Name: Danielle Hunt
Project title: On the pee! A mechanistic exploration of nitrogen and carbon cycling dynamics in the urine patch.
Where based: Bangor University
I have studied at Bangor University since I was an undergraduate(BSc Hons Zoology with Conservation) and have just completed an MSc in Wetland Science and Conservation. During my masters, I developed a keen interest in soil biogeochemistry and nutrient cycling. For my dissertation, I studied the impact of guano on wetland soils. I looked at whether high nitrogen and phosphorus loading from guano affect the ability of wetlands to store carbon. I examined whether the “enzymic latch” was present in Falkland Island peatlands with large populations of resident seabirds. Following on from this, I have chosen to study a PhD where I can further my interest in nutrient cycling,while also expanding into the new research areas of soil science and agriculture.
Urine patches in grassland ecosystems represent unique environments where extreme nutrient (in particular nitrogen) and water loading occur. As a result, urine patches can produce gaseous emissions of ammonia, nitrous oxide and dinitrogen, and result in increased leaching of nitrate from soils. Very little is known about how these large nitrogen influxes and subsequent high ammonium concentrations affect soil carbon and nitrogen cycling within urine patches. I aim to understand both spatial and temporal variation in the mechanisms underlying nutrient cycling in the urine patch during this project. This will involve investigating how the role of key processes (e.g.nitrification, denitrification, mineralisation) vary between urine patch zones.Most current research on urine patches focus on lowland mineral soils with flat topography. During this project, I hope to expand our understanding by exploring the effects of topography on nutrient cycling within the urine patch and examining the differences between upland (often organic soil) and lowland systems.