CMU Great Lakes Summer Research for Undergraduates Program
Program and Dates
The 2012 application process and summer research program has been completed. Please check back for details on Summer 2013.2012 Program
Five to seven students were chosen to work with CMU faculty members on projects related to the Great Lakes ecosystems from June 4 to August 10, 2012. Students lived and worked on Beaver Island at the Central Michigan University Biological Station (CMUBS) in northern Lake Michigan during the 10 week program. Click here
to learn more about Beaver Island and CMUBS.
Please check back for the Summer 2013 application.
A complete application will include:
- Online application form
- Paper copies of the following, mailed to the contact and address noted below:
- A copy of your current undergraduate transcripts
- Two (2) letters of reference from faculty at your home institution who know your work
Students must still be undergraduates in the following fall semester after the research experience. Priority will be given to students who have completed at least their sophomore year at their home institution.
Protecting healthy beaches: The role of native microbial communities
Mentor: Dr. Elizabeth Wheeler Alm
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About: Monitoring efforts around the Great Lakes have revealed unacceptable levels of the bacterium Escherichia coli (E. coli) at recreational beaches. High levels of E. coli suggest that the beach is contaminated with fecal pollution. Fecal pollution at beaches is a serious human health threat and beaches are often closed when E. coli levels are high. We are reaching consensus, however, that some E. coli populations live in beach sand and can be suspended in beach water, resulting in unnecessary beach closings even when there is no fecal pollution. Because of this and other recently recognized problems with E. coli-based monitoring, methods for monitoring for a second indicator, Enterococcus, are being finalized for Great Lakes beaches. But some of the same problems may occur with Enterococcus.
A beach is a dynamic interface between terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems yet aside from monitoring for fecal bacteria, very little is known about the native microbial communities at beaches and what if any role they play in maintaining beach health. Our hypothesis is that the native microbial community living in sand at a healthy beach will limit invasion by fecal bacteria. In this project we will investigate the relationship between enterococci and the native beach sand community using transplant/survival studies. Sand cores taken from human impacted beaches in Wisconsin (Bradford beach) and Michigan (Grand Haven beach) will be transplanted to the relatively pristine beach at Sand Bay, Beaver Island. Levels of enterococci in the sand transplants will be followed over time to determine whether the native sand community at healthy Sand Bay beach can displace the enterococci. This study will complement our on-going investigations into the structure and function of microbial communities at natural versus human impacted beaches.
Requirements: The successful applicant should have a background in biology and an interest in microbiology. An introductory microbiology course that taught aseptic technique and preparation of culture media, or equivalent research experience, is also required.
Collapse of the Lake Michigan Food Web: Field and Experimental Studies to Identify Causes
Mentor: Dr. Hunter Carrick
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About: Dramatic changes in the Lake Michigan food web have been documented from several long-term datasets since 2005, whereby the spring diatom bloom (April-June) has all but disappeared from the open water region in the southern portion of the lake. This is alarming, because diatoms are the native food source for invertebrates in the lake, and are the base of the food web for the fishery. Dr. Carrick will be performing a combination of field and laboratory studies this summer to identify the likely causes of the collapse. First, Dr. Carrick proposes to will work with an REU student to survey northern Lake Michigan to determine if the loss of diatoms has occurred in the vicinity of Beaver Island. Second, likely factors for the collapse will be evaluated. One key factor is the direct effect invasive driessenid mussels have had on the plankton; however, other alternative effects could be important in including: changes in nutrient concentrations that may limit diatoms, a weakening of the diatom population from disease, and increased light penetration in the lake that may inhibit diatom growth. Diatoms will be collected this spring, and cultivated, so that they may be used in a series of complementary field and laboratory experiments will be performed to measure the relative importance of these factors.
Assessing the sulfur geochemistry of Beaver Island lakes via the determination of acid volatile sulfide distribution in sediments: Implications for metal toxicity
Mentor: Dr. Anthony Chappaz
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About: In aquatic systems, bacteria use sulfate as an electron donor to oxidize the organic matter within sediments. As a result of this bacterial reduction, hydrogen sulfide and other reduced sulfur compounds (S-II) are produced. A simple method to quantify these S(-II) species consists in measuring acid volatile sulfide (AVS) concentrations in both sediments and porewaters through a chemical extraction using HCl. To summarize, HCl is added to wet sediments, expelling the entire sulfide that are subsequently analyzed with a colorimetric method. In non-polluted sediments, AVS can be considered as a good indicator of iron monosulfide (FeS) content. Amorphous FeS is often responsible for the black color of anoxic (oxygen depleted) sediments. Under reducing conditions and in presence of AVS in sediments, the diffusion and transport of many toxic metals (e.g. mercury, arsenic, etc.) in porewater can be drastically reduced through the precipitation of these metals within the AVS layer. Characterizing the occurrence and importance of AVS phases in sediments is vital to understand the redox chemistry (and thus assess metal toxicity) of any aquatic systems.
The seven lakes located on Beaver Island are particularly interesting to study because of their wide diversity in term of geochemical conditions. As a member of the biogeochemistry group led by Dr. Chappaz, the student will have the opportunity through the summer to discover many aspects composing an environmental research project, such as learning more about geochemistry applied to lacustrine systems, organizing and conducting fieldwork to collect water and sediment samples, characterizing all samples using analytical facilities at CMUBS, participating to data interpretation and presenting the results.
