Chris Lynum is a PhD student at Northeastern University’s Marine Science Centerwho studies Salt Marshes and their ability to transform nitrogen in the water into inert nitrogen gas (quite a superpower!). Chris is a Wisconsin native who’s studies and fascinations have brought him to Beantown.
Many of New England’s salt marshes have been wiped out or damaged over the last centuries (consider how much of Boston used to be water and you’ll start to see why). In some cases, humans have restored – or attempted to restore – salt marshes to something close to their original state.
There are two kinds of Salt Marsh restoration:
Chris studies how different approaches to Salt Marsh restoration impact the local microbe community’s ability to convert excess nitrates into inert nitrogen gas.
The big question: How do these approaches impact a marsh’s ability to convert nitrogen? Chris is trying to find that out and has several Salt Marshes in the Boston and Cape Cod area that he visits regularly for testing.
Why is this nitrogen processing so essential, you ask? Here’s the story-cycle:
Basically, Chris is doing this work so that you can have Lobster Rolls.
Salt Marshes also act as a buffer between land and ocean. When the sea level rises or a storm surges towards the coast, salt marshes have to potential absorb some of this additional water in a way that protects residential areas, but also maintains a flourishing biosphere that contributes to an area’s ecology. Marshes also act as key Carbon Sinks – they gulp up CO2 in the air that otherwise would contribute to continued global warming patterns.
In addition to the above, Salt Marshes are just beautiful. They are filled with gorgeous plant life, birds and butterflies. They are perfect for restorative or meditative strolls. Chris‘ Instagram is largely a record of the stunning life he finds on his visits.
JJK’s fun fact from this conversation: Chris’ favorite plant is glasswort, a fascinatingand beautiful plant that thrives in Salt Marshes. It is edible – you can pick it and bite, no prep needed – has a crisp and salty taste. Be warned: it acts as a laxative.