackle them all. That includes traffic (of course) but also less obviously wood burning and agriculture. Increasing numbers of countries and cities are making long-term commitments to phasing out petrol and diesel cars but that will not end air pollution from transport as more and more evidence is emerging about the particle pollution that comes from tyre, brake and road wear.

Building on the success of this long-running annual event, the 2019 conference will present an update on a range of relevant topics. The presenters will include internationally recognised experts, and there will also be a range of contributed talks and posters, providing a broad and up-to-date survey of the measurement, regulatory and scientific issues affecting air quality.

The conference will again be held in collaboration with Defra’s Air Quality Expert Group (AQEG), with sessions based on the group’s recently-published reports, including those on non-exhaust particle emissions and assessing the effectiveness of interventions intended to improve air quality. Presentations will also be made on topics that AQEG are currently investigating, including developments in vehicle exhaust emissions and non-methane volatile organic compounds. There will also be a session devoted to recent advances in airborne particle measurements, linked to the European AEROMET project.

The conference takes place on 10th and 11th December and spaces are still available see: http://www.rsc.org/events/detail/41198/air-quality-responding-to-new-challenges to book your place.

Gary Fuller

Gary Fuller is an air pollution scientist at King’s College London. His book, The Invisible Killer is published by Melville House and explores the past, present and future of air pollution.

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Emerging Investigator Series: Adrien Mestrot

Adrien Mestrot is Assistant Professor Tenure-Track for Soil Science at the Institute of Geography of the University of Bern (Switzerland). He graduated from the Université de Pau et des Pays de l’Adour (UPPA, France) and obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Aberdeen (UK) in 2011. He then worked with the Soil Science Group at the University of Bern where he received a Marie Curie IEF Fellowship in 2013 and a SNSF Professorship in 2016.

Read Adrien Mestrot’s Emerging Investigator Series article “Mercury mobility and methylmercury formation in a contaminated agricultural flood plain: Influence of flooding and manure addition” and read more about him in the interview below:

Your recent Emerging Investigator Series paper focuses on Mercury mobility and methylmercury formation in a contaminated agricultural flood plain: Influence of flooding and manure addition. How has your research evolved from your first article to this most recent article?

During my PhD at the University of Aberdeen, I studied the biovolatilisation of arsenic from soil and my first paper described a new method to trap, identify and quantify volatile arsenic species. Biovolatilisation and biomethylation of arsenic are intrinsically linked and these two mechanisms are still not well understood. Having gained knowledge on speciation analysis and arsenic transformations in soils, I set out to explore the fate of other trace elements that are redox sensitive and undergo biomethylation and biovolatilisation in soils. I was particularly interested in antimony and mercury. I continued with this line of research as a Marie Sklodowska Curie fellow at the Institute of Geography of the University of Bern, where I could take full advantage of the state-of-the-art laboratory. During this time, I modified, developed and validated extraction and analytical techniques to measure volatile and dissolved forms of these three toxic elements in soils, soil solution and the atmosphere. After the fellowship, I obtained a SNSF Professorship and I more recently became Assistant Professor tenure-track for Soil Science – all in the same institute. I am now able to use these extraction and analysis techniques to understand the drivers behind the formation of these chemical species, while focusing on the effect of climate change (flooding, temperature) and agricultural practices (manure amendments) on the release, biomethylation and biovolatilisation of mercury, antimony and arsenic in soils.

What aspect of your work are you most excited about at the moment?

What currently excites me a lot as a new faculty member is the opportunities that are given to me to talk about the research conducted in my group. I assume people hear that a new person has been appointed and are curious to know more. During the last couple of years I have received several invitations to give talks in other research groups and Federal Offices in Switzerland. This is a great chance for me to tell the bigger story behind the various current projects and provides opportunities for building a diverse professional network in Switzerland.

In your opinion, what are the most important questions to be asked/answered in this field of research?

