Employee Spotlight: Dustin Woodruff

Meet ORAU Employee Dustin Woodruff. Dustin is an ORAU contractor working at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a research assistant. Since May 2016, he has been working in the Office of Research and Development in Duluth, MN. He enjoys the variety provided by being a member of different research teams and projects.

One of the projects he is currently working on aims to develop stream condition assessment methods to be used by the National Aquatic Resource Surveys (NARS), a nation-wide, collaborative, aquatic monitoring program. His team is studying stream nutrient spiraling models to understand nutrient transport and kinetics. Their research indicates that using the Tracer Additions for Spiraling Curve Characterization (TASCC) model for streams is an important aspect of informing land managers about variations in land use and best restoration practices. In October 2018, he presented a poster at the River Restoration Conference in Two Harbors, MN. This presentation displayed the use of the TASCC method as a tool to characterize ecosystem function and nutrient retention, and demonstrated how a stream’s physical habitat features could decrease nutrient loading and limit negative impacts in downstream communities. Learn more about NARS at https://www.epa.gov/national-aquatic-resource-surveys.

Another study he is participating in is Spruce and Peatland Responses Under Changing Environments (SPRUCE), which aims to understand how whole ecosystems are affected by environmental stressors. The SPRUCE site is a bog within a series of wetlands at the Marcel Experimental Forest in Northwestern Minnesota. “It is comprised of a conglomerate of open-top enclosures and boardwalks that appear to be like something from outer space.” Each enclosure can have the temperature and CO2 levels adjusted to model and predict wetland responses to changing climate. The goal of his team’s research is to understand how increasing temperature and atmospheric CO2 impacts microbial communities and N2O production in nutrient poor wetlands. Learn more about SPRUCE  at https://mnspruce.ornl.gov/.

Additionally, he has been working on the Great Lakes and their connecting channels. “I have had the honor of working with a group of scientists on a week-long trip along the coasts of Lake Superior aboard the Lake Guardian, a 180’ research vessel which travels throughout the Great Lakes conducting long term monitoring research.” He has also had the opportunity to be a part of a project assessing the Niagara River as part of the National Coastal Condition Assessment (NCCA) program. This research effort assessed a variety of water and sediment quality measures as a part of a long-term monitoring program.