My graduate work focuses on the decomposition of soil organic matter.
All day, I measure invisible things: microbial exhalations, molecules of carbon and nitrogen. It feels simultaneously magical (that we have tools that can “see” these things, even if our eyes cannot) and futile (it can be hard to know the difference between invisible things and nothing).
Soils don’t get too much press — they are dark, and usually stable, and easy to take for granted. But the work that occurs in soils is what allows us all to do our work — breaking down the old to become new again.
These pilings have been decaying in salt water — slowly — since the late 1800’s. This is exactly the beauty I imagine in my work, on a larger, visible scale.