In 2022, CUR’s Geosciences Division presented the GeoCUR Award for Excellence in Student Research. Please review the citation (Student Award Citations) nominators and join us in congratulating our student awardees for their work and recognition!
In 2022, CUR’s Geosciences Division presented the GeoCUR Award for Excellence in Student Research. Please review the citation (Student Award Citations) nominators and join us in congratulating our student awardees for their work and recognition!
In 2021, CUR’s Geosciences Division presented the GeoCUR Award for Excellence in Student Research. Please review the citation (Student Award Citations) nominators and join us in congratulating our student awardees for their work and recognition!
In 2020, CUR’s Geosciences Division presented the GeoCUR Award for Excellence in Student Research. Please review the citations from the nominators (2020 Award Citations) and join us in congratulating our student awardees for their work and recognition! The deadline for submissions this year has been extended to April 9, 2021. See student awards page.
The Geosciences Division of the Council on Undergraduate Research has established an annual award to recognize faculty, scientists, and educators engaging in original and successful mentoring of undergraduate research activities who demonstrate dedication to the scholarly success of their students.
The Geoscience Division of the Council of Undergraduate Research (GeoCUR) recognizes the critical work of developing best practices in undergraduate research. This awards highlights individuals that place undergraduate research at the center of professional activities. GeoCUR annually recognizes individuals who are initiating creative, impactful, and/or innovative undergraduate research activities.
All Geoscientists involved in the mentoring of undergraduate research and/or who are developing new undergraduate research programs or opportunities. This award intends to recognize those in the earlier stages of integrating undergraduate student research into their career research program. Generally, nominees for this award fit into one or more of these categories:
Evidence of best practice undergraduate research includes, but is not limited to:
Candidates need not to meet all of these criteria and may achieve the spirit of the award through other activities. The awardees will be recognized with a brief citation and certificate from the Geoscience division of the National Council for Undergraduate research as well as on the GeoCUR website.
Nomination (including self-nominations) materials: (1) A one-page detailed narrative from the nominee explaining how they meet the criteria of the award and up to five-page CV that is focused on interactions with students. (2) Three letters of support, one from a student research participant, one from someone who can comment on the nominee’s professional role (e.g. from someone within the nominees’ institution, department, program, professional organization), and a third at the discretion of the application.
Send completed nomination packet to: GeoCURMentor@gmail.com. Questions and inquiries can be addressed to Erin Kraal (email@example.com) or Dan Brabander (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Applications are accepted beginning December 1 and are due January 15th. Awardees will be selected and notified by early March.
Applications from a range of individuals and institutional settings are encouraged. GeoCUR recognizes that exemplar mentorship can take in settings ranging from community colleges/2YCC, primarily undergraduate institutions, research universities, national laboratories, and industrial partnerships. The Geoscience Division of CUR represents a wide range of disciplines and this award follows the AGI definition of geoscience (geology, hydrology, planetary science, marine science/oceanography, atmospheric and space science, climate science, geochemistry, petrology, paleontology, environmental science and related fields).
In 2019, CUR’s Geosciences Division presented the GeoCUR Award for Excellence in Student Research. Please review the citations from the nominators (PDF) and join us in congratulating our sixth group of student awardees in the history of this award!
The 8th recipient of the GeoCUR Undergraduate Research Mentor Award is Colin Laroque, a professor in the Department of Soil Science in the School of Environment and Sustainability at the University of Saskatchewan. He is an interdisciplinary scientist, with a specialty in using dendrochronology to understand past climates and an outstanding prolific undergraduate research mentor. Laroque fosters, and sustains undergraduate research through curiosity-driven experiential learning, leading to publication and presentation. He engages and mentors many students through programs like his course-based First year Research Experiences (FYRE), integration of research into his undergraduate classes and extensive participation of students as researchers in his MAD (Mistik Askiwin Dendrochronology) Lab.
See the University of Saskatchewan press release here.
The seventh recipient of the GeoCUR Undergraduate Research Mentor Award is Brannon Andersen from the Earth and Environmental Sciences at Furman University. The Award recognizes his longstanding excellence in and commitment to ‘teaching through research’ by embedding research in the curriculum, his collaborative work across disciplines that has provided significant research experiences to more than 300 undergraduates, and his leadership in promoting and embodying the ideal for undergraduate research.
See the Furman University Press Release here.
Ginny Peterson is a Professor and former Head of the Geology Department at Grand Valley State University. She has served as a GeoCUR Councilor for many years and is currently serving as Division Chair.
“My own experience as an undergraduate researcher was transformative for me and I greatly enjoy and value the opportunity to serve in the role of mentor/collaborator to undergraduate scientists. Throughout my academic career I have been persistent in mentoring dozens of undergraduate research students in both collaborative (REU) and individual projects. Both my students and I benefit significantly from doing science together and it has served to enhance my passion as an educator and scientist. I have been a faculty member at two different Primarily Undergraduate Institutions and recently served 6 years as the head of the Geology Department at GVSU. I have taken a leadership role at both institutions in departmental curricular revision, with an aim to better integrate development of research skills across the curriculum. In addition to my work with CUR, I currently serve as a facilitator for the NAGT Traveling Workshop Program; facilitating department level discussions, action planning and assessment. I have also served as external evaluator for other geosciences departments.”
Dave Szymanski is an associate professor of geology and Chair of the Department of Natural and Applied Sciences at Bentley
University. He’s been a CUR member since 2012 and became a GeoCUR councilor in 2018.
“I work mainly with undergraduate business students and I teach sustainability at the intersection of earth science, policy, and business. As a geologist and chemist, I understand the power of research as a tool for teaching science. But more importantly, research provides a way of knowing that’s required to make good decisions in politics, policy, and business. No single discipline has all the answers and the research process humbles you quickly if you think otherwise. Undergraduate teaches the skills of inquiry and discovery, but it also develops skills that serve students in any career and it prepares them for citizenship. I joined CUR to become a better guide for students in this process of undergraduate research; I became a GeoCUR councilor to help my colleagues do the same.”
Ken Brown is a Teaching Assistant Professor at West Virginia University. He began serving as a GeoCUR Councilor in 2017.
