Stellar Student Research:
04 | Biology Undergraduates Pursue Independent Research
Undergraduate biology student Tracy Valentovich studies geographic variations among stands of Joshua trees. Robin Keber investigates how artichoke thistle, an invasive plant species, affects hummingbirds’ success in building nests. Amy Arispe is finding out whether crypto biotic soil crusts are a source of nitrogen for two desert shrubs.
These and similar projects are being carried out as part of the Southern California Ecosystems Research Program, training undergraduates for careers in ecology and environmental biology. Funded and recently refunded by the National Science Foundation, the program awards $12,000 scholarships for up to two years. Recipients design and complete independent research projects, closely mentored by faculty members, and then present their results at scientific meetings and in publications.
“We believe the program has had a dramatic, positive impact on our students,” says its director, biology Professor Bill Hoese. “Of the seven scholars who have graduated since the program began, five are in graduate school and one manages an ecology lab at UC Irvine. Students have received numerous awards for their work. Many have received scholarships, and three of our current students are enrolled in an exchange program to study coastal ecology in Brazil. These are a few examples of success.”