A Different Kind of Semester — Research at a North Carolina Field Site

– written by Andrea Stewart, OUR Ambassador and Environmental Science major

The Institute for the Environment at UNC is praised for its network of field sites, where students can venture for a semester in North Carolina or abroad and do coursework, take field trips, hold internships, and perform group research projects. As an environmental science major with a concentration in natural resources and conservation, I chose the Highlands Field Site, a beautiful place in the NC mountains known for its high biodiversity. Little did I know that through this program, I would have the opportunity to study at Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory, home to one of the oldest continuous environmental studies in North America.

A waterfall in the experimental watershed

A waterfall in the experimental watershed

I was assigned a research internship at Coweeta and visited the lab several times each week in the fall semester of my junior year. My mentor was an ecologist who is interested in studying the effects of logging on forest vegetation dynamics. Research at Coweeta usually focuses on one or more watersheds, or areas of land where all the water flows to the same location. In our study, we examined a watershed that was partially logged by researchers in the 1950s. We asked – how was this forest changed over the past 60 years?

To answer that question, I trekked into the field, a mountainous forest that ranged in elevation over 1300 feet. I located large plots that were established in the 1930s to measure vegetation. One by one, I measured and identified all the trees in these plots, careful to record the data accurately, not get tangled in rhododendron shrubs, and watch out for black bears! Considering that Coweeta is located in a temperate rainforest, the work outdoors was not always easy, but it was very informative. I learned to identify many tree species, observe vegetation patterns, and recognize different forest ecotypes, skills that I could not have gained by simply reading a textbook.

Measuring tree diameter at Coweeta Lab

Measuring tree diameter at Coweeta Lab

After completing the field work, we resurrected historical data from the 1930s and 1950s and compared it with our data. We also used similar data from a watershed that was completely logged and a watershed that was unaltered by humans. I was surprised to discover that, in some ways, partially logging affects the characteristics of a forest significantly less than clearcutting. We also observed that forest hydrology is not significantly changed due to partial logging, a finding that has important implications for water sustainability.

My internship at Coweeta Hydrologic Lab through the Highlands Field Site was an exceptional introduction to ecological research. This project elucidated for me what exactly “research” looks like and how it is conducted. Furthermore, it helped me solidify my interest in forest ecology and ecohydrology. I encourage all students to consider a research project or independent study at a field site; the experience outside the typical classroom cannot be matched!

The Celebration of Undergraduate Research and Other Spring 2015 Events to Highlight Undergraduate Research

Here in the Office for Undergraduate Research we are busy gearing up for the annual Celebration of Undergraduate Research which will be held on Wednesday, April 15 from 1:00-3:15 p.m. as part of National Undergraduate Research Week.

 

We are fortunate to have additional events taking place on campus this spring that highlight undergraduate researchers at Carolina. Please join us at the Celebration and also take advantage of these other opportunities to support other students and learn about the wide range of research being conducted by Carolina undergrads.

Upcoming Events:

Biology Undergraduate Research Poster Session
Friday, April 17, 2015
2:00-5:00 p.m.
Genome Sciences Building, lower level lobby

BIOL 395 students in their second semester of research will present their findings. The posters will be displayed throughout the week of April 13-17.

Undergraduate Art Symposium
Wednesday, April 22, 2015 (tentative)

Details forthcoming

If your department or unit is hosting an undergraduate research conference, symposium or event, please let us know and we will be happy to include it on this list.

Completed Events:

Curriculum for the Environment and Ecology Student Research Symposium
Saturday, February 21, 2015
9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
North Carolina Botanical Garden

The 3rd annual CEE Student Research Symposium is designed to showcase many of the program’s students and their research accomplishments.  The symposium will incorporate oral and poster presentations from both graduate and undergraduate students over the course of the day.  In addition, the symposium will serve as a great networking vehicle for various members of CEE to meet and get to know one another. This event’s main goals are to provide student researchers the opportunity to present their research in a supportive environment and to foster relationships among members of the Curriculum, the University community, and the Research Triangle.​ You can review the program: CEE Symposium 2015.

