Student Spotlight: Hanna Brooks

Though she had always been good at science and interested in the natural world, it was a long while before Hanna Brooks thought of herself as a scientist. It wasn’t until a casual conversation during her sophomore year at Virginia Tech that led to her studying rock samples in Greece, that she first owned the title for herself. 

Nowadays, Brooks is working toward her PhD at UMaine, studying pollution found in ice cores of the North Pacific region. “The position of the North Pacific region (Alaska, USA and Kamchatka Peninsula, Russia) uniquely links the Asian and North American continents when examining historical trends in pollutants.” For her dissertation, Brooks is “examining changes in lead (Pb) values over the past two millennia (340 to 2022 CE) using ice cores from Begguya (Mr. Hunter), Alaska.” According to Brooks winds carry “dust and pollution from Asia across the North Pacific,” depositing them at Begguya. “Critical changes in culture (industrialization, globalization of world markets, Covid-19 pandemic), technology (advancement of industrial recycling), and policy and legislation (phase out of leaded gasoline) have direct impacts on Pb transported to and deposited at Begguya.”

The Begguya ice core project is “part of a global collaborative effort including researchers from the University of Maine, Dartmouth College, Colby College, University of New Hampshire, Oregon STate University, Colorado State University and Paul Scherrer Institute to understand the impacts of natural and anthropogenic climate change in the North Pacific in the time since the last ice age.” Brooks has had the opportunity to work with several faculty mentors and advisors, which she says has furthered her professional network and opened up future collaborative opportunities.

“I always recommend that you have lots of conversations with your professors and teaching assistants. Ask them what they research and why they are passionate about it. You never know where these conversations may lead, and what curiosity their passions may spark in you.”