RACC Undergraduate Internships


2013 Research Project Descriptions
Projects sorted by Institution

    Saint Michael’s College in Colchester, VT
    Johnson State College in Johnson, VT
    Middlebury College in Middlebury, VT
    University of Vermont in Burlington, VT

Saint Michael’s College in Colchester, VT

      Effects of Sedimentation and High Water Events on Macroinvertebrate Communities
      Declan McCabe, Biology Department (Community Ecology and Water Chemistry)
      Students will sample macroinvertebrates in a series of gauged streams in watersheds of varying land use, during base flow conditions and following significant storm events. We will also sample sediment from these streams for sieve analysis. All macroinvertebrates will be identified and we will measure benthic diversity from the samples.
      Research Questions:
      1) Do benthic communities from streams draining different land uses respond differently to storm events? 2) Do stream sediment characteristics correlate with benthic diversity?
      Student Learning Objectives:
      1) Macroinvertebrate identification and benthic index calculation; and 2) Experimental design and analysis.
      Effects of Storms on Suspended Sediments in Streams
      Katie Chang, Biology Department (Water Quality)
      Declan McCabe, Biology Department (Community Ecology and Water Chemistry)
      The RACC research program has installed a network of ISCO autosamplers on gauged rivers in the Winooski and Missisquoi watersheds of the Lake Champlain Basin to better understand nutrient and sediment transport during storm events. Interns will help support sample collection from this network of sites. Field work will involve regular visits to established ISCO sites to collect water samples. In the lab, interns will be trained in basic laboratory procedures and water quality assays, including sediment analysis (TSS) and acid washing. Other techniques and concepts in water quality sampling and stream ecology will also be covered. Interns will also have the opportunity to assist in the training of high school students.
      Research Questions:
      1) What are the effects of storm events on the movement of nutrients and sediment through a watershed? 2) How does watershed land use affect stream water quality? 3) What are the historical trends in hydrographs of streams in the Missisquoi and Winooski watersheds?
      Student Learning Objectives:
      1) Water quality sampling techniques; 2) Laboratory practices including: lab safety, water quality analyses, and QAQC protocols; and 3) Experimental design and analysis.

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Johnson State College in Johnson, VT

      Land Use, Stream Water Quality and Sources of E. coli in the Lamoille River Basin
      Robert Genter, Environmental & Health Sciences (Aquatic Communities)
      Saul Blocher, Environmental & Health Sciences (Water Quality)
      Students will monitor streams in the Lamoille River basin for sources of E. coli and for nutrient concentrations. E. coli are identified with a genetic bar code method called ribotyping. Students will also conduct nutrient analyses (nitrogen and phosphorous) of water samples collected by ISCO automated samplers during storm events in the Lake Champlain Basin. Lab work will include molecular techniques, water chemistry analysis, and processing of microbiological samples. Students will work in both the field and laboratory setting. Students should have completed introductory biology and chemistry. Courses in limnology, microbiology, or the equivalent, are recommended.
      Research Questions:
      1) What levels of land use are impacting small streams in Vermont? 2) Do sources of E. coli in stream water differ in relation to land use? 3) What water quality parameters are most strongly affected by land use?
      Student Learning Objectives:
      1) Coordinate and conduct reliable and consistent field and laboratory data collection; 2) Conduct molecular techniques like ribotyping, water quality analysis with modern electronic equipment, and coordinate processing of microbiological samples; and 3) Conduct chemical analysis of water samples during storm events.

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Middlebury College in Middlebury, VT

      Sediment and Circulation Patterns in Missisquoi Bay
      Patricia Manley, Geology Department (Lake Sediment Transport)
      Thomas Manley, Geology Department (Hydrodynamics)
      There will be three major initiatives for this research. We will continue gathering data on the circulation dynamics within Lake Champlain's Missisquoi Bay using Acoustic Doppler Current Profilers and temperature and water loggers. We will also map the bay using multibeam technology to achieve a high-resolution bathymetric map. Finally we will be gathering grab samples in a systematic grid pattern for grain size analyses that will be used for a Sediment Trend Analysis to interpret long-term circulation patterns.
      Research Questions:
      1) What is the overall water circulation pattern in Missisquoi Bay? 2) What is the overall bathymetric character of Missisquoi Bay?
      Student Learning Objectives:
      1) Field sampling of Current equipment; 2) Field sampling of bottom sediment and bathymetric mapping; and 3) Grain size analysis of bottom sediments.
      Post-Irene Stream Invertebrates
      Sallie Sheldon, Biology Department (Aquatic Ecology and Biostatistics)
      Students will continue a multi-year study on the responses and reestablishment of stream invertebrates following Tropical Storm Irene. There was great variability across the state of Vermont in the amount of damage caused by storm-related flooding. Streams in the northwest saw little effect, mid-state had moderate effect and the southeastern portion of the state was greatly disturbed. Students will collect macroinvertebrate samples in order to 1) quantify the number and diversity of species in various streams, and 2) measure the size of individuals in various streams. Interns will work in both field and laboratory settings.
      Research Questions:
      1) How did flooding from Tropical Storm Irene impact macroinvertebrate communities in Vermont streams? 2) How does the number and diversity of macroinvertebrate species recover following a major storm like Irene? 3) What is the distribution of individual sizes in macroinvertebrate communities across all sites?
      Student Learning Objectives:
      1) Macroinvertebrate identification; and 2) Experimental design and analysis.

