Research Opportunity - Any ideas?
I'm currently a Chem major at the University of Pittsburgh. In my instrumental lab this year, we're given three four hour lab sessions to carry out an independent experiment of our choosing. As I am an avid aquarist (word?), the first thing that came to mind was something involving aquaria.
I have access to some pretty advanced instruments including ICP-AES, Mass Spec., GC, and ATR-FTIR among others.
I was wondering if anyone here would have any ideas on an experiment or set there-of regarding aquaria that would contribute to the knowledge base. I could waste this opportunity to measure iron concentration in tap water or something elementary like that, but I'd much rather use it to contribute something meaningful.
One idea I had was to find concentrations of nitrogen, potassium, phosphate, and various other trace elements in various aquarium plants. Probably a per volume deal. The idea would be to see what plants are actually using for growth, what they aren't using, and some basic inferences as to what might be able to do differently regarding fertilizing and such. One idea would be to (and I would have to start this soon as my time in the lab would be in November) have various small tanks with equal amounts of lighting, CO2, substrate (probably inert, as I don't have a lot of time to carry this out) and dose each tank differently, as well as a tank that isn't dosed at all (control). Finding the concentration per volume of the various fertilizers in the plant tissue would give a rough idea of how much of each fertilizer was actually used and how much was wasted. There are various kinetics and processes that probably can have a big impact on these variables, (flow past the plant, plant movement, lighting cycles,) But that would be beyond the scope of what I would be able to accomplish.
I'm not a biologist, and the chemistry behind these processes can be simple or complex, but I'm willing to give it a try.
The point of the post, which is long overdue, is to get feedback and perhaps other ideas on how I could use this time. Is there a specific problem regarding the chemistry of aquaria that would benefit the community as a whole, or even a curiosity of yours that would be interesting to explore? Something regarding algae, lighting conditions, impact of fauna on a planted system, CO2 chemistry regarding dissolved organics, fertilizer composition, whether wet or dry, commercial or home made, DIY yeast CO2 versus pressurized, all are fair game.
Fellow members, the search for the ultimate truth may very well be upon us; "Why is algae such a jerk?"
Thoughts, ideas, criticisms and snarky comments are all encouraged and appreciated.