Generally, soils are seen as sinks for trace elements since these can bind to different soil components such as e.g. iron and manganese (oxy-)hydroxides, clays or organic matter. However, when flooding occurs, trace elements bound to iron and manganese (oxy-)hydroxides are released through a mechanism called reductive dissolution. Once released to the soil solution, the trace elements are available to soil organisms and plants and could be transported to groundwater. Microorganisms can also then take-up these elements and transform them to more toxic (e.g. methylmercury), more mobile or even volatile species. Current global climate predictions tell us that extreme weather events with heavy rains and flooding will become more frequent, thus turning soils into a potential source of trace elements. Therefore, for me, the most important question is about the potential influence of climate change on the release and the speciation of trace elements in soils and if it can influence their global biogeochemical cycle.

What do you find most challenging about your research?

In order to understand and characterise the release, biomethylation and biovolatilisation of trace elements in soils, one must have a very broad set of skills. From soil science to advanced analytical chemistry and a sound understanding of microbial processes. However, this means that collaborations are necessary which is always interesting and an opportunity to extend one’s research horizon.

In which upcoming conferences or events may our readers meet you?

I try to attend as few conferences as necessary, both for family reasons (I have a young son) and to reduce my carbon footprint. I tend to favour conferences that are local or can be reached by train although this is not always possible! Every year I attend the Swiss Geoscience Meeting and every two years there is ICOBTE. Of course I try to go to Goldschmidt as often as possible since it is an important conference in my field. This year I will attend ContaSed, which we are organising in Bern, and Eurosoil, which will be taking place in August 2020 in Geneva.

How do you spend your spare time?

I like gardening and DIY. These are activities that allow me to focus for a few hours on an object or task through a well-defined activity with a start and an end, which is very different from our day-to-day work as scientists. I also love hiking, climbing and spending time with my family and friends.

Which profession would you choose if you were not a scientist?

I would choose to be a science journalist, a science communicator or a managing editor for a journal. I don’t think I would enjoy working in a non-science related job.

Can you share one piece of career-related advice or wisdom with other early career scientists?

My advice for early career researchers is to take part in the different commissions of your institution and become a representative for your peers (e.g. PhD or postdoc representative). It will allow you to network with more senior members of your institutions (lecturers, professors etc..) while contributing to shape your place of work and potentially your university and beyond. In my opinion, the most pressing issues to be addressed in research include improving gender equality, work-life balance and sustainability.  I think that early career researchers and newly appointed faculty members have strong leverage to push forward the required changes in academia.

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International Year of the Periodic Table: ESPI Themed Issue on Mercury

To celebrate the International Year of the Periodic Table 2019 (IYPT) we are delighted to share with you ESPI’s recent collection on Mercury Biogeochemistry, Exposure, and Impacts

 Edited by ESPI Associate Editor Helen Hsu-Kim (Duke University) and Guest Editors Chris Eckley (EPA) and Noelle Selin (MIT), this issue highlights a selection of high-quality research relating to the fate and effects of mercury on humans and the environment. We’ve made these articles free to access until 30th November – we hope you enjoy reading them!

Read the full collection

Highlights include:

Hg isotopes reveal in-stream processing and legacy inputs in East Fork Poplar Creek, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, USA
Jason Demers et al

Responses of deposition and bioaccumulation in the Great Lakes region to policy and other large-scale drivers of mercury emissions
Judith Perlinger et al

Microbial community structure with trends in methylation gene diversity and abundance in mercury-contaminated rice paddy soils in Guizhou, China
Dwayne Elias et al

Mining legacy across a wetland landscape: high mercury in Upper Peninsula (Michigan) rivers, lakes, and fish
Charles Kerfoot et al

Emerging investigator series: methylmercury speciation and dimethylmercury production in sulfidic solutions
Andrew M. Graham et al

Also, why not browse more of our great element-focussed work on Arsenic, Iron, Cadmium and the Radioelements

Click here to return to the Journal homepage

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Halogenated (semi)volatile organic compounds (“X(S)VOCs”) Themed Issue

Environmental Science: Processes & Impacts (ESPI) seeks your high-impact research for our upcoming Themed Issue on Halogenated (semi)volatile organic compounds (“X(S)VOCs”).

