Student research is an important aspect of our experiential learning curriculum, encouraging students to interact with local community members, organizations, and important environmental issues. Through their research, students work with faculty and the local community to gain valuable experience and knowledge. Below are a few profiles of students who have conducted research in EPDM topics and issues or in related disciplines.
Rita McCreesh '17: Evaluating Reintroduced Beaver Influence on Carbon and Nitrogen Storage in the Methow Valley, WA
A rising senior, Rita has held a keen interest for hands-on learning throughout her collegiate career. This summer, Rita's research combines experience from both of her double majors - EPDM and Geology. By evaluating the geochemical effects of reintroduced beavers on their local habitat, the information gathered can be extrapolated to further develop and enhance local restoration and environmental policy efforts. Rita, working in conjunction with professors Kena Fox-Dobbs and Peter Hodum, sees the experience gained through her research as invaluable: "Everything starts with hands-on fieldwork. This is real-world science, with real commitment... but this is one of the most fulfilling and influential things you will do in college!"
Robyn Thomas '18: Micro-Plastics and Historical Diets of Pacific Northwest Puffins
Puffin populations along the West Coast may be some of the most susceptible to micro-plastic pollution in the Pacific Ocean. Working with seabird specialist and biology Professor Peter Hodum, Robyn is evaluating the dietary habits of puffin species who spend transitory time on the coast of Washington State. Through a combination of field and lab work, Robyn is analyzing the stable carbon and nitrogen isotopes in puffin feathers to see what constitutes the majority of a puffin's diet, and how microplastic pollution may contribute to population decline. She spent many days off the coast of Washington state, observing puffin populations, nests, and habits, and then returning to the lab to conduct an isotopical analysis of collected feathers. Her research will add to the growing knowledge about microplastic pollution, and the potentially negative effect on local and migratory avian species.
Lauren K. Ülbricht '17: A Historical Analysis of Mercury in Red-tailed Hawks in the Pacific Northwest
Combining her interests in geology and biology, Lauren is working to analyze the mercury content in Red Tailed Hawks in the Pacific Northwest. Lauren's research presented a wonderful collaborative opportunity - while utilizing those samples already preserved in the Slater Museum here at Puget Sound, Lauren also worked with the Burke Museum in Seattle and Evergreen College in Olympia to collect and analyze hawk feathers. Samples were gathered from male, female, juvenile, and adult hawks held in the two museums, and analyzed for mercury content at Evergreen. Lauren's bio-geo-chemical research aims to contribute more knowledge to what we know of mercury concentration in avian species, and how mercury levels have changed in the past 150 years, by utilizing hawk feathers as a record. By collaborating with outside institutions - Evergreen and the Burke Museum - Lauren's research enabled her to work directly with individuals in the local community who shared the same enthusiasm for research and for her research topic: "There are so many helpful people in academia out there, and everyone is so excited!".
Amanda Johnson, '17: Using Feathers to Determine Temporal Trends in PBDE Levels in Seabirds
A biologist at heart, Amanda's research encouraged her to explore both biology and chemistry as she worked with professors Peter Hodum (Biology) and Megan Gessel (Chemistry) in the summer of 2016, studying how seabirds are affected by contaminants in their ecosystem. By utilizing feathers from specimens of the Common Mer held at the Slater Museum on campus, Amanda used analytical chemistry to develop a methodological design to use to determine trends over time of Washington and Oregon coast PBDE concentrations. A form of plastic, PBDE's can easily enter biological and ecological systems, and the concentration can be determined by analyzing seabird feathers. Encouraged by her professors to go beyond biology and do chemical analyses, Amanda plans to extend the more chemistry-orientated research conducted this summer into the school year, and to study the biological and ecological impacts of PBDE concentrations as part of a senior thesis.