Trainee Robuck Named 2019 Switzer Fellow

Trainee Robuck necropsies Great Shearwater.

Robuck’s dedication and drive is quickly becoming legendary. No sooner was she tapped to join the Switzer Fellowship Network than she was off to South Africa to carry out lab and field work as part of the Shearwater research team at Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, which is also in pursuit of STEEP research to better understand the bioaccumulation of PFAS in wildlife. Robuck necropsied Shearwaters to bring back tissues and plastics. These samples are being used to ascertain what trophic signature Great Shearwaters possess as they fly north, what PFAS contaminant burden these birds are born with versus what they accrue in Massachusetts Bay, and what plastics they receive from parental care in the South Atlantic. To date, Robuck has necropsied birds from Stellwagen Bank, Narragansett Bay and the Cape Fear River Estuary.

PFAS are found in the blood of virtually all Americans, and nearly every habitat on Earth, yet stark data gaps surround every aspect of PFAS occurrence and effects. Humankind has reached a critical point in its relationship with these “forever chemicals”—so named due to their strong structural bond—and their ubiquitous role in human and ecosystem maladies. Robuck sought the Switzer Fellowship as the perfect pathway to achieve her goal to be among the most effective researchers and advocates for precautionary chemical strategies and solutions.

Dr. Rainer Lohmann of URI’s Graduate School of Oceanography serves as Robuck’s major advisor. With tremendous pride in her achievement, he remarked, “She is the face of change as she aggressively addresses the most pressing environmental challenges of today. Her drive to address the challenge of PFAS contaminants is unstoppable.”