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University of Vermont in Burlington, VT

      Water Quality Valuation Study/Survey Cataloguing
      Christopher Koliba, Community Development and Applied Economics (Public Administration and Policy)
      Asim Zia , Community Development and Applied Economics (Policy, Governance & Adaptive Management)
      Richard Kujawa, Geography Department (Economics and Human Geography)
      Yu-Shio Tsai, Postdoctoral Fellow (Public Administration and Policy)
      Steve Scheinert , Postdoctoral Fellow (Modeling Governance Systems)
      An important part of the feedback loop in determining policy formulation and content for water quality is the impact that decreasing quality can be expected to have on the actors and the system.
      Research Questions:
      1) How will tourists adjust behaviors in response to decreasing water quality? 2) How will tourist spending patterns change in response to changing behaviors? 3) What are the determinants of tourist spending in and around Burlington that relate to water quality?
      Student Learning Objectives:
      1) Survey design and methodology; 2) Statistical/econometric modeling from surveys; and 3) Complex system component parts and relationships.
      Reviewing and Describing Town-Scale Plans
      Christopher Koliba, Community Development and Applied Economics (Public Administration and Policy)
      Asim Zia , Community Development and Applied Economics (Policy, Governance & Adaptive Management)
      Richard Kujawa, Geography Department (Economics and Human Geography)
      Yu-Shio Tsai, Postdoctoral Fellow (Public Administration and Policy)
      Steve Scheinert , Postdoctoral Fellow (Modeling Governance Systems)
      At the most aggregate levels, watershed management plans and practices are defined in the Lake Champlain Basin Program's Opportunity for Action (OFA) and the total maximum daily load (TMDL), but there exist more localized levels of governance below these documents which also take action on watershed management. In Vermont, towns and municipalities play an important role in governance and will make their own plans related to watershed management. Developing a complete model of this effort will require inclusion of town and municipal plans and actions. This project will take off where previous interns ended by using the assembled sources of town-level plans. The interns will then review, describe, and analyze these plans, with an eye towards coding them. Depending on available time and intern performance, coding may be attempted.
      Research Questions:
      1) What actions and actors do town and municipal watershed management plans call for? 2) To what extent and how do town and municipal plans interact with plans at higher levels of governance, such as the OFA and TMDL?
      Student Learning Objectives:
      1) Data collection and management; 2) Critical assessment of policy documents; and 3) Data coding and database design and construction.
      Evaluation of Two Hydrologic Models: SWAT and RHESSys with DHSVM
      Christopher Koliba, Community Development and Applied Economics (Public Administration and Policy)
      Asim Zia , Community Development and Applied Economics (Policy, Governance & Adaptive Management)
      Richard Kujawa, Geography Department (Economics and Human Geography)
      Yu-Shio Tsai, Postdoctoral Fellow (Public Administration and Policy)
      Steve Scheinert , Postdoctoral Fellow (Modeling Governance Systems)
      A model is an abstract of a system of interest. Modeling approaches are generally used for resolving water resources problems. However, results of modeling approaches are dependent on model selections. Here we assess applicability and mechanisms of two hydrologic models for Lake Champlain watershed: SWAT (Soil Water Assessment Tools) and RHESSys (Regional Hydro-Ecologic Simulation System) with DHSVM (Distributed Hydrology Soil Vegetation Model) routing.
      Research Questions:
      1) What are the strengths and weaknesses of applying SWAT and RHESSys with DHSVM routing to resolve nutrient loads problem with Lake Champlain Watershed?
      Student Learning Objectives:
      1) Learn to setup and run SWAT and RHESSys with DHSVM; and 2) Get hands on Linux OS.
      Quantifying Climate Variability and Change via Statistical, Geospatial and Modeling Techniques
      Lesley-Ann Dupigny-Giroux, Geography Department (Climatology)
      We will use a variety of statistical, geospatial, modeling and/or computational techniques to quantify how Vermont's climate has changed. We will pay special attention to extreme hydrometeorological events such as floods and droughts, as well as severe weather such as winter storms and hurricanes.
      Research Questions:
      1) How has Vermont's climate changed and how can this inform future climate variations?
      Student Learning Objectives:
      1) Use of statistical analyses of climate data; and 2) Application of geospatial techniques to climate data.
