2014 Undergraduate Researchers and Mentors
The Undergraduate Research Grants for the Environment (URGE) program provides a unique opportunity for teams of undergraduate students and their faculty mentors to utilize the Institute's West Michigan biological field station for environmental and scientific research. The undergraduate grants fund full-time summer research projects in the natural sciences, including biology, zoology, natural resource management, environmental science, chemistry, and geology.
Each undergraduate student is eligible for a $3,750 stipend, on-site housing, and partial meal support for their full-time, 12-week research project. Each faculty mentor is eligible for up to a $3,750 stipend that can be used for time, supplies, travel, or other research support.
Anthony Wing and Katy Isles, along with faculty advisor Peter Kourtev, will be studying the relationship between ecosystem diversity and function focused on the leaves of the northern pitcher plant (S. purpurea) as a model system.
Dylan Sterling and Cameron Poyner, mentored by Brad Swanson, will document the ability of the invasive plant Phragmites to hybridize with its native relative.
Stephanie Ellison and faculty advisor Brad Swanson will estimate raccoon (Procyon lotor) density with track-plate foot-printing.
Grand Rapids Community College
Jim Jenson, mentored by Pam Laureto, will research the classification of mesic hardwood forests at the Institute.
Lindsey Cnossen and faculty advisor Matthew Douglas will examine the biodiversity of aquatic, semi-aquatic, and near-shore bugs at the Institute to compare their grooming and cleaning behavior.
Melena Grady, advised by faculty member Matthew Douglas, will investigate the sexual size dimorphism and biodiversity of spiders at the Institute.
Grand Valley State University
Heather Taylor and Sophie Bennett, along with faculty advisors Alexandra Locher and Todd Aschenbach, will be relating the presence of exotic shrubs to soil properties and overstory forest characteristics at Pierce Cedar Creek Institute.
Jeff Bartman and Nate Kudla, advised by faculty member Jennifer Moore, are investigating the effects of prey abundance on habitat use by eastern massasauga rattlesnakes.
Brian Cunningham-Rhoads and Will Gribbin, mentored by faculty member Binney Girdler, will examine the effects of propagule pressure and disturbance on the invasive species Centaurea maculosa.
Jack Kemper and Abraham Bayha, along with faculty advisor Ann Fraser, will assess the impacts of European honey bees on native bee pollinators in natural ecosystems.
Grand Rapids Community College
Cassondra Ruso and faculty advisor Paul Krieger will be working on a project entitled, “The Beauty Beneath.” The proposed art project will be an investigation of the single-celled protists, such as an amoeba or hydra, which inhabit the various ecosystems at the Pierce Cedar Creek Institute. Using mixed media—primarily watercolor and marker pen—Ruso will illustrate a selection of these organisms with an emphasis of placing them in their natural habitat.
Marie Hallinen and faculty advisor Diane Seuss will be engaged in a writing project entitled, “Subjectivity in Science.” Hallinen will create a portfolio of creative writing that explores the overlap between ecology and ethics, focusing on time spent assisting researchers at the Institute.
Patricia Schlutt and faculty advisor Pamela Dail Whiting from Aquinas College will be working on a poetry project entitled, “Communion in the Wilderness: What Poetry Has to Teach Us about the Natural World.” Schlutt’s project will result in a collection of 40 – 50 poems, in which she will use poetry to express the language and invitation of Nature. The poems will share the common theme of welcoming the reader into the wildness, and the beauty of the natural world which exists just beneath everyday life.
Because one of the primary purposes of URGE is to foster faculty mentor-student relationships as a powerful educational and motivational tool, we require research proposals and projects to be a shared effort between students and faculty mentors. Grant applications are available in October and are due at the end of January. For more information about the URGE program or other undergraduate research opportunities at the biological field station, please contact Sara Syswerda, education director, at (269) 721-4434.
Undergraduate students from the biological field station consortium institutions can sign up for the classes offered through the Modular Course. Each class is designed to provide participants with applied experience in the area of natural and environmental sciences. Several classes will be held over the summer and students are welcome to attend one or all of the classes. Pre-registration is required and space is limited, so register early.
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