2013 Projects in Natural Sciences and Mathematics

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CHEMISTRY

Doug Beussman – Isotope Ratio Fiber Analysis

This forensic-based project will use the isotope ratio mass spectrometer at St. Olaf. This project will look at small differences in isotope ratios of fibers, such as cotton or wool fibers. By determining the isotope ratios, the geographical or manufacturing origin of the samples can often be determined, thus providing valuable information about the source of the material and potentially supply a link between a suspect and forensic evidence found at a crime scene. Students will be trained on lab techniques and instrumentation at the beginning of summer. Once they are qualified to run the instruments, they will work independently, but we will hold daily consultations.

Doug Beussman – several projects

For all projects, students will be trained on lab techniques and instrumentation at the beginning of summer. Once they are qualified to run the instruments, they will work independently, but we will hold daily consultations.

Drug Analysis in Commercial Products:  Drugs are prevalent in a number of commercially available products. “Bath salts” are an example of drugs being sold legally. While most of the ingredients are legal, they chemically mimic illegal substances. As soon as the compounds are added to the list of illegal drugs, the manufacturers change the ingredients. Another example is nutritional supplements. While they don’t generally contain illegal substances, they often contain substances banned by athletic organizations. This project aims to develop analytical methods for the rapid analysis of these substances using LC-MS. A student working on this project will learn how to develop an analytical method as well as how to operate and maintain the LC-MS mass spectrometer.

Human  Scent Differentiation:  This project will involve using GC/MS techniques to characterize human scent profiles. Slight differences in normal human scent patterns are used by canines to differentiate humans. We are interested in developing a laboratory-based technique that can be used to investigate these scent differences. The volatile organic compounds found in normal human scent are at extremely low concentrations, often ppb or ppt levels and thus require a very sensitive technique to profile these compounds. Possible applications of this GC/MS scent profiling method include forensic case work and disease state detection.

Teaching Lab Development:  Students interested in developing experiments to be incorporated into various chemistry teaching labs are encouraged to apply. A variety of different labs are available for development including electrochemistry, fluorescence or Raman spectroscopy, and GC or MALDI mass spectrometry. The goal will be to develop one or more experiments to be used in the St. Olaf curriculum next year. A student working on this project will be involved in selecting what sort of samples will be analyzed as well as developing and optimizing the methods used for the analysis. The theme of these labs could involve forensics, environmental analysis, food analysis, pharmaceutical processes or any other context of interest to the student.

Tetrahymena proteomics:  This project includes collaborating with Dr. Eric Cole in the Biology Department, as well as research groups in Iowa, California and Missouri, on the identification of proteins isolated from Tetrahymena thermophila, using proteomic methods, which are routinely in biochemical and medical research. Isolated proteins will be digested and analyzed using mass spectrometry techniques with the MALDI-TOF/TOF instrument and screened against a database of proteins predicted to exist based on the genome. Peptides from potentially identified proteins will be fragmented in the mass spectrometer in order to sequence the peptides for confirmation of protein identification. Students will also work on developing two-dimensional gel electrophoresis separation methods for Tetrahymena protein samples.

 

Keir Fogarty – Development of a Non-Infectious in vitro Assay to Interrogate the Interactions of Viral Structural Proteins with Phospholipid Membranes

My research focuses on the application of biophysical fluorescence imaging techniques towards the understanding of biological systems. Specifically, my research focuses on the mechanisms of assembly for retroviruses like human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and human T-cell leukemia virus (HTLV). The retroviral structural protein, Gag, plays a critical role in retrovirus assembly. Indeed, it is well-established that the expression of Gag alone is sufficient for the production of non-infectious virus-like particles (VLPs) which are often used as model systems for virus assembly. A critical stage in the assembly of Gag proteins involves the interaction of Gag with the plasma membrane of cells. My previous research has found an unexpected contrast in Gag membrane interactions between HIV and HTLV which likely indicates that there are different biological mechanisms involved in their membrane binding. My goal is to develop an in vitro assay using artificial membranes to assess the importance of a variety of factors in the Gag-membrane interaction for both retroviruses. Students working on this project can expect to not only get an introduction to a variety of molecular biology techniques (protein purification, molecular cloning), but also to get exposure to biophysical fluorescence microscopy techniques (scanning confocal microscopy, number and brightness analysis, fluorescence correlation imaging) in the St. Olaf microscopy facility.

