Monica Arienzo is an Associate Research Professor in the Division of Hydrologic Sciences at the Desert Research Institute. She earned a doctoral degree in Marine Geology and Geophysics from the University of Miami.
In her research, Monica uses chemical tools to understand how humans have impacted the environment. After years of studying caves in the Bahamas and ice cores from Antarctica, now she studies microplastics from peak to tap. Her microplastic research focuses on microplastics found in snowy peaks, to downstream lakes and rivers, and to drinking water taps. This research would not be possible without the help of her colleagues, students, collaborators, and more than 25 volunteer citizen scientists.
Monica’s Science Story
My science story began in college. I was a geology major, but I wasnt sure what I wanted to do after college. The summer before my senior year of college I had the opportunity to participate in a research project in the U.S. Virgin Islands. We were researching human impacts to the coral reef. We spent the summer scuba diving the coral reefs measuring the amount of live and dead coral and compared the results to previous survey findings. This was a really neat opportunity for me. I got to travel, be outdoors and do research, all of my favorite things. After the summer was over, I went back to college in the fall and I told my advisor I wanted to pursue graduate school and get a Ph.D. in geology. After graduating college, I moved to Miami Fl where I would do my Ph.D. in geology. During my Ph.D. I studied caves from the Bahamas. After getting my PhD, I took a job at the Desert Research Institute where I changed my research focus to ice cores from Greenland and Antarctica. In 2018, I attended a conference in Switzerland and learned about microplastics. The researchers were finding microplastics in Greenland! I went home to Reno and kept thinking about microplastics if they are in Greenland, where else could they be? In our snow? In the Sierra? These questions eventually led to us getting some funding from the DRI foundation that began us on our microplastics journey.
Keywordsmicroplastics, geochemistry, analytical chemistry, human impacts, pollution, climate, citizen science, science communications