Current Research

Environmental Studies

Each year, a number of Environmental Studies students participate in research collaborations with faculty. Results of these projects are presented at on-campus research symposia, and may also be presented at national or international conferences. For other student research, please explore the websites of our associated departments.

Meg Wika, Geography and Environmental Studies Major ‘14

Land use change, especially deforestation, is a global concern that directly impacts biodiversity, climate change, and human livelihoods and communities. Meg (right, in photo) worked with Prof. Anna Versluis (Geography & Environmental Studies) on a study that involved digitizing and georeferencing historic maps of land use change in Haiti. These maps were formerly available only in paper format in a handful of libraries around the world. By digitizing these maps and thus expanding the digital record of land use beyond that available from satellite imagery, it will be possible to study patterns of land use change in Haiti over greater time periods. Meg’s research was supported by the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation.

Mary Patterson, Biology Major ‘14

Mary collaborated with Prof. Pam Kittelson (Biology & Environmental Studies) on a research project in the 70-acre tallgrass prairie restoration in the Gustavus Arboretum. Mary made an ecological assessment of the vegetation that will help inform the College’s management plans and serve as a foundational base for future studies. Their work will also be used by other ecologists interested in the nature of diversity and the factors that shape its patterns. Mary is pictured at right, with Dr. Kittelson and Mike Howe, another student who worked on the project in 2012. Mary’s work was supported by the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation.

Nick Alverson, Geology & Environmental Studies Major ‘12

Nick worked on two environmentally-related projects. He collaborated with Prof. Jeff Jeremiason (Chemistry & Environmental Studies) to investigate the mobility of mercury and other trace metals through peatlands in northern Minnesota. That work will improve our understanding of how toxic metals move through the environment, ending up as contaminants in fish. Nick also worked with Prof. Laura Triplett (Geology & Environmental Studies) to trace the source of sediment that is polluting the Minnesota River. Nick’s research was supported by the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation.

Jamison Utzig, Biology Major '13

I spent 10 weeks conducting research with Dr. Jeff Jeremiason. The research consisted of analyzing both the total and methyl mercury content of selected lakes in Itasca County. During these ten weeks, two trips were made to Itasca County to obtain water samples for analyzing (above photo). In this time I also helped set up a method for analyzing the methyl mercury content of water samples using an Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometer. This research was supported by the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation.

Carson Smith

Carson Smith, Geology Major '11

Carson spent 10 weeks working with Dr. Laura Triplett investigating how an invasive species, Phragmites australis, has changed the transport of silica—a plant nutrient—in the Platte River, Nebraska. They made two trips to the Platte to collect sediment samples from stands of Phragmites, native willow and unvegetated sandbars. Back at Gustavus, they measured the concentrations of biogenic silica in those sediments to determine how much silica is now being stored in river sediments instead of flowing downriver to feed coastal and ocean ecosystems. This research was supported by the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation and Gustavus Adolphus College (Research, Scholarly and Creativity Grant, 2010), with logistical assistance from The Nature Conservancy and the Audubon Society.