Dipannita Kalyani – Transition Metal Catalyzed Carbon-Carbon Bond Formation

The ubiquity of hydrocarbons (including arenes and alkanes) in petrochemical sources has resulted in a continuously growing demand for selective functionalization of C–H bonds. In particular, the development of atom economical, cost-effective, and environmentally friendly methods for the construction of C–C bonds using hydrocarbons is very desirable. This is because C–C bonds are structural motifs found in a variety of compounds including fuels, pharmaceuticals, agrochemicals, conjugated materials, and commodity chemicals. The overall goal of the proposed research is the development of mild, and efficient, construction of C–C bonds by nickel (or palladium) catalyzed cross-coupling of phenolic electrophiles with hetereoarenes, arenes, and alkanes. The inexpensive nature of nickel in conjunction with the naturally abundant and/or readily accessible phenol electrophiles are expected to make this methodology a significant advancement over the currently known C–C bond forming reactions. Students working on these projects will gain experience both in the synthesis and purification of organic compounds as well as the optimization of catalytic reactions. In addition they will learn and develop expertise in laboratory methods including: (i) use of the glove box and air free Schlenk techniques, and (ii) use of NMR spectroscopy and GC. Students will also engage in regular conversations about their research projects and will brainstorm ideas with me and their peers on ways to further their research projects. In all these projects will enable students to apply both new concepts as well as classroom topics toward addressing unmet challenges in chemistry.

Elodie Marlier – Development of low-valent first-row transition metal complexes

Metal centers with low oxidation states or low-valent metal complexes have been of great interest for bond activation considering these species are highly reducing. Specifically, my research interest has been in carbon-halogen (C-X) bond activation due to the large contamination of volatile organic compounds in our groundwater supply. My goal is to synthesize low-valent metal complexes that show reactivity towards C-X bonds. The first step in this project will require the use of organic chemistry to synthesize a monoanionic tetradentate ligand. The ligand will then be metallated with a first-row transition metal and reduced to a more reactive oxidation state under inert atmosphere. Current work will consist of preparing a ligand that was synthesized last summer and optimizing its reaction with metals. Students can expect to gain experience in both inorganic and organic synthesis including air-sensitive techniques such as the use of a Schlenk line and a glovebox. The characterization of these compounds will also require the use of a variety of techniques such as mass spectrometry, NMR, UV-vis and IR spectroscopy. Additionally, metal compounds that can be crystallized will be submitted for crystal structure determination. The student will begin by learning general lab protocols and how to set up different reactions. As the student gains skill and confidence, they will design experiments and run them independently. Daily meetings regarding the planning and execution of experiments, and analysis of data, can be expected throughout the summer.

Greg Muth – Selection and characterization of algal communities toward the development of stable cultures for the production of renewable fuels

The dwindling of natural energy resources, combined with growing concerns over the effects of CO2 emissions on climate, is contributing to an increasing worldwide interest in the development of renewable energy resources derived from biological sources. Microalgae have bee suggested as a potential source of bioenergy due, in part, to their high productivity and low land use requirements. The increased interest in microalgal biofuels represents an opportunity to pursue basic science research in biology and chemistry that can, in turn, inform the search for and development of alternative fuels. A key component in the success of microalgae as a source of biofuels is optimizing lipid production in mass culture. Our research focuses on (1) lipid accumulation in native algal species as a function of nutrient availability, CO2 concentration, light, etc. (2) the evolution of stable algal communities from mixtures of native species via selection under laboratory growth conditions, and (3) the characterization of the biochemical and genetic changes in algae as they adapt to various environments. Primarily we will be using fluorescence microscopy and GC-MS to gather data. As the project develops, we will incorporate genetic and biochemical characterization.

Greg Muth – Science Education and Outreach: A Revolution in the Classroom

This non-traditional summer research project continues our community outreach effort to get elementary students excited about science and gives Oles the opportunity to inspire our next generation of researchers.  The goal of the summer portion of the project is to research and develop hands-on classroom activities for elementary school students centered on the principles of renewable energy and other areas of science. The project continues during the academic year with training of volunteers and dissemination of the materials and curriculum throughout the community in a science-outreach program. This project is ideal for a student interested in science education. A vital component for the success of this project is coordination and implementation during the academic year. Preference will be given to those individuals able to do so.