McCain African and Diaspora Student Undergraduate Research Conference
Department of African, African American, and Diaspora Studies
March 20-21

The McCain African and Diaspora Student Undergraduate Research Conference presents undergraduate research projects on a variety of aspects of African, African American and Diaspora studies. The Dunbar-Stone lecture will kick off the conference on Friday, March 20; the keynote speaker is Cami Chavis. The conference will follow on Saturday, March 21 from 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. Read about this Conference here.

Biology Undergraduate Research Honors Symposium
Monday, March 23, 2015
All day in Coker 215

Biology senior honors thesis students present their research. Open to the public.

Department of Sociology Honors Research Presentations
Monday, March 23, 2015
3:30 PM
Hamilton 271

Sociology Honors students from Duke and UNC will be presenting their findings. Everyone is invited to attend.

Letters from Panama, Summer 2014

Brianna Osinski, who graduated from Carolina in May with a major in Biology, in is Panama on a research internship with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. As an undergraduate, Brianna studied phenotypic plasticity in spadefoot toads in the lab of Dr. David Pfennig. Brianna has been sharing her experiences with her mentor, Dr. Peter White, and agreed to let us publish the following excerpts. Thanks, Brianna!

From: Osinski, Brianna
Sent: June 7, 2104, 4:20 pm
To: White, Peter S
Subject: Panama, week 1 review

So, wow, Panama! How have I never been here before!?!? It is so verdant and life is brimming everywhere you look. My alarm clock here consists of a chorus of green parrots that roost outside my window and the occasional trio of tamarind monkeys. Then there are the agouti that just stroll through the backyard eating our mangoes and the iguanas zipping about around them. I think so far I’m most captivated by the leaf-cutter ants. Their sheer numbers are amazing and their industrious nature is simply admirable. Also, the trees here are breathtaking. I just keep stopping to gape at all the buttress roots and staring up into the canopy trying to take in the enormity of the nature surrounding me.Brianna trees

The scientific community here is wonderful, too. I’ve yet to meet an unkind soul and the best part is that everyone here is in love with what they’re studying. So, when I ask questions, a LOT of questions, I’m met with excitement and joy, because they want to talk about what they’re studying just as much as I want to hear about it. We had our first “frog talk” yesterday, which is when all the people here studying frogs gets together and present their research, and it was heavenly! I’ve found my niche, and it is amongst biologists.

Our research with the Tungara frogs is going well. We start at 7:30 pm and collect pairs for about 2 hours at various sites. Then we take them back to the lab, run the females through some phonotaxis tests in our sound chamber to observe their mate preference, we weigh/measure/and toe clip them (toe clipping took some getting used to :/), and last but not least we put them back where we found them before the sun comes up. Ideally, we’re done by 3:30 am, but some nights, like last night, run long and we were working till 6:30. But, since I love what I’m doing, it’s really not so bad when it goes late. If I had infinite energy levels and didn’t require that whole sleep thing, I’d do research all day long.

Week Two in review.

Week 3 was as grand as could be!

Animals galore during week 4!

Great to be alive during week 5!

Rhyming week 6 has me in a fix!

Note: If you are interested in learning more about Brianna’s research or about STRI itself, please feel free to contact Brianna: bosinski@live.unc.edu.

In With the New – OUR Welcomes New Ambassadors

UNC - Chapel Hill with Graham Memorial in the background

The University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill
with Graham Memorial in the background

written by Daijha J. Copeland

As nine ambassadors turned their tassels to officially become Carolina alumni in May, we welcome a new group of highly-qualified and enthusiastic undergraduate researchers. With experiences ranging in disciplines from Art History to Biology to Political Science, our new ambassadors offer a diversity of experiences to share with the Carolina community. These ambassadors have worked on timely projects such as: how specific RNA molecules distribute controls the division of zygotes, the role of suicide in the plays of William Shakespeare, further development in C. elegans, and the development of a thermoelectric vaccine cooler. Check out the ambassadors’ page to get to know all of our ambassadors and the other enriching projects that they have been a part of.

The ambassadors program was created for undergraduate researchers to be used as a resource to advocate for undergraduate research to university leaders and to serve as peer mentors. Ambassadors frequently host meet-and-greets with fellow students and give presentations on research opportunities offered through OUR and the greater university. And of course ambassadors are here to provide information, make faculty introductions, or answer any questions, so feel free to contact them for any assistance navigating Carolina’s research filled world.

