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.”