Jeff Schwinefus – DNA and RNA Destabilization in Aqueous Cosolute Solutions

Secondary and tertiary structures of nucleic acids (DNA and RNA) are essential for proper biological function.  Our project seeks to understand how cellular solutes such as amino acids facilitate the destabilization of nucleic acid structures.  This project will improve our understanding of nucleic acid folding processes and provide insights into nucleic acid biochemical reactions and biopolymer folding diseases. We use a mix of uv-absorbance, differential scanning calorimetry, vapor pressure osmometry, solubility measurements, and molecular dynamics simulations to determine the excess (or deficiency) of these solutes near the newly exposed surface area of an unfolded nucleic acid structure.  Our ultimate goal is to quantify the interactions of these solutes with chemical functional groups on the nucleic acid surface to elucidate the mechanism of solute-mediated nucleic acid destabilization.

Cassidy Terrell – Probing the structure and function of the 4OT isozymes of Methylibium petroleiphilum

The focus of this research is to investigate the structure and function of 4-oxalocrotonate tautomerase (4OT) isozymes. Although 4OT isozymes canonically catalyze the tautomerization of 2-hydroxymuconate, an intermediate in the catabolism of aromatic hydrocarbons, current research has shown that these enzymes can be promiscuous with respect to substrate preference and catalysis. This research endeavors to explore this feature of enzymatic evolution in bacteria that contain multiple copies of 4OT genes. As such, the structure and function of the 4OT isozymes from Methylibium petroleiphilum PM1, bacterium currently used in bioremediation of petroleum groundwater pollution, will be explored. Utilization of the 4OT isozymes as a probe for this research is an excellent choice due to their ease of expression, purification and adaptability to many in vitro biochemical techniques. Students will receive training on techniques and safety in the laboratory during the first weeks; as the summer progresses, students will begin to work independently with daily consultations.

COMPUTER SCIENCE

Dick Brown – CSinParallel: Parallel and distributed computing for CS students across the nation

Recent changes in computer architecture and the rise of “cloud computing” mean that all CS students now need competency in parallel and distributed computing (PDC) in order to be prepared for their careers. Student researchers in the CSinParallel project have a unique opportunity to contribute to this international movement in CS education, by helping to research, develop, produce, and improve modules for teaching PDC (csinparallel.org). This summer’s projects include researching and creating modules that focus on parallel design patterns and “exemplar” applications to other disciplines and concerns, such as DNA comparison and traffic flow analysis; improving portability and performance of WebMapReduce; researching, documenting, and deploying CSinParallel modules on new parallel computing platforms; preparing and supporting workshops for faculty at other institutions to begin teaching more parallel and distributed computing;  preparing for and supporting upcoming regional workshops for professors at other institutions to teach more PDC;  and preparing materials for publication. Special equipment includes St. Olaf’s Beowulf clusters, 32-core and 64-core computers, LittleFE portable cluster, and high-performance graphics cards for accelerated computations, as well as external resources provided by Intel and Amazon. Preparation: Minimum of CS 251; CS 300 or equivalent knowledge of parallel computing is an asset.

Dick Brown – HiPerCiC: Making parallel computing available in all disciplines

Computer Science has much to offer nearly any discipline on campus, since such resources makes it practical to consider research questions that were impractical before now. Some current St. Olaf examples: automatically and expediently searching millions of pages of text for word usage patterns; simulating hundreds of thousands of different plants to assess the way the respond to nitrogen-rich environments over time; and analyzing political blog postings over time to explore how their emotional content relates to current events; interactively visualizing data through maps. In this project, student researchers will extend and improve HiPerCiC applications and and the HiPerCiC framework, a customizable user-interface framework to make parallel computing applications accessible and convenient for students and faculty in non-CS disciplines. The HiPerCiC framework forms the foundation for the creation and deployment of new and ongoing applications of high-performance computing in multiple disciplines. Preparation: Good programming skills and interest in user interfaces and/or interdisciplinary applications of CS; coursework such as CS 273, 284, 300, or IS 201 are assets.

