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Martin Richard '14 is studying the history of the ocean's environment through the composition of rock samples at Harvard this summer.
Martin Richard '14 is studying the history of the ocean's environment through the composition of rock samples at Harvard this summer.

Tracing the Ocean’s History

While he is unsure of his major, Martin Richard ’14 does know that he wants to study environmental science. After taking an environmental chemistry class with Assistant Professor of Chemistry Helen White earlier this year, Richard decided that he wanted to further his research during the summer. Thanks to a stipend from the Koshland Integrated Natural Science Center (KINSC), Richard is studying the ocean environment of the Cambrian era (500 million years ago) at the Johnston Group Lab headed by Assistant Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences Dr. David Johnston of Harvard.

The Johnston Group studies earth history and isotope geobiology. The group works to better understand the relationship between microorganisms and Earth surface evolution through a variety of methods ranging from tracking the onset or environmental expression of different metabolic processes to following atmospheric/oceanic oxidation and evolution.

Through a process called sequential iron extraction, Richard is using ratios of “highly reactive” iron to total amount of iron to analyze the compositions of rock sediments taken from Utah. These samples were formed during the Cambrian era when Utah was submerged in the ocean. Richard hopes to help the lab determine what the ocean environment was like when these rocks were formed and why. Unlike most procedures used in his high school and college course labs, Richard says that sequential iron extraction is a relatively new method developed in 2004, and thus there is more to learn about the process.

“I’m finding the research process interesting because of the goal of obtaining the most knowledge we can about something, even if it is different from what someone previously thought,” he says.

In addition to the hard sciences, Richard also enjoys math. He competed in and won a freshman math competition held by the Haverford Department of Mathematics. Richard also plays upright bass in a number of musical ensembles at Haverford and is a member of Big Donkey Ultimate, Haverford’s ultimate frisbee club team.

--Jacob Lowy ‘14

Founders Green on a warm spring day.

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