“As a Teaching Assistant Professor at WVU, one of my primary goals is to provide a memorable classroom experience that will have a strong, positive impact on my students. Thus, one of the best parts of teaching/mentoring is helping my students gain a deeper appreciation and awareness for the Earth and its many components. By helping my students understand how our planet works, they will be better prepared to solve the geologic and environmental problems of the future. My current research projects combinefieldwork, elemental and isotopic analyses, geochronology, and high-spatial resolution microanalytical techniques to place important constraints on challenging geologic and environmental problems. Currently, I have several research projects that my undergraduate students and I are exploring.
One of these projects is aimed at understanding the origins of exceptionally large potassium-feldspar crystals (>4cm) that are found within rocks that represent the once-active roots of ancient volcanic systems. Although potassium feldspar is a common rock-forming mineral, the formation of large, perfectly-shaped potassium feldspar crystals has remained a long-standing controversy in igneous petrology for nearly 100 years. My students and I are using detailed microscopy and geochemistry to test competing hypotheses regarding the enigmatic origins of these crystals.
I am also working with undergraduate students to solve environmental problems. More specifically, my students and I are currently evaluatingthe spatial distribution of heavy metal contaminants (Pb, Hg, Cr, Ni, Cu, Zn, and Cd) in soils within Morgantown, WV. Because Morgantown is located within a region with a well-documented legacy of coal burning and mining operations, this city is an excellent location to evaluate the links between heavy metal contamination caused by coal burning and its impacts on human health.”
Kristina Walowski is an Assistant Professor of Geology at Middlebury College. She started as a GeoCUR Council in 2018.
“For my research, I primarily utilize melt inclusions (tiny blobs of magma trapped in crystals) and mafic minerals (olivine, pyroxene, and spinel) to study a variety of magmatic processes from magma reservoir evolution and eruption dynamics, to mantle melting and volatile recycling in the mantle. This interest in magmatic processes began while studying for my B.S. in Geology at UCLA, and was solidified during my undergraduate research experience for which I explored the volatile history of the Bishop Tuff as recorded by apatite. This positive and formative experience was the main reason I chose to attend graduate school at the University of Oregon, where I completed my Ph.D. in 2015. Through my experience in research as an undergraduate, I gained confidence in my ability as an independent scientist and fell in love with the excitement of discovery and the pursuit of knowledge. Now, as a new faculty member at an undergraduate-only institution, Middlebury College, I aim to provide my students with the same opportunity. Integrating students into my research and watching them grow through Middlebury’s year-long research thesis has been one of the most rewarding parts of my job. My interest in improving my mentoring practices and becoming connected to a broader community led me to CUR, and as a first-term GeoCUR Councilor, I am excited to expand my scholarship in science education and help promote undergraduate research opportunities in the geosciences.”
Lydia Fox is at the University of the Pacific, in Stockton CA where she is both Director of Undergraduate Research and a professor in the Dept. of Geological & Environmental Sciences. She has been a GeoCUR Councilor for many years and served as Division Chair.
“I am passionate about undergraduate research because of my experiences as a undergraduate. My involvement in research projects my junior and senior years transformed my life. By the time I graduated, I knew I wanted to become a professor and provide other students with those experiences. I get tremendous satisfaction from helping students as they grapple with new ideas and puzzle their way through uncertainty to a reach point of deep understanding. As the campus director of undergraduate research at Pacific, I have the privilege to facilitate students working with faculty research mentors from all disciplines. Watching the excitement an pride students have when they present their research and our annual research conference is infinitely rewarding.”
Dan Brabander is a Professor of Geosciences, Frost Professor Environmental Sciences, at Wellesley College.
Fostering integration as a way of thinking. Brabander offers “Big Idea” courses that introduce systems thinking in applied and messy problem spaces. Course goals are centered on taking a crude look at the whole to determine a path of inquiry. Approach focuses on transdisciplinary theories (e.g., see open syllabus project: paradigms) while fostering intrinsic motivation through project based collaborative learning. Deliverables are aimed at de novo authorship of scientific narratives. Three recent courses have been designed with these goals as a framework: (1) SUST220(Wellesley) AHSE2199A/SCI2099A (Olin) Paradigms, Predictions, and Joules: A Historical and Scientific Approach to Energy and the Environment (2) GEOS/ES 201 (Wellesley) Environmental, Health, and Sustainability Sciences (3) ASTR/GEOS 120 (Wellesley) Planetary Habitability: Past, Present, and Future. These applied alternative on-ramps into STEM have attracted a higher percentage of both URM and first generation students. In 2010, Brabander was awarded the Wellesley College’s Pinanski Prize for Excellence in Teaching.
Integration leading to new disciplines. Informed by research experiences at both Parsons Lab at MIT and Harvard School of Public Health, Brabander’s current research is at the intersection of environmental health and medical geosciences and has helped shape and define an emergent new discipline: “geohealth.”
Professor Brabander’s research team comprises undergraduates learning science by doing science, citizen scientists, and not for profit organizations. Projects have been featured in numerous media outlets including NPR, ABC news, the Boston Globe, and Time Magazine. His current research focus is environmental geochemistry, health, and sustainable urban agriculture.
The theme of the 2018 CUR Conference was Creating Collaborative Connections in and through Undergraduate Research. Below are highlighted sessions by GeoCUR councilors and members. Please view the full conference program for a listing of all sessions.
PANEL PRESENTATION: Progress in Scaling Up an Innovative Evaluation Method: Perspectives from Pilot Implementation Sites and Next Steps
Jill Singer | Karen G. Havholm | Jennifer Harris
State University of New York- Buffalo State | University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire | University of Washington
Development and pilot testing of an evaluation method for summer research programs is discussed. The method involves multiple assessments of student knowledge and skills for 11 outcome categories each defined by multiple components. Mentors assess students, students self-assess, and mentor-student pairs experience repeated structured interactions to help students reflect and identify content knowledge and skills they desire to improve. A “dashboard” facilitates tracking. Panelists represent institutions that pilot tested the method. Discussion includes refinement of the method, the next round of pilot testing, and plans for eventual broader distribution.
