Lawrence Khournso

I am an undergraduate researcher in the Earth System Science Department, majoring in Environmental Science. My educational experience stems from my AP environmental science class in high school, which started off with water quality testing at the Arroyo Seco. After high school I attended Pasadena City College and earned my Associates degree in Natural Sciences. I was fortunate to meet professors that further refined my skills and taught me advanced water testing techniques, microscopy, plant and mineral identification, and many more skills. I transferred to UC Irvine in the fall of 2017, seeking research with an interest in using what I had learned previously. Since then, I have had the opportunity to go on adventures and learn even more skills, which I would never have imagined.  


My current project is to identify different phyla of phytoplankton such as diatoms, dinoflagellates, and cyanobacteria, to determine if and how different species of phytoplankton are contributing to the decline of wildlife at the Salton Sea. The Salton Sea has heavy metals and pesticides located in the sediments which can also be tested to see if  phytoplankton are affected. Phytoplankton play a crucial role in marine ecosystems. The Salton Sea is currently maintained by agricultural runoff and rainfall, and has an average area of about 378 square miles. It has been shrinking and salinity has been increasing due to rapid evaporation. There have been large numbers of wildlife mortalities at the Salton Sea linked to these changes. The nutrient rich waters encourage algal blooms and may contain species of toxic algae that harm wildlife. Other factors include include increasing salinity, temperature extremes, and increasing eutrophication. My research is sponsored by the UCI Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program.