Home Education URA Program
KBS Undergraduate Research Apprenticeship (URA) Program PDF Print E-mail

--Summer 2015 positions and applications will be available in January!--

For an idea of what the URA program involves check out this BLOG POST from a former URA!!

 

KBS offers an Undergraduate Research Apprenticeship (URA) program featuring research experiences that are part-time (15-20 hrs/week). This allows you to take a course at KBS during the summer and enjoy hands-on research experience.ericalab_000

The URA program provides a stipend and covers room and board (meals).

The program is 12 weeks long, depending on the course(s) taken and the research project.

 

Here are projects from 2014:

Sibling competition and cooperation in tadpoles

Natural pest control: parasitism and predation in agricultural ecosystems

Effects of genetic diversity on plants and insects

A muddy matter: biogeochemical cycling and microbial community composition in loose, organic sediments in wetlands and freshwater ecosystems.

Sex-differences in house wren aggression: Why are females different?

Sexual selection and communication in frogs and toads

Soil carbon dynamics in biofuel systems

Are mutualists important for plant adaptation to environments?

Diversity– can we use it to restore ecosystem function?

Impact of Changing Rainfall Patterns and Soil Variability on Nitrogen Cycling in Agricultural Systems

Algal adaptation to temperature and nutrients

Using plant functional traits to study community composition and ecosystem function in restored Michigan prairies

 

The URA program is limited to students taking a course in residence at KBS. Preference is given to students who have just completed their freshman or sophomore year.

All URA students complete an independent project related to their mentor's research.


Summer 2015 Applications will be available in January.


Projects for 2014


Sibling competition and cooperation in tadpoles

Mentor: Sara Garnett

My research focuses on how animals alter their behavior when around relatives – in particular, what strategies they might have to minimize direct competition with one another. I look at these questions using tadpoles, asking what factors in the environment influence the balance between competition and cooperation. The URA will assist with various aspects of the project, including collecting adult toads and raising the resulting tadpoles, sampling local tadpole populations, and helping with experiments to test whether different species vary in whether they prefer to associate with kin. This project will involve both lab and field components.

 

 


Natural pest control: parasitism and predation in agricultural ecosystems

Mentor: Jeremy Jubenville

Agricultural production throughout the world is heavily dependent on pesticides to control populations of herbivorous insects. Increased public awareness of the environmental, societal, and evolutionary impacts of pervasive pesticide use has led to questions of whether our traditional methods of pest control are actually sustainable. Encouraging natural enemy populations in agricultural ecosystems could lead to more consistent and sustainable form of pest control. The URA student will assist with a project designed to assess and monitor current predation and parasitism rates in commercial vegetable fields. Weekly activities will involve a combination of greenhouse, laboratory, microscopy, and field work. Prospective students must be comfortable working with insects.

 

 


Effects of genetic diversity on plants and insects

Mentors: Kane Keller and Susan Magnoli

Gaining a deeper knowledge of the importance of various levels of biodiversity on communities and ecosystems is necessary for developing a more predictive framework of ecology. Our research explores the role of intraspecific (within species) genetic diversity of a dominant species on the establishment of that species and the subsequent impacts on plants and insects in the community. The URA student would assist in the establishment of a field experiment exploring this topic and would also work to develop an independent project related to this work. During the summer, the URA will gain experience in identification of plants and arthropods, setting up experiments, collecting and analyzing data, and quantifying patterns of diversity.

 

 


A muddy matter: biogeochemical cycling and microbial community composition in loose, organic sediments in wetlands and freshwater ecosystems.

Mentor: Dustin Kincaid

Many processes that influence water quality, sediment toxicity, and carbon cycling in freshwater ecosystems occur at the water-sediment interface. Research activities this summer will focus on the interaction between water and an understudied type of sediment that frequently occurs in water bodies throughout the region. We’ll conduct a survey of these sediments in shallow lakes, wetlands, and streams in the area to explore how nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) and carbon are cycled. The work will be field-intensive, but will also involve lab work. The research assistant will gain knowledge in limnology, chemistry, and microbial ecology.

 

 


Sex-differences in house wren aggression: Why are females different?

Mentor: Cara Krieg

Aggression is typically considered a male characteristic; however female aggression is surprisingly common. Working with house wrens, I explore the patterns of male and female aggression and the ecological factors that underlie these patterns. A URA will be intimately involved in the field work for this project. The student will learn how to measure behavior, eggs, and nestlings, and will learn techniques for capturing, banding, and measuring adult house wrens. The student MUST be comfortable in the woods for periods of time alone, be willing to work in the morning, and have a valid driver’s license and know how to drive.