BIOLOGY

Diane Angell – Bumblebee Biodiversity

Bumblebees (Bombus spp.) play a valuable role in our ecosystem, pollinating flowers and crops. Recently researchers have discovered Bombus populations have declined significantly in North America, with one species believed to be extinct. Researchers have highlighted the role of habitat loss, pesticide use and pathogen spillover from domestic bees as reasons for the decline. Despite extensive research nationwide, there has been little research done on Bombus species richness in southern Minnesota. In order to document Bombus species we will conduct surveys in different habitats in and around Northfield. In particular we will focus on bumblebee use of reconstructed prairies at both St. Olaf and Carleton along with their use of remnant prairies in the area. We may also have the opportunity of working with small-scale local farms as we explore the role of bumblebees as pollinators of crops. Research students need to be independent and enthusiastic with an eye for detail as we learn the different species of bumblebees in Minnesota. Students will also need to be flexible and comfortable working with a variety of people as we interact with local farmers.

Lisa Bowers – Regulation of development in Caulobacter crescentus

Like stem cells, some bacteria can differentiate (transform) from one cell type to another within one life cycle. The aquatic bacterium, Caulobacter crescentus, is one of these “shape-shifting” bacteria. Caulobacter flourishes in low-nutrient environments such as lakes, rivers, and tap water. In order to survive in its competitive environment, Caulobacter undergoes a “dimorphic” life cycle. In the “swarmer” phase, Caulobacter has a flagellum and can swim toward food but cannot replicate its DNA or reproduce. Then, during a critical point in its life cycle, Caulobacter sheds its flagellum and produces an extremely sticky appendage called a stalk. In this “stalked” phase, it can cement to surfaces where nutrients are more concentrated and the stalked cell is able to replicate its DNA and divide. The goal of my research is to better understand the molecular mechanisms that drive cellular differentiation in Caulobacter. In this research project, students will investigate the role of a set of genes of unknown function in Caulobacter. Students will use genetic and molecular techniques to delete a gene of interest and then manipulate its expression. They will learn how to characterize their mutant’s morphology and growth phenotypes with microscopy and cell culture.

Laura Listenberger – Cellular mechanisms of lipid storage

My lab is interested in the mechanisms of protein binding to lipid droplets, the cellular compartment for storage of excess fat. The storage and utilization of excess fat is controlled by proteins that interact with the lipid droplet surface, but the characteristics of the lipid droplet that make its surface look unique to interacting proteins are not known. Our experiments use a variety of standard techniques in biochemistry and cell biology (including mammalian cell culture, subcellular fractionation, polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis, and western blotting) to identify features of the lipid droplet surface that promote protein binding. At the beginning of the project period, I will explain and demonstrate techniques, recommend specific articles to read, and outline the experimental goals.  As students gain confidence and proficiency in their lab work, they will take more responsibility for planning and executing experiments.

Anne Walter and Becky Vandiver – Putting the math into biology and the biology into math

Seeking students to be part of a team to upgrade Animal Physiology (Bio 247) labs/course by integrating appropriate mathematical analysis and create a set of labs for Mathematics of Biology (Math 236) tied to the course content. The research will include identifying goals, learning techniques, finding and testing appropriate exercises and supporting primary literature as well as preparing the lab manual text and figures. We would like to plan an assessment of the learning effectiveness of these new exercises as well. Applicants must have interest in engaging in both the biological and the mathematical parts of the projects.

PHYSICS

Brian Borovsky – Investigating high-speed sliding friction at the microscale

I am interested in studying what gives rise to the force of friction. What are the atomic and microscopic interactions that determine the frictional force opposing the sliding of one surface over another? How does this force generate heat at the interface? By pressing a high-resolution force probe onto a vibrating surface, we create a microscopic high-speed contact subject to friction. The speeds and contact sizes involved are the same as those encountered in working devices such as computer hard drives and micromachines. My research group is pursuing a collaborative effort, with investigators from Luther College and Auburn University, to investigate hydrocarbon lubricant films just one molecule thick. These films may be effective coatings for micromachines assembled from metal oxides rather than silicon. Our goal is to determine how the length of the lubricant molecules and the choice of substrate affect the levels of friction. Current models point to the importance of mutual interactions among the molecules in establishing a well-ordered layer with a minimum number of pathways for energy dissipation. This summer’s student researchers will be involved in all aspects of this project, including sample preparation, data taking, analysis, literature review, public presentation of results, and manuscript authorship.

