Tyler Sowers hails from the small town of Peletier, but that hasn’t stopped him from making big news on an international level.
The Croatan High School graduate recently presented a research poster about his latest project at the Soil Science Society of North Carolina, where he earned first place and $250. From there, he presented in San Diego, Calif., at an International Erosion Control Association conference and won the second-place ribbon.
Sowers, 20, is a junior at N.C. State University, where he is a plant and soil science major who works in a soil biogeochemistry lab.
“Tyler is a junior who is essentially functioning at the level of our graduate students,” said Rich McLaughlin, a soil scientist at the university.
He said Sowers’ work would receive “great interest” nationally, because of the number of regulatory agencies that will find his research to be pivotal.
“Tyler is very much an exceptional student,” said Dr. Owen Duckworth, with whom Sowers primarily works.
The young scientist has been doing research concerning soil erosion and made a significant discovery. He figured out a field method of detecting a chemical known as polyacrylamide – PAM – in water.
Sowers explained that the PAM is used to flocculate, or bring together, soil particles so that they fall out of a solution. In this case, this solution is water.
“Sediment pollution is the number one pollutant of streams and rivers, so PAM is a big deal because it helps limit this,” said Sowers.
He said PAM is applied to a soil as a liquid and causes less soil to erode and be transported into rivers or other bodies of water. The field method Sowers developed uses a handheld nephelometer, which measures how turbid, or “misty,” a water solution is. Since the method measures how much PAM is in water, it has regulatory uses.
He said that with increased use of PAM, the need for a method that quantifies how much is present becomes more necessary from an environmental regulatory standpoint.
While Sowers’ work may seem complex to some, it is evident he enjoys what he is doing and will be successful in the field once he graduates. He shows no sign of slowing down before then, as he is already expanding his research.
“I am now conducting research to develop a method by which I can determine concentration of PAM in soil,” he said.
Beyond presenting his own work at the two conferences this year, he was also a moderator at the IECA conference in San Diego, where he helped speakers present their various workshops on erosion control.
Sowers said he remains grateful to a number of area organizations that have aided his collegiate journey so far.
“I appreciate the help of the Swansboro Rotary Club, the Carteret-Craven Electric Cooperative and the Izaak Walton League for the scholarships that allowed me to go to N.C. State and make this possible,” he said.
Sowers plans to go to graduate school to continue his research in the soil science field.
The son of Dale and Connie Sowers, he is a 2010 CHS graduate.