CMU Great Lakes Summer Research for Undergraduates Program
2013 Program and Dates
Five to seven students have been chosen to work with CMU faculty members on projects related to the Great Lakes ecosystems from June 9 to August 14, 2013. Students will live and work on Beaver Island at the Central Michigan University Biological Station (CMUBS) in northern Lake Michigan during the 10-week program.
The application period for the 2013 program closed on March 15. The online application form will be reinstated for the 2014 program.
A complete application includes:
- 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.
2013 Summer Research Topics
Collapse of the Lake Michigan Food Web: Field and Experimental Studies to Identify Causes
Mentor: Dr. Hunter Carrick
Find out more >>
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. He 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. Likely factors for the collapse will also be evaluated.
One key factor is the direct effect invasive driessenid mussels have had on the plankton; however other alternative effects could be important, 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 and cultivated this spring so that they may be used in a series of complementary field and laboratory experiments that will be performed to measure the relative importance of these factors.
Water and Soil Quality Studies
Mentor: Dr. Dale LeCaptain
Find out more >>
About: The challenge facing the scientific world of environmental studies - which includes ecosystem changes to species studeies all the way to global warming studies - is data. Is it an annual cycle or is it a trend? The condition of water systems is one significant marker and the systems of Beaver Island (and northern Lake Michigan) have received and continue to receive significant cross-disciplinary interest. Of particular research interest is the utilization of this information for determining changes to these systems over time. The broader research project will consider how to enhance this database of environmental water and soil quality studies with the help of students enrolled in analytical chemistry courses. Are these student studies valid? What are best practices for using this information to further environmental research?
Target Activities: There will be two key activities for this summer project. First is validation of analytical chemistry test methods for the water and soil analysis of select areas on the island. This will entail using EPA standard test methods as well as curriculum-modified methods to collect and establish quality data baselines. Second is data entry and data mining of the island water and soil quality back to the 1970s and beyond. Significant data has been collected over the life of the station and it is fragmented, incomplete or presumed lost. Compiling this data and researching the methods used will create a very valuable piece of historical data for the aforementioned environmental concerns pedagogical research.
Requirements: The successful applicant should have some background in chemistry and an interest in environmental chemistry. General chemistry is essential and either analytical chemistry and/or organic chemistry would be assets to the instrumentation and water chemistry requirements for the project. The student will be trained in gas chromatography (GC), gas chromatography - mass spectrometry (GC-MS) (both volatile and semi-volatile sampling), X-ray fluorescence, and volumetric and gravimetric environmental test methods.
The Effect of Zooplankton Transport on Nearshore Fish Communities in Lake Michigan
Mentor: Dr. Kevin Pangle
Find out more >>
About: Nearshore and offshore regions of the Great Lakes are often studied in isolation of one another; however, it is becoming increasingly apparent that changes to one region may strongly affect the other. The goal of this project is to examine the role of water currents in coupling the regions through the transport of offshore zooplankton to the nearshore fish community. Specifically, Dr. Pangle will work with an REU student to carry out a field study in which fish, zooplankton and hydrodynamics data will be collected along nearshore-to-offshore transects adjacent to Beaver Island. The study will include regular field sampling as well as laboratory time at the CMU Biological Station enumerating zooplankton and analyzing fish stomach content. Through involvement in this research, the REU student will gain experience in sampling design, statistical analyses, GIS mapping and limnological field and laboratory techniques.
Requirements: A background in biology, strong interest in aquatic ecology, and the ability to work on a boat and with a microscope (but not at the same time).
Community Structure Analysis: Beaver Island Inland Lakes and Surrounding Nearshore Lake Michigan Macroinvertebrate Community Response to Water Level Changes
Mentor: Dr. Daelyn Woolnough
Find out more >>
About: 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 accelerate decline of biodiversity. This project will predict biodiversity changes in the littoral zones and the REU student will research the potential community structure influenced by declining shoreline water levels around Beaver Island and inland lakes. What is unknown is specifically what organisms water level changes would influence and what seasonal effects may be influenced by future changes. This study will focus on macroinvertebrates since they are a key component and link in any aquatic food web. The objectives of this REU project will be to highlight seasonal changes (throughout the summer) in coastal and inland lake organisms and to determine the temporal and spatial distributions that 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 study region. Sampling transects perpendicular to the shoreline in climate change zone of influence will be established at previously sampled shoreline (2012 samples) and new inland lake profiles will be sampled. D-net sampling, snorkeling transects, and ponar/Surber sampling techniques may be used along the transects at predefined depths to sample biotic communities with a focus on the macroinvertebrates, water depths and temperatures. Abiotic data collected will include temperature profiles, substrate and basic water chemistry parameters. This data will help the REU student to empirically test: a) what is the community structure in the zone of influence?, b) how variable are abiotic parameters in the zone of influence? and ultimately, c) would the inland lake macroinvertebrate community and Lake Michigan shoreline community be similarly influenced by climate change?
This REU experience would include, but not be limited to, the following: use of GIS and GPS mapping tools, macroinvertebrate sampling and identification (shallow waters of Lake Michigan and snorkeling in inland lakes), abiotic quantification skills, experimental design, seasonal water level influences, literature review on climate change, teamwork and data analysis skills.
Required Skills: Strong swimmer, attention to detail, and enthusiasm!
Genetic and Morphological Diversity in Freshwater Mollusks on Beaver Island
Mentor: Dr. David Zanatta
Find out more >>
About: Freshwater mollusks are among the most imperiled taxonomic groups in the world. Sixty-eight percent of freshwater mussels from the Order Unionoida in North America are considered to be at risk of extinction. The existence of diverse assemblages of freshwater mollusks in bodies of freshwater is an outstanding indicator of ecosystem function in warm water systems, however their use as indices for ecosystem health has yet to be fully explored.
DNA barcoding is a useful tool to assess what species are present in a community or ecosystem in which normal identification means are difficult. DNA barcoding separates organisms based on the differences in the nucleotide sequence of a given locus; in animals this locus is usually cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI). In this project, DNA barcoding will be used to identify freshwater mollusks from the Family Unionidae that are closely related, morphologically plastic, and have overlapping and similar shell morphologies. By determining the true number of species present in a certain area, a better understanding of the biodiversity can be established and hopefully preserved.
Student Training: Students working on this project will be trained in the use of morphological landmarking, meristic measurements, and multivariate statistics in conjunction with DNA barcoding (mtDNA sequencing) to assist in field identifications of cryptic unionid species. Students will be trained to use DNA barcoding to establish the number of species in lakes at CMUBS, then use microscopy, morphometric techniques and multivariate analyses to determine morphological characteristics for better identification of these important bivalves across a range of habitats in the Great Lakes watershed.
Research Outcomes: The results of these student-led research projects will produce publications in the Molecular Ecology Resources journal, molluscan journals or aquatics journals. Studies will also enhance the ability of ecologists to make field identifications of these morphologically challenging, yet potentially useful, indicator taxa for overall biodiversity, particularly in the Great Lakes.
During Summer 2013, each student will receive a stipend of $4,000, lodging at CMUBS and meals provided in the cafeteria there. Funding of up to $500 will be available to reimburse each student for travel costs to reach Beaver Island. Faculty mentors will also receive $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 grade point average 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