SIUE/U of I Awarded NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates Grant for First Generation Students
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and the University of Illinois (U of I) a three-year $287,690 Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) grant. The award supports the multi-institutional promotion of scientific skills and interdisciplinary research among first generation students in the areas of archaeology and ecology in an effort to document the onset of the Anthropocene, the most recent geological time period, dominated by human impacts on the Earth.
The project is a partnership among the SIUE Center for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Research, Education and Outreach; the U of I Illinois Natural History Survey; the SIUE College of Arts and Sciences Department of Anthropology; and Western Illinois University.
“REU’s offer an incredible learning-research experience for undergraduates. The NSF award is a strong affirmation of SIUE’s commitment to its teacher-scholar philosophy,” said Jerry Weinberg, PhD, associate provost for research and dean of the SIUE Graduate School. “The grant award is also a confirmation of the value SIUE brings to collaborations with research intensive institutions, like the University of Illinois.”
The project, Exploring Evidence of Anthropocene: Archaeological and Ecological Interdisciplinary Research Experiences for First Generation Students in the Upper Mississippi River System, will offer immersive research experiences to 10-undergraduate students during an 8-week period, beginning summer 2017. Carol Colaninno-Meeks, PhD, assistant research professor in the SIUE STEM Center is the principal investigator (PI), and closely operating the program is co-PI John Chick, PhD, director of the Great Rivers Field Station, U of I Illinois Natural History Survey.
“At the SIUE STEM Center we are committed to developing undergraduate educational programming that will have a high impact on students’ future success as researchers and professionals upon graduation,” said Colaninno-Meeks. “The research opportunities offered through this REU site will give first generation undergraduates a truly interdisciplinary experience that is rarely seen in higher education or academia.”
SIUE will serve as host for the REU site, with students conducting field studies on campus, at the Great Rivers Field Station in Alton, and Western Illinois University’s Kibbe Life Science Research Center. Students will engage in field archaeology and fish-monitoring programs in the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers, and will learn methodologies and theoretical perspectives that bridge archaeological and ecological concepts.
“I am involved in two different long-term monitoring and research programs in the Upper Mississippi River System,” said Chick. “One has over 50 years of continuous fish monitoring data, and the second has a continuous stream of over 25 years of fish and water quality data. Combining this information with archaeological data on fish remains dating back over millennia presents a unique opportunity to assess human use and potential impacts on great rivers.”
“This REU award exemplifies the STEM Center’s goal to collaborate with SIUE departments and outside partners to promote interdisciplinary research projects, which are a priority for federal funding agencies,” said Sharon Locke, PhD, director of the SIUE STEM Center. “I am thrilled that SIUE will be hosting first generation undergraduates in conducting cutting-edge research to better understand human interactions with the environment.”
Senior personnel involved in the collaborative project include Corey Ragsdale, PhD, assistant professor and Julie Zimmermann, PhD, professor, both in the SIUE Department of Anthropology; the U of I Illinois Natural History Survey’s Andrew Casper, PhD, director of the Illinois River Biological Station, and Sergiusz Czesney, PhD, director of the Lake Michigan Biological Station; and James Lamer, PhD, site manager of Western Illinois University’s Kibbe Field Station.
“This program is an exceptional opportunity for undergraduate students to conduct interdisciplinary research documenting the onset of the Anthropocene in this region,” Colaninno-Meeks explained. “Students will work closely with scholars who are using new, innovative approaches to probe this pressing research question.”
The SIUE STEM Center is also working with the Office of Student Affairs’ SIUE 1st program to facilitate career development for first generation college students.
“As leaders of this project, Dr. Chick and I will incorporate our history of prioritizing undergraduate mentorship and shared passion for helping students develop into informed researchers and professionals,” added Colaninno-Meeks. “The career development opportunities offered during this program will include sessions on developing a strong resume/CV, exploring options for post-baccalaureate education, and best practices for presenting research.”
Students involved in the program will present an original contribution to the field of studies documenting the timing and scope of the onset of Anthropocene in the Upper Mississippi River System at SIUE in July, and at the Mississippi River Research Consortium being held spring 2018.
About the STEM Center
The Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Center for STEM Research, Education and Outreach comprises an independent group of researchers and educators, innovating ways to engage students and the public in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Within the SIUE Graduate School, the Center brings together research faculty, graduate students and practitioners to conduct education research. The Center contributes educational expertise to SIUE undergraduate classes and provides professional development for K-12 teachers. The Center boasts a significant library of equipment and resources, which are available for loan at no cost to campus and regional instructors. For more information, visit stemideas.org or contact STEM Center Director Sharon Locke at (618) 650-3065 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the University of Illinois, Illinois Natural History Survey
The mission of the Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS), part of the University of Illinois’ Prairie Research Institute, is to investigate and document the biological resources of Illinois and other areas, and to acquire and provide natural history information that can be used to promote the common understanding, conservation and management of these resources. For more information, visit inhs.illinois.edu.
Photo: Carol Colaninno-Meeks, assistant research professor in the SIUE STEM Center.