Sediment Fingerprinting of Lake Macatawa using PIXE and SEM/EDS

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Graham Peaslee, Hope College

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Event Date



The settlement and development of the Holland/Zeeland area has led to soil erosion and the current eutrophic state of Lake Macatawa. As part of the Macatawa Watershed Project, two complementary elemental analysis techniques have been developed to analyze sediment from the surrounding watershed: Scanning Electron Microscopy/Energy Dispersive Spectrometry (SEM/EDS) and Particle Induced X-Ray Emission (PIXE). By combining SEM/EDS and PIXE, a detailed elemental analysis can be obtained of both light and heavy elements. Suspended sediment samples were collected throughout the watershed after a significant rainfall has occurred using sediment traps. Preliminary results from the SEM/EDS and PIXE analyses, demonstrate that there is elemental variation between sites, as well as between sample collections; these results are reproducible and have been supported by analysis of sediment phosphate content. The ultimate goal of this project is to develop a signature that is characteristic of specific sediment sources within the watershed, so that the non-point-source sedimentation that occurs now can be traced to its origins in future years.


This research was supported by the National Science Foundation, Macatawa Area Coordinating Council, Outdoor Discovery Center, and State of Michigan DNRE (WQM)

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