Jason Engbrecht – Robotic Control

The St. Olaf Robotics Research Group is working to implement autonomous control systems into robotic arms. While robot arms have been around for decades, the control of these arms is still rather rudimentary compared to that carried out by people every day. Autonomous grasping and manipulating of objects is quite difficult and is the focus of our research. Precisely locating a robot arm is currently an enormous challenge unless it is an extremely expensive arm. We are examining the use of structured light locating systems to locate our arms as a low cost alternative. We are also exploring ways of using a force and torque sensor to provide information for the arm to interact with everyday objects.

Bob Jacobel and Knut Christianson – Ice and Climate Geophysics Group (CEGSIC)

The world’s glaciers and ice sheets are a critical element in the global climate system now undergoing major change. Our group uses geophysical techniques: ice-penetrating radar and satellite imagery, to examine the surface, interior and base of ice sheets and glaciers. The characteristics of ice internal layers and the basal conditions that we measure with our radar give us information about the evolution of the ice and enable us to study relationships between ice flow and climate change. Currently we are in the third year of an Antarctic multidisciplinary research project, a collaboration of biologists and geoscientists studying a series of connected lakes beneath the ice in Antarctica.  We completed two years of geophysical field studies in 2010-12 and the project successfully drilled into one of the lakes this past January. We are now focused on the analysis of additional data in preparation for drilling into more of the lakes in 2014. We also have radar and GPS data acquired in Greenland in the summer of 2012 that we are interpreting, and we will be readying the radar system for more fieldwork in the coming year. Members in our group work extensively with computers and software to analyze ice-penetrating radar data and satellite imagery as well as learning to write new code in Matlab. We also utilize geopositioning satellite (GPS) data and satellite remote sensing imagery, together with geographic information software (GIS), to establish the spatial context for our radar results. Part of our summer research involves using radar and GPS in a local field setting so that all in the group have the opportunity to acquire new data and work through the analysis process from start to finish. We will read papers and proposals from our colleagues and present our own results to the community. Our research is supported by grants from the Office of Polar Programs, National Science Foundation.

Amy Kolan – Marginality

Consider a network of springs (imagine chicken wire but made from springs) that is clamped at the top of the network and then weighted from below. The springs are cut in a random fashion. The spring constant of the network is measured as a function of the coordination number of the cut lattice (essentially as a function of the percentage of cut “bonds”).  After a certain number of bonds are cut the lattice sags – that is, the spring constant of the network goes to zero. This is a new type of behavior that has been called “marginality” by Martin van Hecke. This project aims to investigate marginality both with real spring networks and with computer simulations of spring networks. Two students will be working on marginality via independent research during the spring term.  Students working this summer will build upon their work. I suspect that much of the work will come in designing an efficient algorithm to calculate the spring constant of a randomly cut spring network.

NEUROSCIENCE

Kevin Crisp – Development of Wireless Implantable Devices for Sensing and Stimulating Nerves

Batteries severely encumber the design and development of implantable medical devices. They are large, generate undesirable heat, and often must be located at a distance from the site of action, to which they are connected with long wires that pose potential paths for infection. Some of these obstacles may be overcome by the design of passive, wireless, implantable devices that use the naturally conductive properties of body tissues to physically uncouple power consuming devices (such as amplifiers and stimulators). My lab is in the process of developing two implantable devices, one for monitoring neural impulse activity and a second for delivering electrical stimulation. Aa team of 2-4 students will work on several objectives in parallel. Working along side Prof. Crisp for several hours most days is expected. An ability to multitask effectively, and work independently as well as in a group is expected. A background in physiology and experience working with electronic circuits and/or amateur radio are a plus!

Jay Demas – Visual input onto non-visual photoreceptors

Melanopsin cells are a set of recently discovered retinal photoreceptors. These cells mediate non-visual behaviors that depend on light, such as setting your circadian rhythm and pupil constriction.  Despite the fact that melanopsin cells are intrinsically able to detect light, they receive light driven input from other retinal neurons. Our aim is to better understand how this input helps melanopsin cells more effectively mediate non-visual photic behavior. To answer this question we use a combination of in vitro electrophysiological and in vivo behavioral experiments in mice. In addition to performing experiments, student responsibilities will include animal husbandry, preparation of solutions, behavioral experiments, and data analysis. I will work with students to help them master the techniques used in my laboratory, until they are able to work independently.

