Western Kentucky University

Watershed

Students in the field.Students in the field.Students in the field.Students in the field.

Welcome to the NSF REU Site:  Land Use/Land Cover in the Mammoth Cave Upper Green River watershed

This project is funded by the National Science Foundation.

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We have designed the research program for eight undergraduates in a project submitted jointly from the Departments of Biology, Chemistry, and Geography and Geology. We are also inviting four students from the Kentucky Math and Science Academy, established in 2007, to join the REU program each year. This Academy accepts exceptionally gifted students from all over Kentucky. Students spend the final two years of high school living and studying at WKU, which serves as the permanent host institution in Kentucky. This is one of 17 such publicly funded Academies in the U.S. Research is required for all students at the Academy during the academic year. This is a very unique cadre of students. These students will be invited to begin participation in research during the academic year prior to the start of the REU program. Students will be encouraged to continue research during the academic year between the two summers as well.

The primary objective of this REU site is to provide undergraduates with unique and exciting research opportunities in an area of environmental research. The ultimate goal is to increase the student's interest in graduate study and/or careers in an environmentally related profession. To ensure participating students understand the entire scientific enterprise, from beginning to end, we will emphasize the process of hypothesis development and testing. Relevant literature will be provided to the students prior to coming to campus. Obviously, during the execution of their individual projects, students will receive hands-on experience of the developing, testing, and modifying their hypothesis.

The target population will be first-generation college students from rural and disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds in the Appalachia region. In many impoverished rural counties in Kentucky and the other Appalachian states, less than 10% of the population holds a post-secondary degree. Additionally, many students may be the first person in their family to attend college or even graduate from high school. These first-generation students often face unique challenges to their efforts to succeed in academia. At least 50% of the students will be recruited from four-year colleges and universities from the surrounding EPSCoR states where research opportunities have traditionally been limited and where teaching is the first and foremost academic mission.

The unifying environmental theme of this REU site is focused on land use and land cover and its impacts on water in a karst hydrogeologic, geomorphic and atmospheric context. The research components are all directly related to water quality, contaminant transport, and near surface atmospheric water cycling, with the Upper Green River Watershed as the primary field site during the summer. This REU site is also a cutting-edge example of the increasing focus on multidisciplinary research by the NSF. In addition, it will place students in a typical research and working environment similar to what they will experience in their future professional careers. Students will select a research project with a faculty or professional staff mentor who has an active environmental research program. The research projects of the faculty and staff mentors will provide students many opportunities to perform both field and laboratory research and to develop a close working relationship with the mentor. All of the proposed research projects have national and global applications. Students will be provided a unique opportunity to learn and apply their knowledge to a real and current environmental problem in a rich and meaningful way. They will gain an understanding of the actual multidisciplinary teams that are often necessary to solve complex research problems. They will also gain an understanding of the overall context in which their individual research projects fit. The scope and impact of most.

The responsibility for management of this program will be held by the PIs and a committee with a representative from each department and center. There will also be a rotating student representative. Each week, the PIs will meet directly with the rotating student representative. This will also ensure rapid response to student concerns. The management committee will meet bi-weekly in the summer to ensure efficient and productive communication among all parties. The PIs will be responsible for the preparation of all required reports and presentations. A strong emphasis on hands-on experience utilizing modern instrumentation and experimental facilities will be central to the success of this REU site. Since many of the individual research projects overlap, students in closely related projects will be paired, to stress the collaborative nature of research. This project will introduce the students to a research setting that is "beyond the classroom" and help develop their scientific maturity while working on research that is ultimately based on service to the greater community.

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 Last Modified 7/19/13