Community-level compensatory dynamics in response to ecological perturbations within aquatic food webs
Mentor: Dr. Brent Murry
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About: The structure of aquatic food webs is highly dynamic and responds to both internal and external influences. The primary internal processes include competition and predation, while external drivers include all sorts of disturbances and perturbations (e.g. climate change, invasive species, fishing pressure, pollution, habitat alteration, etc.). The way in which communities adjust to these disturbances is of fundamental importance to assess impacts of perturbations on ecosystem functioning. Many ecosystem functions and related ecosystem services (benefits people receive from natural systems) are strongly influenced by food web structure and feeding relationships. Due to gape and energy limitations, most aquatic food webs are highly size-structured in a deterministic and predictable way. We will use experimental mesocosms and in situ enclosures to manipulate food web structure by simulating disturbances and measuring the compensatory responses (differential responses of species, size classes, and functional groups) of our model zooplankton community. Zooplankton, because of their high population growth rates and short turnover time, respond very quickly to experimental manipulation and are an ideal study group for these experiments. We also have an imaging flow cytometer (FlowCam) that greatly facilitates data analysis. Data will be analyzed using integrated size-spectra and species based approaches. Our over-riding goal is to increase our understanding of aquatic food web dynamics.
The role of spatial orientation and active movement in the long-distance dispersal of Great Lakes larval fish
Mentor: Dr. Kevin Pangle
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About: The population dynamics of fish are often regulated by processes that occur during the larval stage, at which point survival can be extraordinarily variable. In large water bodies, larval survival can be strongly dependent on the long-distance dispersal of larvae via water currents, as this movement dictates the environments larvae are exposed to and their ultimate settling location. A common assumption is that larvae undergo this journey as passive particles at the complete whim of the currents; however, recent findings from marine systems demonstrate that larvae can orientate themselves in an adaptive manner and influence their spatial trajectory through active movement. The goal of this project is to better understand the role of spatial orientation and active movement in the long-distance dispersal of Great Lakes larval fish. Specifically, Dr. Pangle will work with an REU student to develop and carry out laboratory flume experiments and field mesocosm experiments at the Beaver Island Biological Station that will identify the different cues larval fish use to orient themselves in the open water. We will focus in the lab on olfactory cues, such as those associated with predators, food resources, and land-water interface. We will also conduct field collections of larvae in offshore regions of Lake Michigan to relate our experimental findings to larval movement patterns in nature.
Through involvement in this research, the REU student will gain experience in experimental design, statistical analyses, population modeling, GIS mapping and limnological field sampling.
Behavioral Ecology of Two Species of Gulls
Mentor: Dr. Nancy E. Seefelt
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About: Waterbirds are an important component in Great Lakes ecosystems. Ring-billed Gulls and Herring Gulls are two species of waterbirds are very common in coastal areas in the Beaver Archipelago. This project, which is part of a larger study that monitors gull populations in the archipelago, will focus on documenting the spatial and temporal use of coastal habitats by gulls on Beaver Island and how weather influences habitat use. Field work will also involve recording both intraspecific and interspecific interactions of gulls using these habitats. In addition, gull behavior on colonies found on other islands will be studied using direct observation and field cameras. The student will have the opportunity to participate in the gull chick banding program, and may also have the opportunity work with other waterbird species nesting in the archipelago.
Requirements: The successful applicant should have a background in biology and an interest (but not necessarily coursework) in birds and behavior. In addition, the student will need to be prepared to work long hours both in the field and using a computer, as well as be comfortable traveling in a small motorboat on Lake Michigan.
Predictive Community Structure Changes Linked to Climate Change
Mentor: Dr. D.A. Woolnough
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About: Climate change is predicted to affect coastal areas and empirical data from the CMUBS would be a valuable topic for REU research. Annual discharge into Lake Michigan (CMUBS) and the Great Lakes Region is predicted to decline 5-20% in the next 60 years. This discharge change is expected to accelerated decline of biodiversity. This project will predict biodiversity changes in the littoral zones and the REU student could research the potential community structure influenced by declining shoreline water levels around the CMUBS region. Along with these water level change predictions thermal profiles of aquatic water bodies around the world are predicted to increase in these zones of influence. What is unknown is specifically what organisms these changes would influence; the objective of this REU project is to highlight what littoral and coastal organisms would be affected by the predicted water and temperature changes.
A priori predictions of water level change in Lake Michigan will be determined with GIS for the CMUBS region. Sampling transects perpendicular to the shoreline in climate change zone of influence will be established and at least 10 profiles would be sampled. D-net sampling, snorkeling transects, and ponar/Surber sampling techniques will be used along the transects at pre-defined depths to sample biotic communities with a focus on the macroinvertebrates and macrophyte communities. Abiotic data collected will include temperature profiles, substrate and basic water chemistry parameters. These data will help the REU student to empirically test: A) what is the community structure in the zone of influence? and B) how variable are abiotic parameters in the zone of influence?
This REU experience would include, but are not limited to, the following: Use of GIS and GPS mapping tools, macroinvertebrate and macrophyte sampling and identification, abiotic quantification skills, experimental design, seasonal water level influences, teamwork, and data analysis skills.
Requirements: Strong swimming skills, attention to detail, interest in climate change and aquatic organisms.
During Summer 2012, each student received a stipend of $4,000, lodging at CMUBS and meals provided in the cafeteria there. Funding of up to $500 was available to reimburse each student for travel costs to reach Beaver Island. Faculty mentors also received $500 in research funding for supplies and research-related travel.
Students who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents and will be undergraduates with a GPA of 2.5 or higher are eligible to apply. Women and minorities are particularly encouraged to apply.
For more information on the CMU Great Lakes Summer Research for Undergraduates program, and to submit additional application materials:
CMU Great Lakes Summer Research for Undergraduates
c/o Jessica Lapp
ET Building 228
Central Michigan University
Mount Pleasant, MI 48859