Seagrass beds also release small bubbles of oxygen into the surrounding environment, but these bubbles are much smaller than methane bubbles and flow quietly from the blades of seagrass. Their noise can be separated from methane bubbles.
Berg said it’s safe to assume that bubbles coming from deep sediments in most places are methane.
“We’re trying to define bubble fingerprints that reflect the size of the bubbles,” he said. “If successful, we can quantify the release of methane bubbles from an area of the seabed – which is extremely difficult today with traditional methods.”
Coffey was drawn to the opportunity to use unique methods to study something that is rarely studied, and he had the opportunity to help develop the methodology for it.
“Using acoustic monitoring for methane quantification is not common practice, and it is exciting to be able to test such a novel method,” he said. “Learning to code and use machine learning to create the audio classification system has been challenging but rewarding. One of the ultimate goals is to provide insights to the world’s largest seagrass restoration project on the East Coast. of Virginia – a project in which many UVA scientists are deeply engaged, which would benefit from an accurate understanding of greenhouse gas emissions, including the release of methane It has not escaped our notice that if our new approach works, it can easily be applied to many other aquatic systems.
Coffey said if the soundscape method works, it could give researchers a better understanding of aquatic environments, both freshwater and marine systems.
“These seagrasses are productive ecosystems that play an important role in the global carbon cycle and the sequestration and storage of blue carbon,” Coffey said. “However, due to their increased burial of organic matter, they may also be environments where methane is produced and released at higher rates than, say, bare sediments.”
Methane, he noted, is “powerful.” The greenhouse gas has a global warming potential about 30 times greater than carbon dioxide, but the impact of seagrasses has not been studied as thoroughly as it has been for other natural sources.
Coffey has also worked as an intern for the past two years with the Nitrogen Task Force, part of the university’s Sustainability Committee, under the supervision of James Galloway, Sidman P. Poole Professor at department of environmental science, and Elizabeth Dukes, a graduate student studying under Galloway. With this group, Coffey is working on calibrating an integrated environmental footprint tool in Charlottesville and Albemarle.
“[Coffey] a pleasure to work with, to engage deeply with others and an excellent communicator of science,” said Galloway. “He was one of the poster presenters for the Ministry’s Enviro Day held in February in the Clark Hall Mural Room.
Dukes worked with Coffey for three semesters, focusing specifically on collecting data on agriculture and farming practices in the county.
“Davis has demonstrated ability and attention to detail working on agricultural data collection and processing in particular,” Dukes said. “His diligence in scouring databases and contacting individuals was essential to the development of our work. Davis’ energy and passion for the project he is working on drives this diligence and always produces great work. He was an excellent member of our team. »
Coffey said his research has increased his attention to detail, which benefits his poetry and painting.
“I look at landscapes and ecosystems in a different way now — more intimately,” Coffey said. “The importance of place, of knowing where you are and understanding the mechanisms of the region in which you are immersed, has profoundly influenced my creative work. My poetry names specific plant and animal species – often endemic to Virginia and the Appalachian region – and celebrates the biodiversity of where we live. After all, ‘-oikos’, the Greek root for ecology, means ‘house’. Paying attention to the origin of local water sources, the types of animals that coexist in our spaces, the full moon, the flowers that bloom and when – these acts of presence and love transform our environment into a familiar world and reveal how humans are part of nature, not separate from it.
A member of the Raven Society, Coffey has served as editor of the Undergraduate Research Network’s scientific research journal, Oculus; member of the Virginia Alpine Ski and Snowboard Team; Undergraduate Research Network; UVA office for sustainability; and the vegetable garden of Morven. He was on the Dean’s List and received a student council art scholarship. A graduate of Maggie Walker Governor’s School, Coffey is a transfer student, having studied at the College of William & Mary and the University of Freiburg. He plans to work on a master’s and a doctorate.
The research is still ongoing. Coffey’s contributions include more than 70 hours of audio extracted from seagrass beds in South Bay on the East Coast last summer. More work, however, needs to be done to relate the sound of the bubbles to their size.
Berg said he let the multi-talented student follow his idea because of the student’s intellectual curiosity and passion for the job.
“Davis is a very curious person, which is a main driver for him to work on a new project as unique as this one,” Berg said. “It also means a lot to him to be working on something that ‘matters’ – for example, environmental protection. We are only halfway through the research, but our results so far are promising. There’s always that uncertainty when you’re working at the cutting edge of science. But I’m happy with the progress.”