UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Andrew Shaughnessy, a doctoral student studying geosciences in Penn State’s College of Earth and Mineral Sciences (EMS), was awarded a 2019 Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation. He is one of seven EMS students and 24 Penn State students to receive the honor.
The fellowship supports Shaughnessy’s research on the effects of agriculture on bedrock weathering.
In agricultural areas, excessive use of fertilizer may create a surplus of nutrients — such as nitrate — in surface water and groundwater. The link between agricultural fertilizers and algal blooms in surface waters is well known, but the influence on bedrock weathering processes in groundwater has not been fully investigated.
Shaughnessy is exploring how the influx of nitrate can enhance bedrock weathering processes. Though chemical reactions with water and oxygen, the iron and sulfur in pyrite can produce sulfuric acid, causing bedrock weathering. This is a naturally occurring process, but with the addition of nitrate to the groundwater, which provides another oxygen source, this process may be altered.