Meet Akima: Detecting one in a billion

Hi, my name is Akima!

I studied meteorology at the University of Frankfurt. Back then I realized that I would love to work in the field instead of only sitting at my desk. When I was looking for options after graduation, there was an opportunity to participate in the ATTO project. I thought this was a fantastic chance to combine my background with exciting fieldwork and so I became PhD student at MPI-C in Mainz.

As you can see in the picture I have the opportunity to travel to Brazil as part of my PhD. We visit the ATTO site regularly to maintain and develop our measurement setup. I work in a team of two, together with Achim Edtbauer with a PTR-TOF-MS. That is a technique used in analytical chemistry called Proton-transfer-reaction mass spectrometry. With our instrument, we are able to continuously measure volatile organic compounds with high sensitivity. That means we detect even just a few parts per billion of certain gases (ppb) in the pristine jungle air.

We measure Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) emitted by the forest surrounding the ATTO tower. Then we analyze the mechanisms leading to the emissions, induced by light, temperature or environmental stress, among other factors. The tall tower enables us to measure air from three different heights up to 320m to get a profile of VOCs and to observe their reactions during the transport.

The interaction between vegetation and atmosphere of the pristine jungle shows the balance of the ecosystem without human intervention. It is crucial to preserve the Amazon as a strong carbon sink and habitat for an incredible amount of species. I’m extremely happy to have found this project that allows me to do interesting fieldwork, but also to contribute to such an important research topic.

Akima climbs the tall tower to the top to maintain the instrument.
Akima climbs the tall tower to the top to maintain the instrument.