      Modeling Watershed Management Practices and Nutrient Loading to Lake Champlain
      Ibrahim Mohammed, Postdoctoral Fellow (Hydrology)
      Preliminary nutrient loading data suggest that the last five years have seen increasing trends in phosphorus concentrations in some Lake Champlain segments, particularly the Main Lake, Burlington Bay, and near Port Henry. Also, Missisquoi Bay phosphorus concentrations have been increasing steadily over the last two decades and, although they have been relatively stable in the last five years, remain well above their established annual targets. This research will investigate how different management practices (changes in agriculture/urbanization/forest landscapes) in watersheds draining to Lake Champlain would affect streamflow nutrient/phosphorous loadings to the lake. The purpose of this work is to holistically understand watershed behavior response and nutrient loading as a response to human behavioral and policy driven decisions taken within the Lake Champlain Basin. Hydrological and nutrients loading modeling within the Winooski/Missisquoi Basins will be pursued to examine the impacts associated with land cover change decisions on Lake Champlain's health. In summary, we will look at nutrient/phosphorous loading historical trends and how they are related to land cover practices so that we can infer better strategies to manage the Lake Champlain Basin.
      Research Questions:
      1) How do management practices across the Lake Champlain Basin result in different nutrient loading changes?
      Student Learning Objectives:
      1) Hydrological data analysis and presentation; and 2) Spatial modeling skills in GIS.
      Mountain Hydrology and Water Quality
      Beverley Wemple, Geography Department (Hydrology)
      Students will participate in two research projects focusing on hydrology and water quality in upland and mountainous settings. The first project seeks to quantify the role of rural transportation networks on water quality degradation. The second project focuses on the effects of alpine development on runoff and water quality. Students will participate in weekly field sampling, maintenance of field equipment, and laboratory analysis of water and sediment samples. Some lab and field experience are desirable. Experience with GIS would be beneficial but not required. Must be able and willing to lift heavy (40-50 lb) buckets of sediment and willing to get dirty on the job! Ideal for a geology, physical geography or environmental science/earth science student.
      Research Questions:
      1) How does landuse or landcover change influence the movement of water, sediment and nutrients through the landscape?
      Student Learning Objectives:
      1) Field sampling; 2) Hydrologic measurement techniques; and 3) Laboratory analysis.
      Bioretention Monitoring
      Stephanie Hurley, Department of Plant and Soil Science (Landscape Design, Stormwater Management, Water Quality)
      Carol Adair, Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources (Climate Change Science)
      Amanda Davis, PhD Student
      We are creating an outdoor laboratory on the UVM campus with eight different bioretention cells (rain gardens) that collect and filter stormwater runoff. We are measuring water quality parameters, such as TSS and phosphorus, as well as greenhouse gases emitted by each system. Bioretention performance will be compared for existing (ambient) precipitation and runoff patterns and simulated increased precipitation and runoff projected to occur in the next fifty years due to climate change.
      Research Questions:
      1) Do stormwater bioretention systems emit greenhouse gases? 2) How do the functions of bioretention systems change under simulated precipitation and runoff increases associated with projected future climate change scenarios? 3) How do high diversity and low diversity vegetation mixes compare in terms of achieving bioretention processes under various rainfall conditions?
      Student Learning Objectives:
      1) Field sampling (water pollutants and gases); 2) Field observations and maintenance; and 3) Lab analysis.
      Forest Warming Experiment
      Carol Adair, Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources (Climate Change Science)
      Forest warming experiment: We are using forest mesocosms (small tanks or "simulated forest watersheds") to investigate the effects of warming and soil freezing (via snow removal) on forest health, productivity, carbon storage and water quality (upon leaving the mesocosms). During the summer we will be establishing the experiment (planting trees, etc) and taking initial measurements of tree biomass and soil quality/chemistry.
      Research Questions:
      1) How do warming and snow removal differentially impact NE forest communities? 2) How does warming impact forest health and carbon storage? 3) How does climate change change carbon storage and GHG emissions?
      Student Learning Objectives:
