Summer 2018 REU Spotlight

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(Millbrook, NY) Cary Institute is home to one of the nation’s longest running Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) programs. This National Science Foundation-supported program gives undergraduate students the opportunity to engage in rigorous independent research projects while working closely with scientist mentors.

Since welcoming our first undergrads in 1987, over 300 students have spent a summer immersed in ecological research alongside Cary scientists. Eleven students – nine based at Cary Institute in Millbrook, NY and two at the University of Notre Dame Environmental Research Center, situated on the Wisconsin-Michigan border – comprise the 2018 cohort.

Meet Cary Institute’s 2018 REU students:

Back (left to right): Kari Dawson, Paulina Murray, Paulina Frutos, Kerste Milik, Spencer Phillips, Claire Sickinger, Julia Barron // Front (left to right): Danielle Demateis, Sabrina Volponi, Melissa Yost-Bido, Rachael Mendoza // Credit: Pamela Freeman

Kerste Milik

Home institution: Northeastern University

Cary mentors: Michael Fargione and Joshua Ginsberg

Research topic: What factors affect the vertebrate scavenger community at the Cary Institute?

What aspect of your project do you most enjoy?

"My favorite part of the project is looking at camera trap photos to see which animals visited my field sites. Vultures, coyotes, bears, bobcats, and more – every week is a new surprise. I'm happy to be contributing to a project that highlights the importance of scavengers in our ecosystem."

Paulina Murray

Home institution: Siena College

Cary mentor: Colin Fuss

Research topic: Carbon and nitrogen dynamics in forest soils

What’s been your most memorable moment in the field so far?

“On a sampling trip in the mountains of New Hampshire, I was walking a part of the Appalachian Trail with my mentor when we spotted two moose just ten feet away! My mentor had asked earlier if I thought we might see a moose today and I said it was unlikely!” 

Melissa Yost-Bido

Home institution: Bard College

Cary mentor: Shannon LaDeau

Research topic: Effect of temperature and nutrient type on longevity of mosquitoes

Have you been surprised by any aspect of your work this summer?  

“Mosquitoes are actually very picky about where and when they lay their eggs, which is contrary to what someone who is relentlessly bitten by mosquitoes might think about their omnipresence. And some wise words from my mentor: Research is just as much about troubleshooting as it is about collecting data.”

Rachael Mendoza

Home institution: Bard College

Mentors: Mike Hickerson and Isaac Overcast

Research topic: Human microbial communities

What have you learned about the process of science?

"One of the most valuable things I've learned about research is the importance of patience and thinking on your feet. Things never go as planned so you have to keep readjusting. I came here to obtain a better background in biological research through computer modeling, which I am, but I am also becoming – as so my mentor says – a hacker.”

Danielle Demateis

Home institution: The College of New Jersey

Cary mentor: Kathie Weathers

Research topic: Differences in temperature trends between inland lake surface water and surrounding land

How are you inspired by your research?

"Collecting your own data has its benefits, but working with existing satellite data broadens my project’s possibilities. I’m not limited to analyzing only field sites I can travel to. Instead, I can access lake data from across the world – and I can analyze that data on my computer anywhere I can sit down!"

Kari Dawson

Home institution: Winston Salem State University

Cary mentor: Kathie Weathers

Research topic: Ecological change in the Sky Lakes on the Shawangunk Ridge

How are you inspired by your research?

“Being an REU student at the Cary Institute is an amazing experience. The scientists I work with are incredibly helpful. I truly appreciate that this program holds all of us to a high standard. It makes me want to conduct good research, and continuously work on myself to improve.”

Sabrina Volponi

Home institution: Bridgewater College

Mentors: Kathie Weathers (Cary Institute) and Dave Richardson (SUNY New Paltz)

Research topic: Relationships between nitrogen species and phytoplankton growth

How are you inspired by your research?

“It is freeing to be at a place where asking questions is as important as finding answers. When I paddle onto Lake Minnewaska, nothing can touch me. I am a scientist and am going to make the world a better place.”

Claire Sickinger

Home institution: Bates College

Cary mentors: Stuart Findlay and Rhea Esposito

Research topic: Ecology of urban streams

How are you inspired by your research?

"Everything I'm doing right now is new to me: new methods and experimental designs, new instruments to measure water pollution, and new ways of analyzing my data. I knew that the REU experience would challenge me and I'm already seeing growth in myself as a researcher and as a scientist."

Paulina Frutos

Home institution: University of Connecticut

Cary mentor: Stuart Findlay

Research topic: The Hudson River wetland restoration at Gay's Point

Has your field work presented any unexpected challenges?

“Due to the tidal influence on water level, the freshwater marsh I'm studying is only accessible by kayak at high tide. So trips have to be timed for exactly an hour and a half before peak low tide, and we paddle through a field of spadderdock.” 

Julia Barron

Home institution: Smith College

Cary mentor: Christopher Solomon

Research topic: Does coarse woody habitat density influence largemouth bass size structure and catch-per-unit-effort in north temperate lakes?

Spencer Phillips

Home institution: Murray State University

Cary mentor: Christopher Solomon

Research topic: Does fishing pressure correlate with size structure in largemouth bass in Northern Wisconsin lakes?

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