NEWS | April 30, 2012

NRL Intern from Naval Academy Presents Summer Work at AGU OS12

By Shannon Breland

Naval Research Laboratory intern Midshipman First Class Abigail M. Ellis, U.S. Naval Academy (USNA), presented work from her summer internship with the Seafloor Sciences Branch at the American Geophysical Union Ocean Sciences Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, February 20-24.

Attending scientists and professionals from national laboratories, universities, the Naval Post-Graduate School, and the Office of Naval Research viewed her poster presentation, titled Flocculation in the Pearl River Estuary - Particle Size Variations in a Circumneutral pH River System with High Colloidal Iron, while at the conference.

Dr. Allen Reed, from NRL's Marine Geosciences Division, led Ellis in the project during the summer of 2011 as part of the USNA Summer Internship Program.

Her work was a field component of the Advanced Research Initiative (ARI), Biogeochemical Influences on Cohesive Sediment Strength in Marine and Estuarine Environments. Over the summer, MIDN 1/C Ellis studied sediment particle sizes, including flocculated aggregates of clay, biopolymers and metals that were collected from the water column of the Pearl River, located near NRL-Stennis Space Center (SSC) on the border between Mississippi and Louisiana. The study focused on factors that influence particle size and control flocculation, such as salinity and pH.

Using state-of-the-art equipment, Ellis performed rigorous analyses on particle sizes ranging from nanometer to millimeter.

She approached the problem with dedicated enthusiasm, said Reed. Ellis was assisted by other NRL-SSC ARI participants - Dr. Jason Dale, Dr. Yoko Furukawa and LCDR Matthew Doan, NRL's Marine Geosciences Division - and Dr. Guoping Zhang at Louisiana State University.

Ellis will use the data she collected during her internship and the feedback from her presentation as the basis for her independent research capstone project (senior thesis).

Future Internships

Two additional Midshipmen are scheduled to work at NRL-SSC this summer. The ARI field component for summer 2012 will be to evaluate flow velocity and shear strength of flocculated muds offshore of the Atchafalaya River, Southern Louisiana.

CDR Joseph Smith of the USNA Oceanography Department coordinated Ellis's internship with NRL-SSC and will oversee future internships. He is also a point of contact for placing USNA Midshipmen in Summer Internships at NRL-KW and NR-DC.

Hopefully, this will be the start of a long-standing and highly productive relationship between NRL-SSC and the USNA, said Reed.

Following graduation this spring, Ellis will commence flight training in Pensacola, Fla. Her stated goal is to work in a flight squadron with interest ranges from the thrilling speed of the EA-18 Growler to that of monitoring tropical storm activity on a Hurricane Hunter. We wish her all the best!