Environmental Science: Faculty-Student Research

Prairie Restoration Research

Supervisor: Mark McKone , Biology Department

Prof. McKone (at left) and his students are doing research centered on the management and restoration of tallgrass prairie communities in the Carleton Arboretum and McKnight Prairie. Very little is known about the process of ecological succession in grassland communities. In the Arboretum, small prairie plantings began in 1978 using varied methods. Starting in 1995, contiguous prairie plots of 104 hectares have been planted annually using consistent methods. Prof. McKone and his students do vegetation surveys to study the time sequence of prairie succession in the Arboretum, documenting the succession of grassland as prairie develops on plots replanted with native species.

During 2006, samplings will be done on prairies ranging in age from 1-11 years old. In addition, a long-term project continues at the Hayden Prairie in northeast Iowa to investigate interannual variation in flowering intensity for several prairie plants, grasses, and wildflowers. In summer 2006, one student was supported by HHMI to participate in all the projects above.

Monitoring Surface Water Chemistry in Rice County, MN

Supervisor: Bereket Haileab , Geology Department

Prof. Bereket Haileab (at left) and his students are involved in a long-term monitoring project of surface water chemistry in Rice County, MN. The lakes of Rice County are dynamic ecosystems that reflect their specific lake basin characteristics, variations in climate, biological components, and human activities. Over the last three years, students in Carleton Geology classes have studiesd about a dozen of these lakes. Thus far, it has been found that most of these lakes are eutrophic, or nutrient rich with limited oxygen at the bottom layer of the lake. Many of these lakes are affected by human activities. Building on the data obtained by course students, this long-term monitoring project will build up understanding of the environmental evolution of these local waters. Over time, this project may involve into an even more interdisciplinary one, engaging faculty and students from majors outside Geology.

In summer 2005, John Kracum ('06) was funded by HHMI. John collected over 200 samples from Rice County lakes and streams. In summer 2006, several Carleton students are working with Prof. Haileab, including one who is supported by HHMI. These students will study the majority of lakes in western Rice County by analyzing six cations, seven anions, ten transition metals, pH, and conductivity. This analysis is done with an ion chromatograph and an atomic absorption spectrometer located in the Carleton Geology labs. For each sample, depth, transparency and temperature will also be measured.

Field Research on Aerosols Particles in the Atmosphere

Supervisor: Deborah Gross , Chemistry Department

Prof. Deborah Gross (at left) does research at the intersection of atmospheric chemistry, analytical chemistry, and environmental science. Her lab focuses on understanding the properties (size, chemical composition, source, and reactivity) of individual aerosol particles in the troposphere. The goal is to gain a more detailed understanding of the variability of aerosol pollution in the ambient troposphere. Deborah's group uses a transportable instrument for measuring aerosol properties - an Aerosol Time-of-Flight mass Spectrometer (ATOFMS). Deborah does work in the field with her research students (at right), including at the following sites: Yellowstone National Park, Caldecott Tunnel (Berkeley, CA), East St. Louis, and Mt. Horeb, WI. Deborah collaborates with several scientists at universities and with Prof. Dave Musicant (Computer Science) at Carleton. Deborah's research is well-funded by the National Science Foundation.

Field Research on Global Change Ecology

Supervisor: Phil Camill, Biology Department

Prof. Phil Camill (right) does field research related to global change ecology. Recently, Phil has been funded by a National Science Foundation Career Award to study the linkages between fire, succession, climate, permafrost and carbon accumulation across biomes in Manitoba, Canada using peat and lake paleorecords. He also does research with Prof. Mark McKone (above) studying long-term changes in community and ecosystem processes in restored prairie ecosystems. Finally, some of Phil's work several years ago focused on long-term changes in the prairie-forest border in Minnesota (climate, fire, and vegetation interactions).