Nick is a third-year student at Cal Poly Humboldt, a state school in Northern California’s Redwood Coast. He is pursuing degrees in economics and wildlife conservation with a minor in GIS. After graduating, he hopes to volunteer with the Peace Corps to learn more about sustainable economic and environmental development. His long-term career goals surround representing the rights of wildlife, Indigenous people, and undeveloped lands in legal or policy spheres. Outside of school, Nick loves swimming, hiking, vegan foods, and country music (especially Dolly Parton).
To learn more about Nick, explore his 2022 REU StoryMap: https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/93ab12e0dde947b1a2ec489946a0d717
REU Research Abstract: Quantified Effect of Taconite and Precious Metal Mining on Wild Rice Watersheds of Eastern Minnesota
Industrial activities in northern Minnesota, particularly the taconite and proposed precious metals mining in the ‘Iron Range,’ release chemicals that can harm native plant growth. Specifically, pollutants from the extraction of iron ore have released water that can harm wild rice (Zizania palustris) due to high amounts of sulfate entering lakes and streams where wild rice has historically grown. For centuries, wild rice, or manoomin in the local Ojibwe language, has been a staple diet for Minnesota’s Indigenous people. Domestic cultivation and combined harvesting of wild rice are relatively new technologies; wild rice is grown commercially as a field crop on around 20,000 acres in Minnesota.
This study aims to quantify sulfate pollution entering Minnesota watersheds from the most impactful point dischargers. To develop a process for evaluating the magnitude of contamination from different sources, two ~7500 km2 watersheds are compared. One watershed is impacted by the Iron Range mining operations and the other has mostly municipal wastewater discharges. The St. Louis River basin is directly downstream from the largest mines in the state, including the Hull-Rust Mahoning Mine which adds water containing at least 800 mg/L of sulfate to tributaries of the St Louis River. In contrast, the Upper Mississippi headwaters has fewer large industrial polluters. This poster evaluates the potential effects to wild rice waters produced by the Iron Range industry sulfate releases and considers the implications of enforcement of the Clean Water Act and State of Minnesota’s sulfate standard.