PANEL PRESENTATION: Creating Successful Undergraduate Research Connections between Two-Year and Four-Year Colleges and Universities
Jennifer A. Lanter | Diana Spencer | Michelle Hayford | Prajukti Bhattacharyya | Jane Lehr
Moraine Park Technical College | Tulsa Community College | University of Dayton | University of Wisconsin – Whitewater | California Polytechnic State University- San Luis
This session will bring together individuals active in undergraduate research, scholarship, and creative activities at two-year colleges with those at four-year colleges and universities to discuss opportunities and pathways that allow student researchers to transition seamlessly from two-year to four-year institutions. The goal of this session is to share best practices, as well as the benefits and challenges, of connecting two-year and four-year undergraduate research experiences for students and related professional development for faculty.
PANEL PRESENTATION: Building Collaborative Relationships: Discussion of Vignettes Showcasing Innovative Relationships Designed to Support Student Learning
Jennifer A. Lanter | Aaron Richard Sakulich | Michael Jackson | Mark L. Lord
Moraine Park Technical College | Worcester Polytechnic Institute | Millersville University | Western Carolina University
The Council on Undergraduate Research’s Innovation and Collaboration Task Force, consisting of Councilors from several CUR divisions, has developed a website to collect, peer review, and share case-study examples of collaborations that support opportunities, resources, and/or success for undergraduates. In this panel we will discuss the information available on the website, as well as the vignette submission and review process. In all, our goal is that, through sharing these examples – both on the website and at the conference—we will inspire others to engage in innovative and collaborative activities.
POSTER: The Essential Role of Information Literacy in Basic Undergraduate Research Skills
Laura A. Guertin
Penn State Brandywine
As undergraduate student researchers, students are creators of new knowledge while at the same time are required to interact with existing information. Knowing how and where to find material and answers to questions in the earliest stage of the research process is not a skill we can assume students have when they arrive at our universities. Collaboration between a discipline faculty member and a faculty reference/instruction librarian can result in several possible approaches to establishing a foundation in information literacy for students to then pursue undergraduate research experiences.
POSTER: Integrating Student Feedback and Evaluation: A Different Approach to Identifying and Documenting the Impact of Undergraduate Research
Jill Singer | Jennifer Harris | Karen G. Havholm
State University of New York – Buffalo State | University of Washington | University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire
With funding from the NSF WIDER program, an evidence-based evaluation model for guiding undergraduate research is being piloted. The model involves progress assessments by faculty and students across a wide range of learning outcomes. Through repeated structured interactions between student and mentor at the beginning, middle, and end of research, the evaluation helps students recognize and better understand strengths and weaknesses, as well as providing institutional assessment data beyond that self-reported by students. Through collaborations with CUR and SERC at Carleton College, we currently are pilot testing and refining the evaluation model.
PRESENTATION: Broadening Participation in STEM: Effective Strategies and Student Perspectives
Catherine Chan | Prajukti Bhattacharyya | Shen Zhang | Carolyn L Morgan
University of Wisconsin – Whitewater | University of Wisconsin – Whitewater | University of Wisconsin – Whitewater | University of Wisconsin – Whitewater
As part of our efforts to broaden undergraduate research participation, we obtained a sub-award from the Wisconsin Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (WiscAMP) to encourage underrepresented minority students to consider majoring in STEM fields by providing them with research and professional development opportunities, such as a three-day Winter Research Institute for students with diverse academic and research experience. This presentation will highlight our strategies to broaden participation and reduce the opportunity gap in STEM fields, as well as student perspectives shared during focus-group interviews.
POSTER: Creating and Assessing Video Animations of Deep Earth Processes to Support Student Learning and Investigations
Jeffrey G. Ryan | Robert J. Stern | Victor Ricchezza | Lochlan Vaughn
University of South Florida | University of Texas at Dallas | University of South Florida | University of Texas at Dallas
This NSF-funded project seeks to generated and educationally evaluate scientifically accurate and engaging video animations of deep earth processes targeting introductory and upper-level undergraduate geoscience courses. We report initial results from the development and testing of an initial animation discussing the different modalities of mantle melting.
PRESENTATION: UW-Whitewater Undergraduate Research Program and Student Success: A Data-Driven Self-Study
Catherine Chan | Prajukti Bhattacharyya
University of Wisconsin – Whitewater | University of Wisconsin – Whitewater
The Undergraduate Research Program leadership team at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater conducted a self-study on the characteristics of student participants and possible outcomes of their participation. We analyzed various demographic, retention, and graduation data spanning the academic years 2009-2010 to 2016-2017. Results suggested that students participating in mentored research show improved retention and graduation rates compared to other students from similar demographics.
PANEL PRESENTATION: North Carolina Public and Private Colleges and Universities Converge Around Undergraduate Research
Lee Phillips | Mary A. Farwell | Rebecca Battista | Joanne D. Altman
University of North Carolina at Greensboro | East Carolina University | Appalachian State University | High Point University
Public and private North Carolina colleges and universities work, collectively, to help promote undergraduate research and creative inquiry as a pathway to learning process through discovery. These efforts are coordinated by faculty/UR program directors from both state and independent institutions. The presenters will discuss the successful programs that have evolved from these collaborations and best and worst practices. Participants will be able to leave with models and ideas for developing or strengthening efforts to grow regional programs that forge collaborations among a variety of universities and colleges.
PRESENTATION: OUR Explorers: A Program to Expose Undergraduates to Research Opportunities across Campus
Allison Beauregard-Schwartz University of West Florida
The University of West Florida (UWF) Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR), recently launched the OUR Explorers program for underclassmen. The goals for this program are to encourage students to engage in research earlier, to increase engagement in undergraduates research, and to broaden the scope of potential mentors that students consider. OUR Explorers students are matched with three or four faculty “guides” from a broad range of research specialties to shadow for the spring semester, based on the student’s stated interests and career goals.
The theme of the 2016 CUR Conference was Advancing Undergraduate Research: Collaboration and Innovation in a Global Society. Below are highlighted sessions by GeoCUR councilors and members. Please view the full conference program for a listing of all sessions.