MATHEMATICS

Kevin Sanft – Exploring Discrete Stochastic Simulation

Stochastic modeling, simulation, and analysis has become an invaluable tool in several fields, especially biology. At the cellular scale, many processes in biology are driven by interactions between small numbers of molecules. These processes are inherently stochastic (random) and can display behavior that cannot be captured with traditional (e.g. differential equations) approaches. Students will learn about stochastic simulation and will be introduced to state-of-the art algorithms and software. This project is well-suited to students interested in computer science, applied mathematics, and/or computational biology. It is expected that students will be highly self-motivated. Group meetings are expected to occur weekly, with additional meetings scheduled as necessary; email correspondence will always be available.

Kevin Sanft and Becky Vandiver – Exploring Computational Biology

Applied mathematics and computation have become invaluable tools to study the interdisciplinary field of computational neuroscience.  In this project, students will learn about spatial models and computational techniques to study signal response in dendrite branches of neurons. This project is well-suited to students interested in computer science, applied mathematics, and/or computational biology.  Professors Kevin Sanft and Becky Vandiver will be co-advising the project. Professor Vandiver is a specialist in mathematical biology and is currently working on a neuron signaling research project. Professor Sanft’s research is in the area of algorithms and software for computational biology. It is expected that students will be highly self-motivated. Group meetings are expected to occur weekly, with additional meetings scheduled as necessary; email correspondence will always be available.

Anne Walter and Becky Vandiver – Putting the math into biology and the biology into math

Seeking students to be part of a team to upgrade Animal Physiology (Bio 247) labs/course by integrating appropriate mathematical analysis and create a set of labs for Mathematics of Biology (Math 236) tied to the course content. The research will include identifying goals, learning techniques, finding and testing appropriate exercises and supporting primary literature as well as preparing the lab manual text and figures. We would like to plan an assessment of the learning effectiveness of these new exercises as well. Applicants must have interest in engaging in both the biological and the mathematical parts of the projects.

ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES

(see additional Environmental Studies projects on the Arts, Humanities, Social Sciences and Interdisciplinary Studies page)

Paul Jackson – Environmental assessments of an impaired brook trout stream

Over the years many of Minnesota’s brook trout have been lost or displaced from their native habitats due to pollution, habitat destruction and competition with non-native species. Several streams in southeastern Minnesota are currently under threat of pollution, nutrients, sedimentation, and E. coli, mostly from surrounding agriculture land use. A local brook trout stream, Rice Creek, is no exception; it is currently listed as impaired for nitrate, turbidity, and E. coli. During the last three years students and local volunteers conducted stream assessment projects on Rice Creek. This summer two students will join in a continuation of that work here as well as examine parallel systems of streams and agricultural/urban land use in Japan. The students will use GPS and GIS to map and evaluate impervious surface in the watershed as well as identify and monitor points of agricultural discharge, nutrient levels and stream structure. Other work will take place on the policy side as we consider future rehabilitation and conservation efforts in and around the watershed. In particular, the team will 1) explore the level of public outreach success the CWP Assessment grant delivered and subsequent recommendations for future volunteer and local governmental unit engagement; 2) recommend conservation and cost-share programs that match well with high priority areas for habitat work; and 3) determine what policy takes precedence in the watershed, especially in the overlap of the agricultural drainage ditch with the DNR designated trout stream. Early in the summer the group will travel to Japan to explore the connectivity of streams, land use (urban ag/rural ag, university campus), and community engagement in watershed protection efforts. The comparison between Japan and the rural Upper Midwest may yield new insights or awareness about each system as well as cultural/social values tied to ecosystem functions.  Students will work closely with local government units, non-profit watershed partnerships, volunteers, Trout Unlimited and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Having at least one student contribute expertise in any of the following areas is desirable: Japanese language & society/contemporary history, GIS and GPS, ecology or analytical chemistry.

