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Student Spotlight: Richard Williams


Thesis Title: Determining the Anthropogenic Effects on Eutrophication of Utah Lake

What sparked your interest in geology, and in your decision for your thesis topic?

As a kid, my father would take us around looking for semi-precious stones because he makes jewelry and does lapidary. Being around these rocks started my curiosity and since then I have been interested in the Earth. At BYU, I took Geology 101, realized that I could have a career in geosciences, and changed my major to geology. As I took courses dealing with groundwater and environmental science, I realized that I really wanted to do a thesis on water. I was thrilled when Dr. Nelson mentioned he needed a student to help with Utah Lake and I am so grateful to have gotten the chance to work on it

What is the main objective of your thesis?

My thesis is determining the anthropogenic effects on the eutrophication of Utah Lake. The thesis is specifically focused on changes since European settlement

What is the contribution of your research to the geology community?

As lakes around the world are getting surrounded by ever-growing population centers, the need to understand how people affect lakes is becoming more crucial. Symptoms of eutrophic water, such as harmful algal blooms, are potentially increasing in frequency, and so the need to understand how to reduce anthropogenic nutrient loading into lakes is crucial to keeping lakes in their natural state

What challenges did you have to overcome?

For my thesis, I learned how to identify and count pollen, from a class at the University of Utah, for helping with my analyses. The pollen count was used to help determine the start of European settlement in my core. The reason why it was a challenge was that I had never had much experience with pollen (or plant biology) and there was a little bit of a learning curve. However, after a lot of long days, I was able to figure it out and it was a wonderful addition to my thesis

What are your plans for research and work now?

I’m planning on working in environmental geology and hope to be starting work soon.

What do you wish you would have known about doing a thesis before you started? Any advice?

I wish I had known what a great resource my thesis committee members are for helping me in my thesis work. I figured it out quickly but they were amazing at helping me through my thesis and knowing it beforehand would have relieved a little bit of anxiety