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Week 3 Newsletter: June 18-22, 2018

RECCS is a 9-week summer student research program for Colorado community college students funded by the National Science Foundation and coordinated by CIRES Education Outreach and the Boulder Creek Critical Zone Observatory.

For recent RECCS happenings, check out the RECCS blog.

RECCS Student Researcher Spotlight

This week our featured RECCS student researcher is Sean Will. He is mentored by Emily Fairfax and Eric Small of the Department of Geological Sciences at CU.
Sean Will

Research Project: Impacts of Beaver Dams on Streamflow and Ground Flow Infiltration.

Born in Seattle, Sean spent his childhood in Florida exploring the wilderness. He has always been fascinated by the natural world and enjoys any activity or work that takes him into the less traveled areas of the country. Since moving to Colorado, he has been determined to find obscure trails and campsites.

Originally a Chemical Engineering major, Sean is currently enrolled at the Community College of Denver (CCD) and is working towards a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science and a Water Management and Hydrologic Science concentration from Metro State University (MSU) in Denver. He intends to use this education and the skills obtained through RECCS to jump into a career in environmental studies and hopes to transition from that to teaching at a later point in his career.

Sean is excited to have the hands-on opportunity to collect his own data for his summer research project while getting muddy.

Nature's Engineer—Beavers 

Sean Will and his mentor, Emily Fairfax, (above) are enjoying their first trip out to a beaver dam in Left Hand Creek near Boulder, CO.

Sean's project focuses on how water interacts with the soil in ecosystems altered by beaver activity. Understanding the properties of soils in the beaver pond just upstream of the dam will improve modeling beaver dam impacts on groundwater recharge and flow rates. This work will feed into future work on the effects of beaver dams in drought-prone riparian areas in semi-arid and arid ecosystems.
Sean is taking soil samples from the remnants of an abandoned and blown out beaver dam. Beaver dams provide organic content through the beavers' having foraged nearby materials such as tree branches which create unique soil characteristics. Sean's research will primarily focus on the soil underneath the pond to further understand how the pond soil influences ground water and surface water interaction.
Using the collected soil samples from local beaver dams, Sean performs a controlled experiment using a permeameter to determine the permeability of the soil. Permeability is the movement of air and water through the soil, which is important for moisture and nutrient availability for plants—especially during drought conditions. This permeameter allows Sean to calculate the hydraulic conductivity of the soil sample by using the flow rate of the pressurized water through the soil sample.

RECCS Welcome from the Associate Director for Science of CIRES

Christine Wiedinmyer, Associate Director for Science for CIRES, continued the RECCS brownbag lunch series. She oversees the science portfolio of CIRES and manages CIRES research in service to NOAA. She spoke to the students about the importance of networking during their careers, her personal research experiences, the Earth Women's Science Network, and other career advice. 

Communication Workshop Update

The students recorded elevator speeches about their research. Everyone did a great job speaking in front of the group and in front of a camera! The elevator speeches were recorded by Katie Weeman of the CIRES communication team and they will be available on the CIRES website for future reference. These one-minute, lay-person-friendly overviews of one's research is something that everyone finds handy to have in hand. 

The students also learned more about how to define their research question, how to create an effective work plan for the summer, and how to choose a good title for poster and oral presentations by analyzing numerous sample titles.

Student Tips

  • Take LOTS of pictures and short video clips to document your research experience over the summer.
  • Maximum photo size for the newsletter & blog is 1 MB.
  • Blog at least once a week to share your story!

Student Deadlines

  • Craft a descriptive title for your research poster and presentation.
  • Draft your research question.
  • Bring two key papers to the next workshop (7/27) that form background for your project.

Mentor Tips

  • Ask your student researcher to describe new activities in their own words before they start them. Sometimes, student researchers and mentors have different interpretations of the same conversation, so asking your student to articulate what they will be doing can help them avoid going off in a different direction.
  • Help your student researcher stay focused on a piece of research that is doable. It is tempting to aim big but the summer is very short.
  • This part of the summer is a time when many projects involve the less glamorous sides of research—debugging, trying to handle large data sets, etc. It may be useful to talk about strategies to deal with the sometimes tedious work that precedes insight.
  • Check in often and let the RECCS staff know if there is anything that we can do to provide support!
Copyright © 2018 CIRES Education Outreach, All rights reserved.

RECCS is funded by the National Science Foundation Grant Award Number 1461281

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