By: Kathy Quirk, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
April 18, 2017
Cristal Sanchez-Estrada is feeding her love of science by immersing herself in research on algae and phosphorus in lake waters.
The senior from Milwaukee sees her work as an undergraduate student scientist in a lab at the School of Freshwater Sciences as a way of fulfilling her passion for science as well as a foundation for a number of possible future careers.
“I am interested in all kinds of science,” said Sanchez-Estrada, who is majoring in biological sciences.
Cristal Sanchez-Estrada (right) works in lab with Carmen Aguilar, an associate scientist in the School of Freshwater Sciences. (UWM Photo/Troye Fox)
Last fall, Sanchez-Estrada was honored with the Carl J. Weston Memorial Scholarship from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as part of the Sea Grant Knauss Fellowships program. (Two doctoral students in Freshwater, Danielle Cloutier and Shelby LaBuhn, received Knauss fellowships through the program.)
Estrada-Sanchez’s work focuses on the role of phosphorus, a natural part of the aquatic ecosystem, in producing good and not-so-good nutrients in algae. Sunlight and nutrients such as phosphorus are used by algae to produce more algae, said Russell Cuhel, Estrada-Sanchez’s mentor and a senior scientist at the School of Freshwater Sciences. However, there are differences between algae that provide healthy nutrients for zooplankton and the other small creatures that fish feed on, and other algae, like Cladophora, that may be a biological “dead end” for nutrient and sunlight use, he said.