WORKSHOP: Facilitating Instruction and Research with Undergraduates Using Remotely Operable Microbeam Instrumentation
Presenters: Jeffrey G. Ryan | Sven Paul Holbik | James MacDonald | Mary Beck
University of South Florida | Florida International University | Florida Gulf Coast University | Valencia College
Making use of research instrumentation in undergraduate science courses is a common practice, but one that has historically been limited by access to instrumentation, which creates a range of challenges in providing a classroom of undergraduate students with substantive hands-on educational experiences. This NSF-TUES funded Expansion project is building on the success of a CCLI Program funded pilot effort at USF- Tampa in integrating the use of both electron probe micro-analysis (EPMA) and scanning electron microsocopy (SEM) into introductory and upper-level courses in the earth sciences via remote operation technologies. Students use these instruments (housed at the Florida Center for Analytical Electron Microscopy at FIU in Miami, FL) in real time in their classrooms, conducting both structured laboratory activities and open-ended investigations of collected samples. In this “workshop” you will get hands-on experiences with the FCAEM EPMA and SEM instrumentation as well as an overview of instructor and student instructional resources which are provided via the FCAEM website, and a summary of our salient results in terms of student engagement and facilitation of undergraduate research. You will have the opportunity to discuss with our investigator team how you might take advantage of the FCAEM instruments and resources in your own courses, and the chance to schedule mentored use time on one of the FCAEM instruments to familiarize yourself with the system, and try out your analytical/educational strategies. Our TUES project includes funding to support “tryout days” for new instructional users.
PANEL PRESENTATION: The Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship in Earth and Environmental Sciences (SURFEES) Program: Targeting Community College Students through Research Experiences at 4-Year Colleges
Presenters: Christopher Kim | Hesham El-Askary | Rosalee Hellberg
Effectively recruiting and engaging diverse community college students in STEM research experiences is an increasingly important goal of the National Science Foundation, but has not historically been the primary focus of most NSF-REU (Research Experiences for Undergraduates) Site programs. The Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship in Earth and Environmental Sciences (SURFEES) program at Chapman University, a primarily undergraduate institution in Southern California, is the site of the first NSF-REU program in NSF’s Division of Earth Sciences that selects participants exclusively from local partnering community colleges. The SURFEES program incorporates specific mentor and participant pre-experience training, pre-, mid-, and post-assessment instruments, and programming targeted to the earth and environmental sciences as well as to community college students. Perhaps most importantly, the application, selection and pairing of student participants with faculty mentors was conducted with specific goals of identifying those applicants with the greatest potential for a transformative experience while also meeting self-defined targets of under-represented minority, female, and low-income participants. In this panel discussion, the program’s principal investigator along with SURFEES faculty mentors from disciplines including biology, earth system science and food science will present initial assessment results of the first two participant cohorts from summer 2014 and 2015, discuss lessons learned for creating/adapting an NSF-REU site to involve community college students, and share individual observations about the student-faculty mentoring and research experience associated with this unique program.
PANEL PRESENTATION: Investigating the Earth and Other Planets Via Virtual Globes such as Google Earth, NASA World Wind, and Cesium
Presenters: Jeffrey G. Ryan
University of South Florida
Aside from serving as a widely used geospatial visualization platform, Google Earth provides ready access to a large and growing collection of earth and planetary observation datasets, as well as to “crowd-sourced” imagery and visualizations which students can investigate through course-based structured research experiences as well as via independent investigations. These and other geospatial visualization platforms (examples include GeoMapApp/Virtual Ocean, focused on observational data from the world’s oceans and seafloor; and Cesium, a new open-source virtual map and globe engine) present a wealth of opportunities for engaging undergraduates in the interrogation of global datasets. This set of Presentations will highlight investigations of Earth observation datasets accessible through Google Earth Engine, of the extensive NASA database for Lunar and Mars imagery accessible through the Planets option in GE, and of time-slider, Gigapan, and new 3D visualization resources available through the NSF-funded GEODE project (Google Earth in Onsite and Distance Education). Participants will have the opportunity to delve into and evaluate a range of open-source global geo-data resources and visualization tools.
PANEL PRESENTATION: Engaging Students in Course-Based Research: Reports from PCAST, NAS, and Examples from Earth/Environmental Sciences
Presenters: Laura A. Guertin | Mark L. Lord | Sarah K. Fortner
Penn State Brandywine | Western Carolina University | Wittenberg University
The national “Engage to Excel” PCAST report (2012) and “Integrating Discovery-Based Research into the Undergraduate Curriculum” NAS Convocation Report (2015) makes a strong call for using research in our courses. Course-based research offers students training and practice with what we do as scientists and helps to bridge the gap between our teaching and our research. In addition, course-based research is inclusive and supports student success. In this session, we will share information from these published reports, provide examples of successful undergraduate research projects in courses, and strategies for involving different components of research into courses at all levels. Participants will leave with a concrete plan for integrating research in one of their own courses.
WORKSHOP: Innovation and Collaboration: Creating Opportunities without Reinventing the Wheel
Presenters: Cynthia A Merriwether-DeVries | Sarah K. Fortner | Jon Grahe
Juniata College | Wittenberg University | Pacific Lutheran University
The session will begin with a brief introduction to the history of the Innovation and Collaboration Task Force and the activities conducted in support of the CUR Innovation and Collaboration Strategic Pillar. Participants will be introduced to the newly launched Case Studies in Innovation & Collaboration website to glean ideas for collaboration opportunities applicable to their home institutional environment. Participants will develop a preliminary plan to implement and analyze a project upon their return to their home campuses. Participants will interact with faculty who have successfully implemented demonstration projects presented on the case study website. Participants will be encouraged to consider supports and challenges related to the application of collaboration strategies in their specific discipline and in their specific community contexts. Participants are encouraged to come with specific illustrations of the corporate, public sector and social service organizations in their home communities that could serve as potential community partners. Project ideas generated by faculty or community partners should be summarized by participants prior to the workshop. PLEASE NOTE: If the participant does not have project ideas it is important to consider the unmet needs in their home community and or potential industry partners to approach on return to their home campus. Participants are encouraged to visit the Case Studies website in advance of the workshop.
