Laura Robledo

I am an undergraduate researcher at UC Irvine in the Earth System Science Department. I study the different levels of nutrients in aerosols collected in Orange County, and how they change during Santa Ana winds when fires are common. These nutrients eventually get transferred by winds towards the Southern California coast, where they are deposited on the ocean surface. More nutrients added to the surface can greatly affect the way that phytoplankton, which are important photosynthetic organisms, grow and thrive. I am also studying the effects of emissions from fossil fuel combustion that contribute to the nutrient concentrations in aerosols.

My aerosol samples were collected on the UC Irvine campus. The specific nutrients I am measuring include nitrate, nitrite, and ammonium. Isotope and concentration data has been quantified and will be correlated with Santa Ana effects. I use the HYSPLIT model to determine the back trajectory of winds, in order to figure out if the wind trajectory is in fact a Santa Ana event, and if it could have carried dust and soot from a fire, therefore affecting nutrient concentrations. This research is especially important because Santa Ana winds eventually carry these nutrients towards the Southern California Coast, which has an effect on the phytoplankton population. This research has been funded by the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP).