LAWRENCE — Each spring, scientists from the Kansas Biological Survey refocus on their field research at the University of Kansas Field Station and across the state. Among these scientists are KU students, both graduate and undergraduate, who study pollinators, animal populations, ecosystem function, prairie restoration and more.
Earlier this month, the Biological Survey, a KU research center, named the recipients of its 2016 KU Field Station Student Research Awards. The program offers three annual awards for field-based research by KU undergraduate and graduate students at the Field Station or within the state of Kansas. Award amounts are determined by the merit of the project proposals and available funding.
“Students are doing important research that contributes greatly to our understanding of our environment and how we can work with it to sustain our own lives,” said Ed Martinko, director of the Biological Survey. “In many cases, a few hundred dollars of funding can make all the difference in facilitating their essential field work.”
The three awards categories:
● The KU Field Station Small Grants Award, which assists one or more undergraduate and graduate students who will conduct some portion of their field-based research at the Field Station in 2016.
● The KU Field Station Undergraduate Student Research Award, which assists one or more meritorious undergraduate students who will conduct some portion of their field-based research at the Field Station in 2016.
● The Mari F. Pesek Graduate Research Award, which assists a meritorious graduate student who will conduct her/his field-based research at the Field Station and/or within the state of Kansas in 2016.
Two graduate students received Small Grants awards.
Terra Lubin, Lawrence doctoral candidate in plant ecology with a focus on plant-human interface systems, received a $750 award. Her research project is “Mycorrhizae, drought and restoration.” Her adviser is Helen Alexander, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology.
Theo Michaels, Santa Rosa, California, doctoral student in ecology and evolutionary biology with a focus on grassland ecology and restoration specific to plant-soil interactions, received a $750 award. Her research project is “Island biogeography and the potential of prairie monoliths to act as islands of nucleation for species diversity.” Her adviser is Ben Sikes, assistant professor of ecology & evolutionary biology.
Two students received Undergraduate Student Research awards.
Courtney Coppinger, Prairie Village senior in ecology and evolutionary biology, received a $500 award. Her research project is “The effects of fossorial mammals on nutrient cycling in prairie systems.” Her advisers are Alexander and Sikes.
Christian Schillo, Kasson, Minnesota, senior in environmental studies and geography, received a $500 award. His research project is “Whitetail deer population survey estimates at the KU Field Station.” His adviser is Robert Hagen, lecturer and field educator coordinator for the Environmental Studies Program and courtesy assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology.
The Mari Pesek Award is being presented for the first time in 2016. The recipient is Maged Nosshi, of Harrania, Giza, Egypt, a doctoral student in geography and atmospheric science. His research focuses on the coupling of ecosystem structure and function at different scales. His research project, which involves field work at the Land Institute near Salina and the Konza Prairie Biological Station, Kansas State University, is “Restoration of ecological function in novel agroecosystems.” Nosshi’s adviser is Nate Brunsell, professor of geography and atmospheric sciences.
“I appreciate the fact that the only requirement for this award was to report on research findings,” Nosshi said. “That’s exactly what I want to do: engage people and explain what this research is about. I’ll use the award to present at the annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America in August.”
Mari Pesek, the namesake of the award, was a KU student who spent many hours at the Field Station’s prairie research plots studying plants and insects. In August 2013, she died in an automobile accident shortly after graduating with the master’s degree in ecology and evolutionary biology. Pesek’s adviser was Bryan Foster, senior scientist at the Biological Survey and a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology.
In fall 2014, Pesek’s fellow graduate students and peers at the Biological Survey organized a 5K fun run/walk at the Field Station to celebrate her life and work, and to raise funds for a graduate student award in her name. The event, along with other contributions, resulted in the establishment of an endowed fund at The Kansas University Endowment Association.
Each of the KU Field Station Student Research Awards is funded through KU Endowment, the independent, nonprofit organization serving as the official fundraising and fund-management organization for KU.
The Kansas Biological Survey was established at KU in 1911. It houses a diverse group of environmental research and remote sensing/GIS programs. The Survey also manages the 3,700-acre KU Field Station, established in 1947. It is a site for study in the sciences, arts and humanities, hosting many classes from a variety of KU academic units each year.