Lake Tahoe to Pyramid Lake: Summer Research Experience in the Arid West

REUResearch combines creativity with a thorough understanding of a subject, as well as the quantitative, analytical and writing skills needed to effectively convey findings to your target audience. In order to build a future generation of talented researchers, it is crucial to give young students an opportunity to partake in the research process so that they may experience the challenges and rewards associated with research. During the past three summers (2010-2012), our National Science Foundation grant, “Lake Tahoe to Pyramid Lake: Summer Research Experience in the Arid West” has supported 27 nationally-recruited undergraduate students to conduct research during an intensive summer research experience for undergraduates or REU program. The overarching goal of our program was to explore the intersections between disciplines in the socioeconomic and natural sciences that inform adaptive watershed management. We also aimed to provide undergraduate students with a comprehensive research experience under the guidance of a faculty mentor in the student’s field of interest.

Over the course of a 10-week program each summer, undergraduate students worked closely with their University of Nevada, Reno, faculty mentor in the following disciplines: fine art, landscape, plant and wildlife ecology, business, hydrology, history, geography, tourism, conservation biology, resource economics, limnology and political science, to develop and implement an array of projects that addressed current issues regarding natural resource management within the watershed. Throughout the summer, students were exposed to local natural resource management issues through a series of lectures and discussions with local managers and scientists designed to highlight the complexity of balancing policy and science to make informed management decisions.

Our program expanded students’ knowledge of a specific topic related to natural resource management in the Lake Tahoe-Truckee River-Pyramid Lake watershed while allowing them to participate in all aspects of the research process.

Our research program culminated in an undergraduate research poster session where students presented the findings of their projects to their peers, faculty and the general public. All projects contributed to an increased scientific and/or socioeconomic understanding of regional conservation issues in an applied context.

Student feedback

Feedback from students was very positive. Of the 27 students that participated in our REU program during 2010-2012, 89 percent indicated this was their first undergraduate research experience. As a learning experience, 52 percent rated the REU program as “fantastic-this is a great way to learn”; the remaining 48 percent indicated they “learned a lot.” Students reported their overall experience with mentors was excellent or good (89 percent), with 88 percent indicating their overall research experience met or exceeded their expectations. When asked if their REU experience changed their perspective on continuing their education, 44 percent of the students indicated they already planned to go to graduate school and still did, while 52 percent reported that our REU program increased their interest in going to graduate school.

By Michael Collopy, 2013 Lake Tahoe Summit Report

Social tagging: >

Comments are closed.