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An Eye on Salt Marsh Ecology: Meet Gabriella Bliss Giordano, 2020 Falvey Scholar

By Shawn Proctor

This is part 2 of a 6-part series featuring the 2020 Falvey Scholars. Read more about them each Tuesday and Thursday, and in the upcoming issue of Mosaic, the library’s bi-annual publication.

Villanova “Wild Facts”

Gabriella Bliss Giordano ’20 (Environmental Science and Geography)
Hometown: Massapequa, N.Y.
Additional Honors: Alexander Von Humboldt Medallion for Excellence in Geography, Magna Cum Laude, Gamma Theta Epsilon International Geography Honor Society

Project Title: “Spatial analysis of heavy metals in marsh soils and ribbed mussels (Geukensia demissa) from Plum Island Estuary, MA”

Mentor: Nathaniel Weston, PhD, Associate Professor

In Her Own Words

Her research:

For my senior thesis project, I analyzed the spatial distribution heavy metal concentrations in marsh soils and the endemic ribbed mussel geukensia demissa from the Plum Island Estuary in Massachusetts. This estuary is an intertidal riverine marsh with freshwater inputs and is the largest expanse of salt marsh in the Northeast.

After field collection, I hot acid digested samples and analyzed for metal content on an inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer.

Overall, I found that soils did show decreasing trends with increasing distance from the fresh, river inputs.  On the other hand, the metal concentration in mussels was not described by soil concentrations and did not show a clear spatial pattern. Mussels were likely more influenced by size and would likely be more indicative of the metal in suspended sediment than in surficial sediment.


Falvey’s Impact on Her Work:

Over the course of my four years at Villanova, Falvey has been a huge help in my academics, from study spaces to staff to Holy Grounds coffee. By simply keeping the library operating and clean the staff has helped everyone in their research and academic experience. Over the course of my work on this project, I met with Librarian Alfred Fry to guide my literature search for both background reading and writing purposes. Being able to meet with someone in the library who specializes in scientific literature review is a very powerful resource.

In this online era, being able to navigate the internet for credible sources is extremely important. Falvey’s resources make it incredibly easy to search for articles and academic journals either directly through its website or through a number of databases. The wide range of databases, journals and publishers that Falvey provides to students is incredibly helpful. I became especially appreciative of all the online resources Falvey provides during this unprecedented time.


The Impact on Her and What’s Next:

I have been working with Dr. Weston since freshman year and always knew I wanted to continue my higher education and do research whether it was in salt marshes or not. After four years, I couldn’t part with the marshes and will be researching biogeochemistry and ecology of Georgia salt marshes in graduate school at the University of Georgia where I will be pursuing a Master’s in Marine Science. Dr. Weston and I are also hoping to continue working on my thesis for publication, which would include additional lab analyses and paper editing.

Shawn ProctorShawn Proctor, MFA, is Communications and Marketing Program Manager at Falvey Memorial Library.






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Last Modified: June 23, 2020

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