Geography/Environmental Studies, Dr. Carlin
About My Research:
The summer has found me a comfortable and enlightening position with Professor of Biology Joel Carlin. Under his supervision, and in cooperation with Professor of Chemistry Jeff Jeremiason, I am working towards developing a wide variety of educational sampling protocols that allow students to investigate the ecological “health” of the Seven Mile Creek Watershed. These protocols can then be used in the Aquatic Biology course and similar classes within the sciences. In order to begin work on this project, an intimate relationship with the local watershed and area governmental organizations had to be established. Research began by taking a driving tour of the Seven Mile Creek watershed, all the while noting stretches of the creek that looked particularly disturbed (farm ditches) or relatively pristine (county park area). After five sites of interest were chosen, a sampling free-for-all took place in order to evaluate the efficiency of four different pieces of field equipment. Each site was given a score based on the species richness and diversity of macroinvertebrates collected. Such scores aided in determining an index of biological integrity (IBI), a benchmark figure that allows for various aquatic systems to be compared quantitatively. Further work includes gathering statewide IBI scores to integrate biological health into the geographical realm using a GIS program as a vehicle for such mapping ventures. It is hoped that Gustavus students will help develop this IBI database, turning ordinary classes into active research that helps their local environment.
In the student's own words:
"The greatest part of doing research at Gustavus is that it's like reality but at hyperspeed and super concentrated. Everyday has it's major humbling experiences; you feel as if you have found the absolute, most promising way to go about a problem, and you think to yourself "What could possibly go wrong?". The lab procedure is followed strictly, everything should go exactly as planned, yet you still surprise yourself at how easily most things fail. But it's the best because you surprise yourself at how flexible and creative you can be. I guess it's one of those "adapting to change" sort of scenarios.
Having brilliant and friendly colleagues in labs down the hall helps keep pride and intimidation at bay; everyone in the building at some point has struggled in a scientific rut and is more than happy giving an outsider's opinion to help you if not solve your dilemma at least confront it from a more logical point-of-view.
It's the informal interactions, though, that remind you that the other people in the building aren't one-dimensional science droids. Through casual conversation, you find out you have a lot more in common with some pretty incredible and highly unique individuals. It's a relief to have such a welcoming network of people, one that is dangerously close to being classified as a sort of family system."