PRESENTER: Teaching Through Research in the Sciences: a Student Cohort Model
Presenter: Weston Dripps
All Bachelor of Science students within the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences are required to complete a senior thesis based on original research completed during the summer prior to the senior year. During fall of their senior year, students enroll in a course designed to methodically guide them through the process of writing their senior thesis. Students meet as a cohort with an instructor twice a week and then individually with their thesis advisor on a weekly basis. The course provides detailed instruction on writing the various components to a thesis and requires that students generate multiple drafts of each section of their thesis with set deadlines. Upon completion of the course, students have written a full draft of their thesis, and have submitted an abstract to a professional meeting. The spring term is used to further revise the thesis, present the work at a professional meeting, and defend the thesis at a public departmental defense. The recent addition of this course to the curriculum has provided substantially more instruction, structure, and collaboration within the research process, has significantly improved the quality of the research work, and has enhanced the thesis learning experience. The cohort model has changed what was previously an individual, independent, fairly isolating thesis experience to a peer supported, communal, collaborative bonding endeavor. This model requires a significant time commitment and active participation by all faculty overseeing thesis projects in order for it to be successful. From a curriculum development standpoint, the course has allowed the department to identify the core skills students need to successfully complete the senior thesis as well as exposed some competency weaknesses (e.g. graphing skills, hypothesis development, managing large datasets), which have subsequently been scaffolded throughout the curriculum, so that students build these skills prior to engaging in the senior thesis.
POSTER: Integrating Discovery-Based Research into the Undergraduate STEM Curriculum: A Convocation Report from NAS
Presenters: Laura A. Guertin | Elizabeth L. Ambos | Jeffrey G. Ryan
Penn State Brandywine | Council on Undergraduate Research | University of South Florida
The following posters represented the geosciences at CUR’s Posters on the Hill, April 18, 2018.
Student: Angela R Burke
Research Institution: University of Alabama in Huntsville
Lead Student Home Institution: University of Alabama in Huntsville
Lead Student Home State: AL
Faculty Advisor: Mr. Ryan Wade
Poster Title: Analyzing Tornadic Debris Signatures by Integrating Aerial Imagery and Polarimetric Radar Data in GIS
Funding Agency: NOAA OAR Office of Weather and Air Quality
Grant #: NA16OAR4590210
Abstract:The historic April 27th tornado outbreak of 2011 produced 62 tornadoes in Alabama, with the one of the strongest being the EF-5 Hackleburg-Tanner tornado. The UAH Department of Atmospheric Science contracted the Atlantic Group to fly the Hackleburg-Tanner EF-5 tornado track and capture high-resolution swaths of the damage path, as well as the paths for the violent Cullman and Cordova tornadoes.This case study involves detailed analysis of the aerial imagery, including digitizing tree-falls and damage points, and outlining a damage path for the tornado. These analyses are then merged with georeferenced TIFF files (GeoTIFF) of UAH ARMOR (Advanced Radar for Meteorological and Operational Research) polarimetric radar scans of Reflectivity Factor, Radial Velocity, Correlation Coefficient, Differential Reflectivity, and Spectrum width to analyze dual-polarization radarTornado Debris Signature (TDSs) associated with the Hackleburg-Tanner tornado.An analysis ofTDSs from this tornado allows for the characterization of the effects of debris loading as the tornado passed over different types of terrain. Additionally, a large gap in damage from Harvest, AL, to theTennessee state line is being investigated to determine the possibility that the Hackleburg-Tanner tornado dissipated before Franklin County,TN,and another formed along the same path.The combined analysis of aerial imagery and radar data will provide a detailed picture of how the physical damage and radar signatures correlate and the effects of debris loading over different terrain, which will add confidence to future forecasting of tornadic events.
Student: Sarah Elizabeth Coffey
Research Institution: Stetson University
Lead Student Home Institution: Stetson University
Lead Student Home State: VA
Faculty Advisor: Dr.Wendy B Anderson
Poster Title: A Reconstr uction of Fire Histor y of the San Juan Islands, Washington
Funding Agency: BLM National Landscape Conservation System Research Support Program (BLM OR-WA District)
Grant #: L14AC00205
Abstract: Coast Salish peoples in the San Juan Islands have traditionally used fire in the grasslands as a way of managing native plant communities for agriculture. Natural fire frequency in the islands is among the lowest in Washington, suggesting that historical fire regimes reflect human influence. As Indigenous groups have largely been displaced since the arrival of Neo-Europeans in the archipelago, fire frequency has decreased, which has impacted the productivity of grassland flora. Using macroscopic charcoal as a proxy for fire frequency and radiocarbon analysis to approximate when these fires occurred, I attempted to reconstruct the fire history of San Juan Islands. I took my samples from four sites that were adjacent to the historical grasslands of Iceberg Point, Lopez Island, and Cattle Point, San Juan Island. Peaks in the macroscopic charcoal count signified unique fire events that were used to create mean fire return intervals (MFRIs).The site that was closest to the historical grasslands had the lowest MFRI of 42 years and the site furthest from historical grasslands had the greatest MFRI of 133 years. I also conducted interviews with Coast Salish individuals to glean more knowledge of traditional management techniques through the use of fire. Since there is a general concern about the encroachment of shrubs and invasive species into highly diverse grasslands not only in the San Juan Archipelago but throughout the Pacific Northwest, data on previous management techniques using fire could inform current management solutions.
Student: Alexandria M Weiskircher
Research Institution: Midwestern State University
Lead Student Home Institution: Midwestern State UniversityLead Student Home State: TX
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Jonathan D Price
Poster Title: Magmatic Timing in an Ancient Rift
Abstract:The Wichita Mountains in southwestern Oklahoma expose approximately a dozen granite intrusive bodies (plutons), all part of magmatism within an ancient tectonic rift known as the Southern Oklahoma Aulacogen, a feature that stretched from Dallas, Texas, across Oklahoma, past Amarillo to eastern Utah. At the margin of one of the intrusive bodies, the Quanah Granite Pluton, we noted three rock types.These are (1) the typical coarse-grained facies (CF), (2) fine-grained facies (FF), and (3) porphyritic facies (PF).They are distinguishable based on grain size and mineral content. CF has 6mm mineral grains, FF has 2mm mineral grains, and PF has 5mm larger alkali- feldspar grains with a sub-millimeter matrix. Additionally, the intrusive margin contains several pegmatite bodies, these are coarse-grained igneous pods and linear, intrusive features. Mapping the FF and PF revealed these to have linear, intrusive geometries that cut the CF.To resolve relationships, we assessed the mineral content of the three rock types through petrological and geochemical techniques. Prior researchers noted CF’s distinct mineral populations, which include the sodic amphiboles. PF contains the minerals biotite and/or calcic amphibole. FF contains only biotite.The pegmatite bodies contain quartz ± orthoclase ± biotite or sodic amphibole.,The textures and mineral assemblages imply that the voluminous CF magma first intruded this area, followed by distinct magma(s) that gave rise to the FF and PF.The difference in texture suggests the FF and PF record the last gasps of magmatism in the rift.
The following posters represented the geosciences at CUR’s Posters on the Hill, April 26, 2017.
Student(s): Joshua David Pigg | Matthew Barley
Research Institution: Indiana State University
Lead Student Home Institution: Indiana State UniversityLead Student Home State: IN
Faculty Advisor(s): Dr. Jennifer C Latimer
Poster Title: “Bioavailability of Pb in Urban Soils”
Abstract: Children living in urban areas continue to have a higher risk of lead poisoning than those living in rural areas. An often overlooked source of lead exposure is found in urban soils, which store lead introduced to the environment as a result of the past use of leaded gasoline and leaded paints, as well as industrial emissions of lead. While many studies have quantified the distribution of lead across urban areas, few studies have assessed the bioavailability of lead in these urban soils.The samples used in this study were collected in Terre Haute, Indiana.Total lead concentrations for most of the surface soil samples were previously determined, although additional samples were collected in May 2016 from a historical residential district in Terre Haute.Two different geochemical approaches were used to evaluate the lead bioavailability. Samples were identified with soil lead >200 ppm (n = 210) and subjected to an extraction using a simulated gastric solution to measure what could be absorbed in the stomach during digestion.These samples are currently being subjected to an extraction using simulated bile and porcine pancreatin to measure lead that could be absorbed in the intestines. Samples with lead > 1200 ppm (n= 50) were subjected to a sequential extraction that isolates Pb that is associated with different soil components.The results suggest that soil lead previously considered to be not biologically available could be absorbed in significant quantities during digestion.
Student(s): Perri Silverhart
Research Institution: Middlebury College
Lead Student Home Institution: Middlebury College
Lead Student Home State: CT
Faculty Advisor(s): Dr. Patricia Lee Manley | Dr.Thomas Manley
Poster Title: “Utilizing Landslides in Lake Champlain as Paleoseismic and Paleohazard Indicators”
Sponsoring Agency: Middlebur y College Senior Research Fund, Lake Champlain Research Consor tium, and Lintilhac Foundation
Abstract: Lacustrine landslides have been identified in Lake Champlain via Multibeam and CHIRP (compressed high-intensity radar pulse) seismic profile imagery. Previous studies show that several of these landslides are coeval occurring ~4500 – 5500 cal yr BP.This study focuses on a series of four overlapping landslide deposits on the western side of the main section of Lake Champlain between Bouquet River Delta and Essex, NY, where nearly the entire slope has failed with the exception of a few locations where intact blocks of slope sediment remain. Utilizing radionuclide dating on sediment from the unfailed slopes, sedimentation rates were determined and used to calculate the approximate failure ages for each of the four landslides studied.,The northernmost failure occurred about 950-1200 cal yr BP, and is the first mass wasting event of this age to be recorded on Lake Champlain.The remaining regions failed about 4500-5200 cal yr BP, and agree with the previously studied landslides within Lake Champlain. In the nearbyWestern Quebec Seismic Zone (WQSZ),clusters of terrestrial landslides have occurred at 1000 and 5000 cal yr BP,and are triggered by large earthquakesThe 5000 cal yr BP event has been attributed to a M 6.4 or greater earthquake within the WQSZ.The landslides observed in Lake Champlain are likely triggered by this same earthquake. Additionally, lake tsunami models show that these simultaneous landslide failures can generate a surface water wave of 30 feet that can impact the shoreline within 3-10 minutes after the earthquake.
Student(s): Samantha Bartnik | Adam Wiest | Carly Mueller
Research Institution: University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire
Lead Student Home Institution: University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire
Lead Student Home State: WI
Faculty Advisor(s): Dr. J. Brian Mahoney
Poster Title: “Establishing an Environmental Baseline for Surface and Groundwater Chemistry in Western Wisconsin: Key to Developing Reasonable and Responsible Regulations”
Abstract:The high demand for silica sand by the petroleum industry has led to a dramatic expansion of silica sand mining in westernWisconsin.That has generated immense public concern about the potential environmental impact to surface water and groundwater.TheWisconsin Department of Natural Resources has proposed water quality regulations on silica sand operations that the industry considers onerous. Documentation of the natural concentration and mobility of trace elements in the environment is a critical first step in the development of environmental safeguards.This investigation will establish a comprehensive environmental baseline documenting background variations of ~25 trace metals in natural waters throughout the region.This study will constrain the concentration and mobility of trace metals that occur naturally in geologic formations. Chemical analysis of ~70 surface water, 50 municipal groundwater, and 50 whole rock, mine tailings, and wasterock storage pile samples will constrain the relationship between the bedrock trace metal content and the composition of natural waters. Preliminary results suggest limited trace metal mobility between geologic formations and surface water and groundwater, and trace metal values (e.g., arsenic, lead, cadmium, zinc) are well below federal drinking water standards. Integrating these data with site-specific analyses of surface water and groundwater at mine sites will permit quantification of potential contaminants generated during the mine process. These data are vital to the development of reasonable and responsible environmental safeguards that will facilitate economic growth and sustainable development of the silica sand industry, while safeguarding water resources and public health in western Wisconsin.
The following posters represented the geosciences at CUR’s Posters on the Hill, April 19-20, 2016.
Student: Miles T. Bengtson
Research Institution: Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
Lead Student Home Institution: Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
Lead Student Home State: NC
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Anatoly V. Streltsov
Sponsoring Agency (Grant #): Embry-Riddle Office of Undergraduate Research
Title: Obser vations and Simulations of Whistler Waves in the Van Allen Radiation Belts
Abstract:When the first American satellite, Explorer I, was launched into space it inadvertently discovered one the most significant features of our local space environment: the Van Allen Radiation Belts. This region contains highly energetic particles which are trapped in the geomagnetic field. These particles are extremely hazardous for spacecraft, causing damage to electronics and endangering astronauts on the International Space Station. Certain natural or artificial events, such as coronal mass ejections or high-altitude nuclear explosions, can enhance the Radiation Belts and decrease satellite lifetimes from years to months.Therefore, one of the most critical national defense objectives is to develop a process to remediate the radiation and protect our assets in space from this threat. Our research involves one promising remediation mechanism based on the interactions between these particles and very-low-frequency electromagnetic waves known as whistlers. One important property of whistler waves is that they can be guided along narrow inhomogeneities of plasma density called ducts.To understand the ducting mechanism one needs to compare theoretical predictions with in-situ observations of waves and particles in the magnetosphere. We have analyzed several events of ducted whistlers observed by the Van Allen Probes satellites and reproduce them with numerical simulations based on whistler theory.We demonstrate good, quantitative agreement between our simulations and the observations, indicating that our model successfully explains a majority of the existing satellite observations and can be used to predict the results from future experiments of launching whistler waves into the Radiation Belts from ground transmitters and spacecraft.
Students: David A McLennan, and Erika Smith
Research Institution: Indiana State University
Lead Student Home Institution: Indiana State University
Lead Student Home State: IN
Faculty Mentors: Dr. Jennifer C Latimer, and Dr. Jeffery R Stone
Sponsoring Agency (Grant #): National Science Foundation, and the US Geological Survey
Poster Title: “Monitoring Increased Nutrient Loads on a Lake Acting as a Heavy Metal Reservoir”
Abstract: GreenValley Lake State Fishing Area in west-central Indiana once served as a water supply reservoir for the adjacent and now abandoned GreenValley Coal Mine (operated from 1948-1963).The mine property continues to discharge acidic drainage despite reclamation efforts into GreenValley Lake and the connected Scott Lake Fish and Wildlife Areas.To evaluate the variability of metal and nutrient loads over time, two short sediment cores were collected from Green Valley Lake in spring 2014 (38cm) and spring 2015 (39cm). Metal concentrations were determined by a portable X-ray fluorescence analyzer after the cores were separated into 0.5 cm samples. Approximately 20% of the metal concentrations will be verified by ICP-OES following extraction in 50% aqua regia. Detailed phosphorus (P) geochemistry was determined using a sequential extraction technique (SEDEX).The sediments in the lake are characterized by heavy metal concentrations elevated above typical background levels. These metals tend concentrate near the sediment water interface, often 2-5 times greater than the average for the sediments below.This suggests they are diagenetically mobile, possibly diffusing out of the sediments under low oxygen conditions and returning to the sediments when oxygen returns.The most dramatic shift in the detailed P geochemistry is the significant reduction of mineral P at 15 cm and increasing importance of oxide-associated and adsorbed P upcore. Diatom assemblages suggest increasing eutrophication. As nutrient loads continue to increase, the oxygen depleted zone may expand impacting fish populations and change water geochemistry significantly, in particular by mobilizing heavy metals.
Student: John Warnock
Research Institution: Carthage College
Lead Student Home Institution: Car thage College
Lead Student Home State: IL
Faculty Mentor: Dr.Wenjie Sun
Poster Title: “Is cycling as an active transpor tation more than environmentally friendly?—Impacts of bicycle networks on property values in Madison,WI”
Abstract: Whether it is a simple bike path in a park or a complex network of trails and bike lanes, bicycling infrastructure positively impacts the economy. Networks promote active transportation which results in both public and personal economic benefits.The community benefits from reduced infrastructure and health costs, reduced vehicle emissions, and increased revenues to local businesses. Individuals benefit through a healthier lifestyle as well as reduced transportation and medical expenses.There is also an economic effect on property values. Opinions vary whether a bike trail will increase or decrease the value of properties near it.While opponents feel that privacy decreases and crime increases near a bike trail, most studies have shown that bike trails will increase property values. ,This study focuses on the effect bicycle trails have on property values in Madison, WI. Madison has a well-developed cycling network which acts as a corridor for transportation and recreation. While only 0.6% of workers in the U.S. commute to work by bicycle, the percentage is much higher in Madison at 5.3%. In this study, through the use of geographic information system (GIS), maps were created and statistical analyses were run to determine how assessed values of single family residential properties vary by the home’s proximity to the nearest off-street, paved bike trail. Many variables relating to the attributes of properties were also incorporated in this research.The results show a statistically significant effect of a home’s distance to the nearest bike trail on assessed value together with other property characteristics.
The following posters represented the geosciences at CUR’s Posters on the Hill, April 2015.
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The following posters represented the geosciences at CUR’s Posters on the Hill, April 29, 2014.
STUDENT: Casey L. Calamaio
INSTITUTION: University of Alabama in Huntsville
STUDENT HOME STATE: Vermont
FACULTY ADVISOR: Robert Griffin
POSTER TITLE: From Lindbergh to the International Space Station: 75 Years of Remote Sensing Land Cover Change in Panama
SPONSORING AGENCY: SERVIR Program NASA Smithsonian’s Tropical Research Institute
ABSTRACT: The field of remote sensing has come a long way over the past century. Opportunistic pilots with handheld cameras have given way to mission specific space-borne platforms that can increasingly target features with high spatial and spectral resolution. The research presented here highlights the history of remote sensing through collaborative research I’ve undertaken with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) and NASA’s SERVIR Program (Regional Visualization and Monitoring System). I focus here on the region around Panama, occupying the narrow isthmus between Central and South America. This region is ecologically important, being a natural corridor for species between the continents. In addition, this region is economically important in that its largest public work, the Panama Canal, has a profound impact on global markets. Although satellite remote sensing has only been around since the 1970s, I have been able to examine the history of land cover change in Panama by digitizing and geolocating the Smithsonian’s catalog of aerial photographs spanning much of the twentieth century, the earliest of which date back to Charles Lindbergh’s flights over the Canal in 1927. These black-and-white aerial photographs present an interesting juxtaposition against my ongoing research working with the International Space Station SERVIR Environmental Research and Visualization System (ISERV) Pathfinder, a testbed camera system developed at and currently on board the ISS. In this poster I compare information derived from historic aerial photographs and the ISERV space-borne camera system to examine both ecological land cover change as well as the value of new remote sensing technologies.