      1) Field sampling design and implementation; 2) Experimental design and establishment; and 3) Gain familiarity with forest productivity, GHG and carbon storage measures.
      Soil Nutrients in Lake Champlain Stream Corridors
      Don Ross, Department of Plant and Soil Science (Soil Chemistry)
      Fieldwork will consist of sampling soils along stream corridors of the Missisquoi and Winooski watersheds to determine the gradient of phosphorus and nitrogen towards the stream banks and with depth in the soil profile. Laboratory work will consist of processing and analyzing these samples, and probably additional stream and lake sediment samples, for N, P and a suite of other parameters. This soils research will coordinate with other researchers investigating stream and lake processes.
      Research Questions:
      1) How does soil available phosphorus change with distance from the stream bank? 2) How does soil nitrate change with depth in the soil and distance from the stream?
      Student Learning Objectives:
      1) Field: Soil sampling techniques and obtaining good GPS points; and 2) Lab: soil and sediment analytical techniques including operation of advanced analytical instruments such as inductively
      coupled plasma optical emission spectroscopy (ICP-OES).
      Understanding Nutrient Dynamics in the Lake Champlain Watershed
      Andrew Schroth, Geology Department (Lake and Watershed Biogeochemistry)
      Courtney Giles, Postdoctoral Fellow (Lake and Watershed Biogeochemistry)
      Peter Isles, PhD Student (Lake Biogeochmeistry)
      Students will work with an interdisciplinary team of environmental scientists including professors, postdoctoral scientists, and graduate students who are studying the environmental processes driving nutrient mobility and algal bloom dynamics in Lake Champlain and its watershed. They will assist in preparation for weekly trips to our monitoring station in Lake Champlain’s Missisquoi Bay, and often have the opportunity to participate in these weekly field activities. Students will also be involved in the processing and analysis of environmental samples (water, sediment, biota, and soils) after sample collection trips. Additionally, students can be involved in preparation for and participation in river and soil sampling efforts in the Missisquoi and Winooski River watersheds. Opportunity exists for students to gain experience working with state-of-the-art field and laboratory instrumentation, as well as the cutting-edge laboratory methods that we use to describe environmental processes within the lake and its watershed. Students should generally be interested in cross disciplinary environmental science with emphasis on biology, chemistry, hydrology, soil science or geology in particular. Interest and the capacity to work both outside and in the laboratory will be critical for success. While there will be weekly tasks and responsibilities for the interns to help with the logistics of our field and laboratory efforts, emphasis will also be placed on carving out a piece of the research effort for the intern to work on that overlaps with their particular strengths and interests.
      Research Questions:
      1) How does nutrient release from sediments or watersheds correspond to periods of blue green algae activity in Missisquoi Bay? 2) What is the relationship between metals and nutrients in the lake and watershed? 3) How do periodic storm events influence nutrient and metal release from different types of watersheds of different land cover (i.e. agricultural vs. montane vs. urban)
      Student Learning Objectives:
      1) Field sampling design and implementation; 2) Laboratory processing and analyses of nutrient concentration and speciation in water and sediment; and 3) Environmental data collection, compilation and interpretation.
      Linking Nutrient Dynamics to Food Webs in a Eutrophic System
      Jason Stockwell, Rubenstein School of Natural Resources (Aquatic Ecology, Food Web & Nutrient Dynamics)
      Trevor Gearhart, PhD Student (Aquatic Ecology)
      Peter Isles, PhD Student (Food Web and Nutrient Dynamics)
      Students will work with an interdisciplinary team of professors and graduate students examining how nutrient dynamics affect algal blooms in Missisquoi Bay, Lake Champlain, and how these dynamics propagate up the food web to invertebrates and fish. Lab work will include biochemical techniques and processing of biological samples.
      Research Questions:
      1) How do blue-green algal blooms affect the lipid and fatty acid dynamics in native and invasive fishes? 2) Do benthic invertebrates have a significant impact on nutrient recycling in Lake Champlain via bioturbation? 3) What is the causal mechanism of summer fish kills in Missisquoi Bay during blue-green algal blooms?
      Student Learning Objectives:
      1) Experimental design; 2) Hypothesis testing; and 3) Ecological biochemistry.

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