REU Intern Ashley McDonald

Our REU interns are back at their respective colleges after a busy summer of independent research here at LUMCON. Over the past ten weeks, they presented a project proposal, designed a scientific study and progressed through the “try-tweak-redo-repeat” process that is the scientific method! Each intern presented his or her research at a student symposium on August 11th, in Cocodrie.

Ashley McDonald is a rising senior at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida. She is majoring in marine science with a minor in Italian and is an active member of the college’s Marine Science Club. Growing up in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, Ashley strived to learn and understand as much as she could. “I have always wanted to understand how and why things work. Ever since I was in preschool, I wanted to know as much as I could about the world around me and science allows me to do that”.

Ashley and Jordan - edit
Ashley (right) and colleague Jordan Logarbo in the field

Ashley learned about the REU program through her mentor at Eckerd and applied to the LUMCON site because of the unique location and possible research topics. “I chose LUMCON because it gave me opportunities that other programs did not. I have become interested in wetlands, restoration, and mangroves and coming to live in the middle of a wetland seemed like a great place to be,” Ashley explained. Her project, under the guidance of Dr. Brian Roberts and his post-doc Dr. Anthony Reitl, examined how Gulf ribbed mussels affect the productivity of marsh cordgrass and the shared soil. From a restoration standpoint, a positive relationship between these two species could be beneficial for the larger ecosystem. Both ribbed mussels and cordgrass are shown to act as soil stabilizers and may prevent, or at least slow down, shoreline erosion. Ashley hopes her time at LUMCON will prepare her for a possible future in research or academia. “I’ve been able to experience theory in my classes, but actually being able to ask and answer questions myself is something else entirely”. She plans to go onto graduate school after finishing at Eckerd in the spring but is still figuring out those details.

Ashley on marsh edge
Ashley (left) with mentors Dr. Reitl and Dr. Roberts collecting blue mussels in the marsh

When asked about her favorite aspect of being in Cocodrie, Ashley said: “I love watching the sunset on the back deck behind the building. It’s the perfect way to end the day!”

 

Look for more profiles here and on CWC and LUMCON social media!

 

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REU Intern Katie Ebinger

Our REU interns are back at their respective colleges after a busy summer of independent research here at LUMCON. During their internship, they presented a project proposal, designed a scientific study and progressed through the “try-tweak-redo-repeat” process that is the scientific method! Each intern presented his or her research at a student symposium on August 11th, in Cocodrie.

Katie Ebinger is a rising junior at the University of Colorado – Boulder majoring in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. She is an active member of her residence hall council and volunteers with EcoReps to bring more sustainable practices to residence halls on the CU campus. While working at a nature preserve near her home town of Palo Alto, CA, Katie discovered that restoration ecology would allow her to marry her desire to protect the planet with her love of being outdoors. Ecological restoration is defined as an “intentional activity that initiates or accelerates the recovery of an ecosystem with respects to its health, integrity and sustainability” (The Society of Ecological Restoration) and may include actions such as the removal of non-native species and weeds, reintroduction of native species, erosion control, and reforestation. In an effort to fully explore this field, Katie got a job in a lab on campus that studies how some plants have particular traits that make them effective tools for restoration.

Katie on marsh edge
Katie and Dr. Roberts collecting samples along the marsh edge. Photo by Dr. Virginia Schutte.

Katie found the REU program through an ecology listserv called ECOLOG and applied to our program because of our unique location. “I chose LUMCON because I like how here, at the edge of the marsh, land mixes with the sea and the interconnectedness of all organisms is so evident,” she explained. Katie’s project involved Gulf ribbed mussels and their role in shoreline restoration. The thought is that mussels act as a stabilizing agent along marsh edges and are able to deposit key nutrients into the soil to promote plant growth and increase microbial abundance.  Under the mentorship of CWC co-PI Dr. Brian Roberts and his post-doc Dr. Ariella Chelsky, Katie hoped to gain perspective on what it means to be a research scientist and build confidence when conducting field and lab work. “Ultimately, I hope to conduct research in habitat restoration and continue the work of current scientists to make restoration more effective and feasible”.

ribbed mussel
Gulf ribbed mussel. Photo by Dr. Virginia Schutte.

When asked about her favorite aspect of being in Cocodrie, Katie said: “I love the scale of the landscape here. When it’s so open like this, it reminds me of the vastness of our planet.”

Look for more profiles here and on CWC and LUMCON social media!