As part of the Appalachian Laboratory’s commitment to the next generation of scientists in western Maryland, we welcomed six undergraduate student interns and five new graduate students in the summer and fall of 2022.
For 12 weeks in the summer, five Frostburg State University students and a U.S. Air Force veteran from Northern Arizona University participated in research projects, professional development workshops, field trips and networking activities as part of the Laboratory’s internship program. The paid, full-time experience allowed students to immerse themselves in scientific research, some for the first time.
Inten Chris Bailey was one student new to research. “This is my first time using lab equipment. I didn’t think I would like it, but now, I really do.” He advises students in similar situations to “go into an internship with an open mind” for just that reason.
Interns assisted on a variety of research projects, both in the field and in laboratory settings. A’Laurenye’ McBeth and Atlee Wise worked under the supervision of Dr. Emily Cohen, researching migratory birds including the seasonal movements of our most common backyard migratory bird, the American Robin. Jesudunsin Dawodu and Cameron Garland assisted Dr. Rodney Richardson in the search for the endangered rusty-patched bumble bee native to the central Appalachians, and Trevor Frissell worked with Dr. Keith Eshleman on project to better understand the effectiveness of stormwater best management practices. Finally, Bailey worked in Dr. David Nelson’s laboratory on a paleoecology project designed to improve our understanding of how trees in the distant past may have adapted to changes in climate.
During their time at the Appalachian Laboratory, interns had the opportunity to work with big data, assist in DNA analysis, track animal movements and engage in other innovative scientific research activities. For some students, this work built on prior experiences in laboratory and field settings, allowing them to work on new equipment and learn new research procedures, and for others, like Bailey, this was their first experience in a research setting.
“When I walk through a meadow now, I don’t just see “bees,” said Garland. “After learning about bees, now, I see all the different types of bees present.”
For all, it was also an opportunity to explore future scientific careers and to consider pursuing a masters or Ph.D. following graduation.
“I’m definitely more interested in graduate schools now,” said McBeth. “Meeting the environmental engineer on our field trip to the wind turbines really inspired me to think about pursuing a master’s degree.”
At the end of the 12-week program, students co-presented a seminar on their research findings and experiences as interns. Plans are currently in development for the summer 2023 program.
Visit www.umces.edu/al/internships for more information.
New Graduate Students
Like the summer interns, masters and Ph.D. students attending the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES) at the Appalachian Laboratory benefit from one-on-one faculty mentorship and advising. This fall the Appalachian Laboratory welcomed five (5) new students, the biggest new cohort of new students in several years.
Sarah Endyke, Nicole Ibrahim, and Grace O’Hara joined Dr. David Nelson’s laboratory pursuing graduate degrees through the University System of Maryland’s Marin-Estuarine Environmental Sciences (MEES) Graduate Program. All chose the Appalachian Laboratory because of their interest in the research conducted here, but also because of Dr. Nelson.
“He was the first prospective advisor to express such an interest in me and my goals. He worked to convert the position to fit my needs.” said Endyke.
O’Hara and Endyke agree on the decision to attend the Appalachian Laboratory under the mentorship of Nelson.
“Everyone here [Appalachian Laboratory] wants to see you succeed,” said Ibrahim.
Ibrahim and Endyke are both working with Nelson on research using stable isotopes to learn more about bird populations and how those populations are traveling from one place to another. Ibrahim is currently working on a project to determine whether trumpeter swans found in the Rocky Mountains are from the at-risk US population or the more abundant Canadian population, which has important implications for wildlife management in the region.
Endyke’s research project, focused on spotted owl recovery, also has important implications for wildlife management. Barred owl range expansion is posing a threat to the spotted owl, which has a difficult time competing with the barred owl due to their more specific dietary and habitat requirements. Through her research, Endyke is trying to determine the geographic origins of barred owls inhabiting spotted owl territory to assist in the development of a broad-scale barred owl management strategy.
O’Hara is evaluating stormwater management practices. By analyzing the nitrogen isotopes found in water samples gathered after storm events, scientists can determine the source of nitrogen found in the samples and determine how effective current stormwater best practices are in reducing the nitrogen found in water from various sources.
“I started by visiting the field sites with Dave and Keith [Eshleman, the other faculty member on the project] in September. The samples are now collected, and we’re running them in the laboratory, “ said O’Hara.
Meghna Mathews has also joined this new cohort of students in the laboratory of Dr. Xin Zhang. Mathews, who has an undergraduate background in public policy and economics, is gathering stakeholder feedback on the new CAFE (Cropping-system, Animal-crop system, Food-system, Ecosystem) framework, a tool designed to increase agriculture productivity in the Chesapeake Watershed while lowering pollution.
“Every decision we make affects everyone and everything. Everything is interconnected, which is why I became interested in conservation and attending graduate school,” said Mathews.
Finally, Sarah Roth, who holds an undergraduate degree in ecology from the University of Tennessee rounds out the newest cohort of graduate students at the Appalachian Laboratory. Roth, under the mentorship of fire ecologist Dr. Mark Cochrane, studies the response of understory plant communities in forested ecosystems to wildfire disturbance.
Of her first semester, Roth said, “My first semester at the Appalachian Laboratory introduced me to a group of passionate people who are eager to share all of their knowledge and expertise. I could not be happier with the community here, both the faculty and the graduate students.”
More information on the next generation of science at the Appalachian Laboratory can be found at www.umces.edu/al/outreach. More information about the Appalachian Laboratory Summer 2023 internship program can be found at www.umces.edu/al/internships.
ABOUT THE APPALACHIAN LABORATORY- Located in the headwaters of the Chesapeake Bay, scientists conduct research on terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, including air and water quality, wildlife management, and land conservation throughout the world, with an emphasis on the rich and diverse environments of Western Maryland and the broader Appalachian region.