 

 


Sexual selection and communication in frogs and toads

Mentor: Michael Kuczynski

Male frogs and toads call to attract females, but calling can be very costly; it requires a lot of energy and it increases the risk of being found by a predator. Being eaten while trying to attract mates is obviously never a good thing, but it actually may be worse for some frogs than for others. I utilize field recordings of the calling behavior of gray treefrogs and American toads to determine if males that are unlikely to mate again in future years (old, poor condition, etc.) invest more in current reproduction by increasing their calling effort. The research apprentice for this project will work directly with me assisting in making recordings of calling behavior in the field. Additionally, the apprentice will capture, measure, and tag frogs and toads.

 

 


Soil carbon dynamics in biofuel systems

Mentor: Christine Sprunger

The sustainability of our agricultural landscapes is highly dictated by the amount of carbon or soil organic matter present in a given system. Furthermore, agricultural soils largely influence the global carbon cycle and are linked to global climate change. For this reason, it is important to understand the relationship between management, plant type, and soil carbon dynamics. This research project addresses the effect that various biofuel crops have on short-term soil carbon dynamics. The URA will help collect data from a long-term laboratory experiment examining soil carbon from ten different biofuel systems as well as assist in maintaining the experiment. In addition, the URA will have the opportunity to develop their own short-term project that would give them both field (soil sampling) and laboratory experience.

 

 


Are mutualists important for plant adaptation to environments?

Mentor: Tomomi Suwa

Tomomi is interested in basic ecological and evolutionary questions such as what limits species abundance and distribution and how organisms adapt to local environments. She addresses these questions using a classic mutualism interaction between plants and nitrogen-fixing bacteria, rhizobia. This summer, she will be conducting a combination of field and greenhouse experiments to study whether mutualists (i.e. rhizobia) facilitate plant adaptation to soil moisture. The URA will be involved in setting up a large-scale experiment and collecting plant data in forests in southwest Michigan. The URA will also gain experience in microbial techniques and possibly molecular work including DNA extraction and PCR.

 

 


Diversity– can we use it to restore ecosystem function?

Mentor: Tyler Bassett

Tyler studies ecology through the lens of habitat restoration, testing ecological theory while learning how to improve the practice of grassland restoration. His research tests the theory that greater diversity at several levels (functional group, species, genetic) can improve how well natural and restored ecosystems function. He also investigates what facilitates the establishment of diversity. These include experimental communities and already established restorations. An intern can expect a mix of work in the field (collecting plant/soil samples, planting seeds/plants, collecting data on plant traits), greenhouse (propagation, watering), and lab work (data entry, weighing/sorting samples).

 

 


Impact of Changing Rainfall Patterns and Soil Variability on Nitrogen Cycling in Agricultural Systems

Mentor: Kate Glanville

Nitrogen limits primary production in agricultural systems and can be lost from systems causing negative ecological impacts including water pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Changing rainfall patterns and spatial variability are causes of uncertainty for understanding these losses. Soil properties regulating Nitrogen loss include particle size density, soil organic matter, infiltration rate, etc. The URA will contribute to the above research by examining soil properties that influence soil nitrogen loss.

 

 


 

Unique microorganisms in Siberia: using morphological and molecular markers to associate endemic and cosmopolitan microalgae with different temperature and nutrient levels in lake Baikal.

Mentor: Paul Wilburn

The goal of this project is to reveal habitats for unique (endemic) and common (cosmopolitan) microorganisms in lake Baikal, Russia. Baikal, a UNESCO world heritage site, is the world’s most voluminous, deepest and oldest lake, marked by high endemism. An undergraduate researcher will be trained in microscopic techniques to quantify various algae in samples collected during a Baikal research cruise. Statistical tools will be used to reveal relationships between abundance of endemic and cosmopolitan species, temperature and nutrient levels at different locations and depths in the lake. Endemics are hypothesized to specialize in strictly cold environments.

 

 


Using plant functional traits to study community composition and ecosystem function in restored Michigan prairies

Mentor: Chad Zirbel

This research project focuses on community and restoration ecology in restored prairies in southwestern Michigan. We use plant functional traits, characteristics of a plant that tell us how it disperses, establishes, and persists, to predict the community that establishes. Restorations using species based approaches can often lead to unpredictable outcomes. We hope that by using plant functional traits the restored communities will have a more predictable composition. Restorations also provide important services, such as creating habitat for birds and small mammals as well as storing carbon.

 

 


 

Last Updated on Friday, 24 October 2014 19:45