Bob Jacobel and Knut Christianson – Ice and Climate Geophysics Group (CEGSIC)

The world’s glaciers and ice sheets are a critical element in the global climate system now undergoing major change. Our group uses geophysical techniques: ice-penetrating radar and satellite imagery, to examine the surface, interior and base of ice sheets and glaciers. The characteristics of ice internal layers and the basal conditions that we measure with our radar give us information about the evolution of the ice and enable us to study relationships between ice flow and climate change. Currently we are in the third year of an Antarctic multidisciplinary research project, a collaboration of biologists and geoscientists studying a series of connected lakes beneath the ice in Antarctica.  We completed two years of geophysical field studies in 2010-12 and the project successfully drilled into one of the lakes this past January. We are now focused on the analysis of additional data in preparation for drilling into more of the lakes in 2014. We also have radar and GPS data acquired in Greenland in the summer of 2012 that we are interpreting, and we will be readying the radar system for more fieldwork in the coming year. Members in our group work extensively with computers and software to analyze ice-penetrating radar data and satellite imagery as well as learning to write new code in Matlab. We also utilize geopositioning satellite (GPS) data and satellite remote sensing imagery, together with geographic information software (GIS), to establish the spatial context for our radar results. Part of our summer research involves using radar and GPS in a local field setting so that all in the group have the opportunity to acquire new data and work through the analysis process from start to finish. We will read papers and proposals from our colleagues and present our own results to the community. Our research is supported by grants from the Office of Polar Programs, National Science Foundation.

John Schade – The Polaris Project: Assessing the impacts of climate change in Minnesota and Siberia

The Polaris Project is a multifaceted effort that includes a summer field course and research experience that will take place in Minnesota in June and in the Siberian Arctic in July of 2013. The unifying scientific theme of the Polaris Project is the study of the potential effects of climate change on the cycling of carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Selected students will work with me to develop a project during the month of June studying agricultural lands, restored prairies and small streams on and around campus, which will be part of a comparative project also conducted in a permafrost-dominated watershed in the East Siberian Arctic in the month of July. We will also return to campus after traveling to Siberia to complete analyses and present our research results to the St. Olaf community during the end of summer research symposium.

Kathy Shea – Ecology of the St. Olaf Natural and Agricultural Lands

Students working with me will focus on applied research on the St. Olaf Natural Lands studying biodiversity, plant growth, and soil characteristics in restored forest and prairie ecosystems. We will also work on maintenance of restored forest and prairie areas, and examine the effects of different agricultural practices on soil quality and agricultural yields. Research questions include 1) Effects of variation in fertilizer and farming methods on agricultural yields; 2) Analysis of tree growth patterns in restored and mature maple basswood forests; 3) Management of invasive and rare species; 4) Prairie biodiversity and biomass production in response to burn patterns; and others. Students will have the opportunity to explore their own research questions related to the projects described and will work with other St. Olaf students. In addition to an interest in fieldwork and a biology background, familiarity/interest in statistics/GIS is helpful. Students working during the summer will be encouraged to use some of this research as the basis for an independent research project during the academic year.

Mike Swift – Environmental Contaminants in Mussels from the Cannon River

Be an environmental detective! Discover what chemicals are contaminating aquatic organisms in the Cannon River! Mussels are long-lived members of stream communities that live in and on the bottom of streams. They are exposed to environmental contaminants throughout their lives, which makes them excellent monitors of historical conditions. Join us to explore the industrial history of the Cannon River basin and to discover the contaminant load of these important aquatic animals. The student member of this research team will use library, newspaper, and other databases to identify the types of contaminants that might have been released into the Cannon River. Field collection of mussels, extraction and analysis of chemical contaminants and stable istopes, and sectioning of mussels to determine their age, will be done with instruction and supervision from Professors Swift, Jackson, and Beussman.

Charles Umbanhowar Jr – Reconstucting Changes in Lake Levels Using Historical Aerial Photos

Lake level responses to drought may vary considerably depending on the relative importance of surface flow vs groundwater. This project will focus on documenting lake level variability in Minnesota in response to the 1930s drought. We will use ArcGIS to analyze 1930s (and modern) aerial photos to document changes in lake surface area. Surface area will then be overlayed on maps of lake bottoms to infer changes in water depth. Research questions include 1) How varied are lakes in the same region and to what extent is geographic distance and/or elevation predictive of lake level responses? 2) Is lake area, depth, watershed size, geology, predictive of lake level changes? 3) If lake levels response to drought is highly variable what does this mean for paleoeclimate studies that are often based on sediment cores from a single lake? Completion of ES 255 (or equiv) is required.