Guest Edited by Elizabeth Edwards (University of Toronto), Lucy Carpenter (University of York), Sarah Blossom (University Arkansas Medical Science) and ESPI Associate Editor Paul Tratnyek (Oregon Health & Science University) this issue will focus especially on chlorinated solvents (TCE), their metabolites, disinfection byproducts (THMs), etc. and their environmental occurrence, fate, effects, and remediation. A wide range of contributions are encouraged, from any compartment (air, soil, water, biota, etc.).

Submissions for this Themed Issue are due by 1st November 2019 – if you would like to submit to this Themed Issue, please contact the Environmental Science: Processes & Impacts Editorial Office at espi-rsc@rsc.org to let us know.

 

Guest Editors (Left to Right): Elizabeth Edwards (University of Toronto), Lucy Carpenter (University of York), Sarah Blossom (University Arkansas Medical Science) and ESPI Associate Editor Paul Tratnyek (Oregon Health & Science University)

Click here to return to the journal homepage

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Cryosphere Chemistry: Themed Issue in ESPI

Environmental Science: Processes & Impacts (ESPI) seeks your high-impact research for our upcoming Themed Issue on Cryosphere Chemistry.  

Guest Edited by Rose Cory and Kerri Pratt (University of Michigan) this issue will showcase studies on chemical processes in sea ice, snow, glaciers, ice sheets, permafrost soils as well as studies on waters draining permafrost soils. A wide range of contributions are encouraged, from atmospheric chemistry (e.g. atmospheric aerosols and trace gases) to biogeochemistry (e.g. chemical weathering or organic matter chemistry). Laboratory, field or modeling studies from diverse environments (e.g. glaciers, high latitude and high altitude systems) are welcomed.

Submissions for this Themed Issue are due by 29th February 2020 – if you would like to submit to this Themed Issue, please contact the Environmental Science: Processes & Impacts Editorial Office at espi-rsc@rsc.org to let us know.

 

Guest Editors (Left to Right): Rose Cory (University of Michigan) and Kerri Pratt (University of Michigan)

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Emerging Investigator Series: Case van Genuchten

Case van Genuchten received a B.Sc. in 2008 from San Diego State University and a M.Sc. (2009) and Ph.D. (2013) from the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at the University of California, Berkeley.  Following his Ph.D., Case van Genuchten spent two years as a post-doctoral researcher in the Environmental Geochemistry Laboratory at the University of Lausanne (CH). He then received a prestigious Veni grant for young researchers from the Applied and Engineering Sciences Division of the Dutch Organization for Scientific Research. As part of this grant, he spent three years at Utrecht University in the Netherlands investigating mixed-valent Fe(II,III) (hydr)oxides generated by Fe(0) electrolysis as a decentralized method of arsenic treatment. The major question driving Case van Genuchten’s research involves how nano- and sub-nanoscale processes, including mineral dissolution/precipitation, ion sorption, and electron transfer, govern the transport and bioavailability of major elements (P, Ca, Si) and toxic trace contaminants (As, Pb, Cd).  Specifically, he is interested in applying wet-chemical methods and advanced synchrotron-based characterization techniques to generate fundamental knowledge that can be applied in the design of water and soil remediation strategies, particularly in decentralized, resource-scarce communities. Currently, Case van Genuchten is a researcher in the Geochemistry Department of the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland (GEUS).

Read Case van Genuchten’s Emerging Investigator Series article “Interdependency of Green Rust Transformation and the Partitioning and Binding Mode of Arsenic” and read more about her in the interview below:

Your recent Emerging Investigator Series paper focuses on the Interdependency of Green Rust Transformation and the Partitioning and Binding Mode of Arsenic. How has your research evolved from your first article to this most recent article?