STUDENT: Sam Herreid
INSTITUTION: University of Alaska-Fairbanks
STUDENT HOME STATE: Alaska
FACULTY ADVISOR: Anthony Arendt
POSTER TITLE: First estimates of glacier melt rate reduction from rock debris cover for all Alaska glaciersDISPLAY AREA: 1C
SPONSORING AGENCY: Cryospheric Sciences program, NASA Cooperative Institute for Alaska Research, NOAA EPSCoR Alaska Space Grant program NASA
ABSTRACT: Glacier shrinkage is an accepted indicator of climate change and contributor to global sea level rise. Recent global scale glacier melt models have shown the significance of mountain glaciers (excluding Greenland and Antarctica) towards a rise in sea level. While the first suite of global models incorporate the first-order variables needed to make sound estimates and predictions, we are now investigating variables that were initially neglected. One of these variables is the presence of rock debris on a glacier’s surface, sourced mainly from valley wall erosion. Rock material above a thickness of about 2 cm will reduce the local glacier melt rate by regulating the solar energy available for melt at the ice surface (under the rock layer). We have collected 4 years of field data on Alaskan glaciers aimed at better understanding the relationship between the presence of rock debris and the melt response of the ice below. We have also developed a method to accurately map debris cover at regional or global scales. We have used this method to compile the first exhaustive digital inventory of debris cover on glaciers for the entire state of Alaska. Alaska hosts 12% of mountain glacier area on earth and our results show that 21% of Alaskan glacier area is covered by a layer of rock debris. We will use our field observations and Alaska wide debris cover inventory to make a first-order estimate of glacier melt rate reduction from rock debris cover, a factor previously unaccounted for in existing models.
STUDENT: Lydia C. Babcock-AdamsINSTITUTION: University of GeorgiaSTUDENT HOME STATE: Georgia
FACULTY ADVISOR: William Miller
POSTER TITLE: Deep Ocean Photochemistry: Reevaluating the Role of UV Radiation on the Global Marine Organic Carbon Cycle
SPONSORING AGENCY: Chemical Oceanography award National Science Foundation
GRANT #: OCE-1234388
ABSTRACT: Earth’s increasing average temperature is linked to rising CO2 levels in the atmosphere, which currently contains about the same amount of carbon found in the ocean in the form of dissolved organic carbon (DOC). These two critical carbon pools are balanced globally by continual exchange, with small changes capable of large climatic effects. Interestingly, most oceanic DOC is “refractory” carbon (DOrC), meaning bacteria cannot consume it quickly, and this pool dominates the deep, dark ocean. Dated at 4000-6000 years old, DOrC has travelled through the entire ocean 4-6 times, spending hundreds of years in sunlit surface waters where photochemistry (reactions driven by sunlight) is known to break apart carbon-containing molecules, form CO (carbon monoxide), CO2, and other small molecules that allow rapid DOC removal. These findings raise the question: Is DOrC really photochemically reactive? Our research addressed this question with shipboard experiments on the RV Melville designed to determine the photo-reactivity of DOrC. Experiments were performed on seawater retrieved from the deep North Pacific where the DOrC pool is oldest. Long-term exposures in a solar simulator showed CO production falling almost to zero in deep and surface samples over 24-48 hours. This suggests that photo-reactive DOC initially present is rapidly lost, leaving DOrC which must be unreactive. When substantiated by our related studies, these novel findings that ~75% of the global DOC pool is NOT photo-reactive, will force a significant reevaluation of the role of marine photochemistry in DOC dynamics, the global carbon budget, and global climate change.
In 2018, CUR’s Geosciences Division presented the GeoCUR Award for Excellence in Student Research. Please review the citations from the nominators (PDF) and join us in congratulating our fifth group of student awardees in the history of this award.
The Geosciences Division of the Council on Undergraduate Research (GeoCUR) is now accepting nominations for its annual award that highlights the importance of mentoring undergraduate research activities. The award annually recognizes an individual who serves as a role model for productive and transformative student-faculty mentoring relationships and for maintaining a sustained and innovative approach to the enterprise of undergraduate research.
The application deadline is June 1, 2018. Completed nomination packs must be emailed to GeoCURMentor@gmail.com. Inquiries and questions may be sent to Erin Kraal (email@example.com) or Dan Brabander (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The American Geophysical Union (AGU) Virtual Poster Showcase is an affordable and accessible opportunity that allows undergraduate (pursuing Bachelor’s, Bachelor’s Honors, or Associate’s) and graduate (pursuing Master’s or Ph.D.) students to present their research virtually, alleviating any need to travel. Watch the video below to learn about how students can share research from anywhere! Presenting their research to an international audience is only four steps away for students, and the VPS takes place multiple times during the year. Visit the AGU website to learn more: http://education.agu.org/undergraduate-students/virtual-poster-showcase/
*Note the video highlights GeoCUR Council Laura Guertin and one of our 2016 GeoCUR Award for Excellence in Student Research awardees, Judy Smith.
Geoscience Councilor Sarah Fortner was recognized at the Annual Business Meeting of the Council on Undergraduate Research as the organization’s Volunteer of the Year. Congratulations, Sarah!
Sarah Fortner after receiving the CUR Volunteer of the Year Award. Photo taken by Robert Shuster.
Sarah Fortner (left) pictured with CUR Executive Officer Beth Ambos. Photo taken by Claire McLeod.
The fifth recipient of the GeoCUR Undergraduate Research Mentor Award is Mark Wilson, Lewis M. and Marian Senter Nixon Professor of Natural Sciences and Geology at The College of Wooster. Listen to an interview with the awardee (hit the “play” arrow below the image).
Read the press release from the College of Wooster.
The photos below were taken by Krista Herbstrith (NAGT) at the NAGT/GSA GeoEd/CUR Awards Luncheon at the GSA Annual Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, November 3, 2015. The group photo has pictured (left to right) Laura Guertin, co-chair of Mentor Award Committee, Mark Wilson, Lee Phillips, chair of GeoCUR Division.