North Carolina Sea Grant
Coastwatch Currents

Coastwatch Currents

May 17, 2019 | Danielle Costantini

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Graduate School has awarded Alexandria Hounshell the 2019 Impact Award for her research on organic nitrogen in the Neuse River Estuary.

Each year, the university honors students for powerful discoveries that contribute to a better future for people and communities in North Carolina.

Hounshell (left) received the award for her “Tracking Elusive Nutrient Sources for Algal Growth in the Neuse River Estuary” project. North Carolina Sea Grant and the Water Resources Research Institute (WRRI) have supported her work.

“The Impact Award is a great honor – and one of many we anticipate throughout her career,” says Katie Mosher, the communications director for North Carolina Sea Grant.

Hounshell studies in UNC Chapel Hill’s department of marine sciences. Her research involves analyzing increases in organic nitrogen in the Neuse River Estuary, as well as applying innovative measurement techniques.

North Carolina’s lakes, rivers and estuaries often experience negative impacts of nutrient over-enrichment, which can include fish kills and harmful algal blooms. While sources of inorganic nitrogen have decreased in recent decades, the problem still persists in the Neuse River Estuary.

Hounshell tested watershed sources of organic nitrogen and found that chicken litter waste may contribute to the excess algae growth.

“Alex’s dissertation work has highly significant applications and implications for how we manage land-based nitrogen in the future, including in North Carolina,” says Hans Paerl, her advisor and a scientist at UNC Chapel Hill.

The results of Hounshell’s research have been shared with the UNC system and state-wide organizations, and her findings also have informed lesson plans for K-12 students.

North Carolina Sea Grant funding opportunities

WRRI funding opportunities

photo by Kerry Irish, IMS

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