From the beginning of my career, I have been interested in designing water treatment technologies particularly for resource-scarce and marginalized communities. My first series of articles focused on developing an electrochemical method of removing arsenic from contaminated groundwater used as a source of drinking water in South Asia, where millions are suffering from arsenic poisoning. This method is based on the electrolytic dissolution of steel electrodes to generate reactive ferric oxides that bind arsenic effectively. In the years since these first publications, we learned that by simply changing the way electric current is applied to steel electrodes (i.e. a lot of current over a short time, rather than a small current over a long time), different phases of iron oxides can form, such as green rust. Green rust is a mixed valent iron oxide that contains both ferrous and ferric iron and has unique redox and sorption reactivity, but can transform rapidly into other types of iron oxides because it is relatively unstable. The Emerging Investigator Series article determines how structural transformations of green rust alter the dissolved arsenic concentration in water – some green rust transformations increase dissolved arsenic, others beneficially decrease it. The ultimate goal of this work, and one of the general themes of my research since my Ph.D., is to gain knowledge to improve arsenic remediation strategies in a variety of environmental and socioeconomic conditions.

What aspect of your work are you most excited about at the moment?

In the last year, I have been spending a lot of time thinking about sustainable methods of managing arsenic-laden waste that is generated as a by product of treating arsenic contamination. This idea is briefly mentioned in the discussion section of the Emerging Investigator Series article in the context of separating arsenic from the green rust for further processing of the material. All arsenic treatment methods produce arsenic-rich waste and currently there is no real sustainable method of managing this material. Currently, the most common disposal strategy for arsenic-rich waste is landfilling, which is economically and environmentally unsustainable. What excites me most about my current and future work is trying to develop a series of chemical, electrochemical, and biological techniques that can recover resources for arsenic-rich waste and enable a circular economy for this carcinogenic material.

In your opinion, what are the most important questions to be asked/answered in this field of research?

One of my primary research interests is in developing appropriate technologies for poor, decentralized communities that lack infrastructure. In this field, one of the most urgent and important questions is how to best design technologies that address technical challenges while fitting within the socioeconomic and cultural constraints of the affected community. In other words, how can we integrate the technical expertise of engineers and practitioners with the cultural and economic understanding of the affected community gained by social scientists, economists, NGOs, and local community leaders to ensure sustained engineered solutions? The ongoing crisis of naturally occurring arsenic contamination of groundwater used for drinking in South and Southeast Asia is a timely example of how solving complex problems that affect marginalized populations requires a multidisciplinary approach. Research in this field, which has been called Development Engineering or Humanitarian Engineering, is beginning to show the importance of coordinating technical solutions with the socioeconomic and cultural characteristics of the end user, but I think this field is still in its infancy and there are many opportunities for new ideas.

What do you find most challenging about your research?

I think the answer to this question relates to the previous one.  Although I will always be excited to apply synchrotron-based X-ray methods to determine the molecular-scale underpinnings of remediation strategies, as is the focus of this article, what I find both challenging and motivating is applying this detailed information to improve real world solutions.  It is not always straightforward to translate results from small-scale experiments in controlled laboratory conditions to practical knowledge that can be used by technology practitioners.  I hope I can get better at this in the future!

In which upcoming conferences or events may our readers meet you?

In 2019, I will be attending the Geochemical Society’s Goldschmidt conference in Barcelona, Spain. In 2020, I will be heading to the ISGSD International Congress on Arsenic in the Environment in Utrecht, the Netherlands and the IWA World Water Congress in Copenhagen, Denmark.

How do you spend your spare time?

I guess I am still kind of a kid when it comes to spare time. I grew up in Southern California and spent a lot of time surfing and snowboarding, but I live in Copenhagen now so it is a bit more difficult to keep this up. Still, I try to go on as many surf and snowboard trips as I can. I also still skateboard a lot and Copenhagen is a great place to keep that up. The other activities I like to do are a bit more standard: hiking, barbecuing, and watching movies and baseball with my partner, Sofie.

Which profession would you choose if you were not a scientist?

Hmmmm… That is tough. I haven’t thought about that since I was a teenager. I guess getting paid to surf would be an amazing life, but maybe doing that as a job would end up making it less fun than doing it as a hobby. I have been hooked on true crime media lately. Perhaps it is the kind of “Hollywood” way that the shows are produced, but the ways in which the detectives solve some of these unbelievable crimes is super interesting and the approach seems to consist of some scientific aspects. So maybe I’d try to be a crime-solving detective?  Except detective van Genuchten doesn’t really have a good ring to it.

