Summer research program boosts confidence, shapes careers

CZO REUs and RETs in the field

CZO interns dive right into field work during program orientation

“Hydrosphere! Lithosphere! Atmosphere! Biosphere!” students and teachers shouted during orientation for this summer’s Critical Zone Observatory (CZO) Research Experience for Undergraduates and Teachers (REU/RET). As a means to understand each day’s lessons, interns were asked to connect each of Earth’s four spheres to understand what the Critical Zone is all about.

The Critical Zone, loosely described as where rock meets life, extends from the tops of trees into the depths of groundwater.

A Nine-Week Journey

For nine weeks, 12 undergraduates and four teachers from across the United States embarked on a journey to study the Critical Zone and immerse themselves in science and research at the Christina River basin CZO site with Stroud Water Research Center and at the Susquehanna Shale Hills CZO site with Penn State University.

“We had an incredible group of very motivated and enthusiastic students and teachers this year,” said Tara Muenz, education programs manager for Stroud Center and the REU/RET program coordinator.

Summer research symposium featured

Stroud expands environmental awareness with its intern program

By Chris Barber

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Anna Marshall (REU, Connecticut College) discusses her poster at the symposium

West Marlborough — The Stroud Water Research Center does more than count bugs in streams. As a result of its educational and scientific projects, hundreds of students grow up to be responsible stewards of the earth who pass that caring attitude onto their children and future generations.

This summer, the scientists at the center on Spencer Road alongside the White Clay Creek took on the pleasant challenge of working with college students and teachers as part of a three-year internship program.

This summer’s 10-week session ended on Tuesday with a class of 12 interns from as far away as California taking new knowledge and methods back to their classrooms and colleges.

Adria Bondanza, a science teacher from Sun Valley High School in Aston told the leaders at the conclusion of her stay, “I already have some ideas for next year’s science fair. I can show my students how environmental research is done and the value of interdisciplinary science.”

2015 Summer Research Presentations

Poster at ESA meeting

Katie Li (left, REU, Pomona College) and Anna Marshall (REU, Connecticut College) with their research posters at the annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America.

The 2015 CZO REU/RET program participants traveled to Baltimore, Maryland to make poster presentations of their research at the annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America.

The last event of the 2015 program was an End of Summer Research Symposium at Stroud Water Research Center.

The symposium featured oral presentations by the following undergraduates (REU) and teachers (RET) from Susquehanna Shale Hills CZO (SSH-CZO) and Christina River Basin CZO (CRB-CZO): Anna Schwyter (REU SSH-CZO), Sharon Dykhoff (RET SSH-CZO), Chrissy Wilson (RET CRB-CZO) , Meaghan Redmon (REU SSH-CZO), Adria Bondanza (RET CRB-CZO), Siobhan Donnelly (RET SSH-CZO) and Maggie Ruppel (REU SSH-CZO).

In addition, the following undergraduates made poster presentations at the symposium: Kelsey Bicknell, Sarah Granke and Meaghan Shaw (all from SSH-CZO), and Katie Li, Pinky Liau, Anna Marshall, Julianne Scamardo and Kelly Shen (all from CRB-CZO).

All presentations are available for download on the Completed Research page.

Critical Zone Research Experience

Click on image to download the 2015 flyer

The Pennsylvania State University is coordinating a combined Research Experience for Undergraduates/Research Experience for Teachers (REU/RET) Distributed Site in collaboration with Stroud Water Research Center.

CZO REU/RET participants will pursue interdisciplinary research to better understand the interconnectedness of Critical Zone processes. Participants will receive a stipend, travel costs, housing, and meals. Learn more about the program.

Research Wrap Up at CUAHSI Meeting

cuahsi-logoCritical Zone Observatory Research Experience for Undergraduates and Research Experience for Teachers program participants traveled to Shepherdstown, West Virginia to present their research at the Consortium of Universities for the Advancement of Hydrologic Science, Inc. (CUAHSI) Biennial Meeting.

The theme of this year’s meeting was Water Across the Critical Zone: From Local to Global Hydrology. To see the posters visit the Presentations page and click on the links to view PDF versions.

Penn State News Features CZO REUs

While school is out, research continues with hands-on summer program

By Anne Danahy

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Dangling over the side of a 4-foot hole on a forest floor, Penn State undergraduate Kim Schmid spent the better part of a recent day digging in the dirt — or collecting soil samples, to be technical.

The end goal: a better understanding of the seasonal ponds known as vernal pools, how they form on shale landscapes and the best way to manage them. That meant Schmid and fellow student John Schneider took turns with a shovel and a post hole-digger — mosquitos and gnats notwithstanding. Then, starting from the top and inching down they collected samples from each layer of soil. The next step was a ground-penetrating radar survey to unravel the subsurface layers and measure the depth to solid rock beneath them.

“I love it,” said Schmid, who will be a junior in the fall. “In classrooms, you learn about it through a textbook. It’s cool doing it in person.”

Summer 2014 Orientation

Orientation began at Stroud Water Research Center where the group learned about the Christina River Basin Critical Zone Observatory within the Piedmont physiographic province in southeastern Pennsylvania and northern Delaware.

Participants learned about the impacts of land-use change on the global carbon cycle and were introduced to data collection and management and building and deploying environmental sensors.

In week two the group moved to the Susquehanna Shale Hills Observatory in the Appalachian Mountain Valley and Ridge physiographic province. There they looked at the geology, hydrology, ecology, soils, and land use at the SSHO and compared it with that of the Piedmont province. At the end of the two weeks they were ready to launch their own research projects.

Photos: Tara Muenz

  • Dr. Jim Pizzuto, professor in fluvial geomorphology at the University of Delaware took students on a geologic field tour of the Christina River Basin.
    Dr. Jim Pizzuto, professor in fluvial geomorphology at the University of Delaware took students on a geologic field tour of the Christina River Basin.
  • Dr. Holly Michael, professor of geology at the University of Delaware discusses hydrological processes.
    Dr. Holly Michael, professor of geology at the University of Delaware discusses hydrological processes.
  • Steve Hicks, research engineer at Stroud, teaches a class on sensor building and monitoring, and the important role these play in Critical Zone science.
    Steve Hicks, research engineer at Stroud, teaches a class on sensor building and monitoring, and the important role these play in Critical Zone science.
  • Field trip to the serpentine barrens
    Field trip to the serpentine barrens
  • A William Penn tree (White oak) , over 300 years old was a favorite to see during the week at Stroud Water Research Center
    A William Penn tree (White oak) , over 300 years old was a favorite to see during the week at Stroud Water Research Center
  • Learning about the geology of the State College, PA region. The ridge the group was standing on and the ridges in the distance used to be part of a large anticline.
    Learning about the geology of the State College, PA region. The ridge the group was standing on and the ridges in the distance used to be part of a large anticline.
  • Examining tree roots
    Examining tree roots
  • roadside-rocks
  • modeling
  • The CZO REUs at the end of orientation, ready to start their research.
    The CZO REUs at the end of orientation, ready to start their research.