If you have research experiences that you would like to share with other undergraduates and would like to apply to be an OUR ambassador, look for the call to apply in early spring. Below are the OUR ambassadors for 2014-2015.

Lauren Askew Biology /Spanish for the Medical Professions Minorlaskew@live.unc.edu

Jordan Bishop Chemistryjwbishop@live.unc.edu

Emily Cerciello Health Policy and Management & Economicscerciello@live.unc.edu

Sarah Cooley Geoscience-Geophysics/ Math and Religious Studies Minorsswcooley@live.unc.edu

Clark Cunningham Chemistry & Biologychcunnin@live.unc.edu

Sarah Faircloth History & Art Historyscfaircl@live.unc.edu

Blake Hauser Environmental Health Sciences & Biologybmhauser@live.unc.edu

David Joyner Political Science & Englishdbjoyner@live.unc.edu

Sloane Miller Environmental Health Science & Engineeringskm0709@live.unc.edu

Rizul Naithani Clinical Laborarory Science/ Chemistry Minor

Layla Quran Global Studies/ Journalism Minorlaylaquran@gmail.com

Sam Resnick Biology/ Chemistry Minor sresnick@live.unc.edu

Jay Zhang Biostatistics & Quantitative Biology/ Chemistry Minorjczhang@email.unc.edu

Zijian (Larry) Zhou Chemistry/ Computer Science Minorzzhou1@live.unc.edu

 

The Celebration of Undergraduate Research and Other Events to Highlight Undergraduate Research

Here in the Office for Undergraduate Research we are busy gearing up for the annual Celebration of Undergraduate Research which will be held on Monday, April 15 as part of National Undergraduate Research Week. If you are planning to present at the Celebration, the deadline to submit your abstract is March 25.

We are fortunate to have additional events taking place on campus in March/April that highlight undergraduate researchers at Carolina. Please join us at the Celebration and also take advantage of these other opportunities to support other students and learn about the wide range of research being conducted by Carolina undergrads:

Undergraduate Research Honors Symposium in Biology with Undergraduate Speakers
Research posters and talks presented by undergraduates. Open to the public.
Date and Time:March 22, 2013, 8:00 AM – 5:15 PM
Poster session in Coker Lobby Noon – 1 PM
Location: Room 215, Coker Hall

Candidates for Biology Honors degree must present and defend their thesis research during the John K. Koeppe Biology Undergraduate Research Symposium. For more information, contact Summer Montgomery [sundance@unc.edu].

PIT Journal conference
Thursday, March 28, 2013
9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
FPG Student Union 3409/3411

 

Students from several ENGL105 courses will present the results of their research. The keynote address will be given by two Office for Undergraduate Research Ambassadors, Mattis Hennings and Keia Faison. For more information, contact Doreen Thierauf [thierauf@unc.edu].

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The UNC Curriculum for the Environment and Ecology presents:
The First Annual CEE Student Research Symposium
Saturday, March 23, 2013
9:00 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
North Carolina Botanical Garden

 

 

Lunch and light refreshments provided.  For more information, contact Dennis Tarasi [tarasi@live.unc.edu].

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Student Organization for Undergraduate Literature (S.O.U.L) presents:
SOULCON
Friday, April 12, 2013
12:00 – 5:00 p.m.
Donovan Lounge, Greenlaw Hall

Join the Department of English and Comparative Literature and hear from several panels of undergraduate researchers. The event will kick off with a student panel offering “survival tips” for the ENGL and CMPL major. For more information, contact Dr. Hilary Lithgow [lithgow@email.unc.edu].

Asian Studies Senior Honors Colloquium
Thursday, April 18, 2013
6:00 – 9:00 p.m.
New West 219

Our hardest-working soon-to-be graduates will present at our annual Senior Honors Colloquium. These brief but fascinating glimpses into their honors research will be a lot of fun.  Don’t miss it. For more information, contact Dr. Nadia Yaqub [yaqub@email.unc.edu].

Department of Art Undergraduate Honors Symposium
Friday, April 26, 2013
12:30-3:00 p.m.
Location: TBA

The undergraduate honors scholars will be giving presentations of their work from 12:30-3:00. Afterwards there will be a dessert reception celebrating the opening of the Senior Honors Exhibition in the Allcott Gallery of Hanes Art Center. For more information, contact Honors Advisor Tania String at tcstring@email.unc.edu.