Can you share one piece of career-related advice or wisdom with other early career scientists?

I think the advice I would give would differ for the different stages of early career scientist. For someone in a Ph.D. program, I would say it is really important that you are motivated by the project rather than by other external factors. Before I started my Ph.D., I asked myself if I would be happy working in the field of my project for ten years even though the Ph.D. should take less than half that. The reason is that learning to do research is difficult and there are many struggles that all Ph.D. students face. If you are not motivated by the project, it can be easy to lose focus and give up. For someone beginning a post-doc, I would say that it is important to continue to learn and ask questions and to not be afraid to try new things and apply your skills in different environments. I have a lot of good memories of my post-doc at the University of Lausanne (Switzerland) and I think it was due partly to the stronger sense of independence and freedom I had. For someone entering a tenure-track position, I think my advice would be that since you have made it this far already, try to not worry too much about the future and enjoy the present as much as you can.  At any career stage beyond that, I cannot give too much advice because I am not there yet. However, perhaps my kind of sarcastic, tongue-in-cheek advice for more senior scientists would be to not forget what being a Ph.D. student was like.  It is difficult to learn to be a scientist, so try not to be too hard on the students.

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Emerging Investigator Series: Tara Kahan

Tara Kahan in the lab

Tara Kahan obtained a B.Sc. in chemistry from the University of Regina and a PhD in environmental chemistry from the University of Toronto. Following postdoctoral fellowships at the University of California Irvine and the University of Colorado Boulder, Tara joined the chemistry department at Syracuse University as an assistant professor in 2012, and she is now an associate professor and Canada Research Chair in Environmental Analytical Chemistry in the chemistry department at the University of Saskatchewan. Tara investigates poorly-understood reactions that affect environmental and human health, with a focus on two distinct themes: reactions of pollutants in water, snow, and ice; and indoor chemistry.

Read Tara Kahan’s Emerging Investigator Series article “Spatial distribution of dissolved organic matter in ice and at air-ice interfaces” and read more about her in the interview below:

Your recent Emerging Investigator Series paper focuses on microspectroscopy of organic solutes at ice surfaces. How has your research evolved from your first article to this most recent article?

My research group’s first article was published 5 years ago. That paper showed that organic matter can greatly alter pollutant photolysis rates in ice, even if the organic matter doesn’t itself absorb sunlight. That was an exciting paper for me, both because it was my first, and also because it set the stage for a major research direction in my group: Investigating reactivity in “dirty” ice. This current article focuses on the same major theme, but has a very different approach. We’ve recently expanded our repertoire so that in addition to measuring reaction kinetics at ice surfaces we can characterize physical and chemical  properties of ice surfaces using Raman microscopy. I’m very excited to pursue this new research direction, and to use Raman microscopy to better understand heterogeneous atmospheric reactions.

What aspect of your work are you most excited about at the moment?

My favourite part of research is discussing ideas with other people, and especially with group members. So I tend to feel most excited about whatever is currently in front of me. Right now that is Raman microscopy work. (Plus, it’s really exciting to think about all of the research directions that we could pursue with this technique.) But I know that when group members come to me with results in other areas (reaction kinetics in water and ice, indoor chemistry) I will be just as excited about those.

In your opinion, what are the most important questions to be asked/answered in this field of research?

In the area of ice chemistry, I think that a big issue is the difficulty in effectively using fundamental properties (e.g., rate constants, partitioning coefficients) determined from laboratory measurements to improve our understanding of observations made in the field. Part of the issue is that there just aren’t that many laboratory measurements in ice or at ice surfaces (compared to, for example, in liquid water). Another issue is that the atmosphere is very complex and “messy”, and laboratory experiments made under necessarily simplified conditions may yield results that are difficult to translate to the real world. I hope that our research on solute-containing ice will help to bridge this gap. I think that the most important thing is to continue bringing together researchers in different areas (laboratory, modelling, and field observations) to discuss capabilities, needs, and potential synergies and collaborations.

What do you find most challenging about your research?

My biggest challenge isn’t with my research itself, but with navigating the role of “principal investigator”. I have struggled with balancing the many demands on my time (teaching, service, grant-writing, the administrative duties of running a lab, advising group members) that I did not have as a graduate student or postdoctoral researcher. Over the years I have gotten better at carving out time to focus exclusively on research, but it never feels like enough.

In which upcoming conferences or events may our readers meet you?

I will be presenting at the 2019 American Chemical Society (ACS) Fall Meeting in August and at the Society for Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) meeting in November.

How do you spend your spare time?

Wrangling my toddler, mostly. That aside, we love being outside, and try to take advantage of the many wonderful parks, lakes, hiking trails, etc. within driving distance of our home.

Which profession would you choose if you were not a scientist?

My passions have always leaned toward the creative side. If I didn’t end up as a scientist, I might have pursued writing, or music (clarinet), or art. I decided on science because I figured that chemistry is harder to do as a hobby.

Can you share one piece of career-related advice or wisdom with other early career scientists?

Two things helped me a lot pre-tenure. The first was being part of a peer mentoring network. This was a group of 10 women science faculty who met every other week to discuss topics related to our careers. The structured meetings were based on the book Every Other Thursday by Ellen Daniell. We found this group incredibly helpful in dealing with issues (e.g., related to teaching, mentoring, navigating university politics) and clarifying and achieving our goals. I encourage junior faculty to set up a similar group, and I am always happy to answer questions or give guidance on this – the support I received was so helpful that I want everyone to experience it! (And to note, this is not only useful for junior faculty – I know of groups set up by postdocs and graduate students, as well as a group by senior women faculty).

The second thing I found helpful was limiting the time I put into my work. We can always do more, and it’s hard to feel as though we’re doing enough. I decided early on that if I couldn’t get tenure while still enjoying my job and my life, then tenure wasn’t worth it. That thought has alleviated guilt I would otherwise feel about taking time for me and my family. I’m sure I could have been a bit more productive if I had forced myself to work more, but I would have been much less happy. I want to love my job forever, and my approach will help me do that. Everyone’s idea of balance will be different, but I think that understanding what that is and consciously working to achieve it is important for long-term happiness and success.

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RSC Environmental Science Journal Symposium at NCEC this August

We are delighted to announce a special journal Symposia taking place at the NCEC in Tianjin, China, next month. This Symposia will feature talks from Editorial Board members of Environmental Science: Processes & Impacts, Environmental Science: Nano, and Environmental Science: Water Research & Technology, alongside some of our recent Emerging Investigators.

More details about the NCEC conference can be found here, including details on how to register

Symposium details

When: Saturday 17th August (all-day)

Where: Nankai University, Tianjin

Speakers and talk titles:

John Fortner Yale University, USA
TBC

Helen Hsu-Kim Duke University, USA
Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mining in the Peruvian Amazon: Mobilization, Bioaccumulation, and Exposure of Mercury

Zhang Lin South China University of Technology, China
TBC

Greg Lowry Carnegie Mellon University, USA
TBC

Iseult Lynch University of Birmingham, UK
TBC

Joel Pedersen UW-Madison, USA
Modulation of nanoparticle-membrane interactions by proteins

Weiguo Song Chinese Academy of Sciences, China
Nano stirrer to enhance catalytic rate within micro droplets

Paul Tratnyek Oregon Health & Science University, USA
Redox Properties of Natural Organic Matter

Peter Vikesland Virginia Tech, USA
Nanosensor development for pH sensing in confined environments

Laura Carter University of Leeds, UK
Pharmaceutical Exposure in Agro-Ecosystems

Jingyun Fang Sun Yat-Sen University, China
Roles of halogen radicals for the abatement of micropollutants by the UV/chlorine process

Xian-Zheng Yuan Shandong University, China
Short-term nanoplastics exposure causes oxidative stress and membrane destruction in cyanobacteria

This Symposium aims to showcase the exciting research being conducted by thought-leaders and rising stars in the field of environmental science and engineering – we do hope that you will be able to join us!

Click here to return to the ESPI journal homepage

Click here to return to the ES:Nano journal homepage

Click here to return to the ESWRT journal homepage

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