Summer life at the University of Michigan Biological Station (UMBS) is animated by the dozens of undergraduates, principal investigators, researchers, and technicians who come from all over the world to conduct their ecological fieldwork on site. Graduate students are a critical component of this vibrant research landscape – running seasonal projects, collecting data, working toward advanced degrees, and contributing energy and a fresh spirit of intellectual curiosity to the broader UMBS community.
In turn, UMBS provides an optimal location for research in ecology and evolutionary biology, atmospheric chemistry, environmental policy, and more. Our property features a wide variety of habitats, equipment, expertise, and lab facilities for sample collection and analysis, and often, existing long-term data sets that provide critical context and baseline reference points for modern research. Additionally, membership in the living-learning community at UMBS means stimulating conversations, heartening camaraderie, opportunities to participate in lectures and programming, and fruitful connections to early-, mid-, and late-career scientists approaching ecological questions from unique angles.
Generous gifts from UMBS supporters and alumni provide fellowship funding that helps make these transformative residential summer research experiences possible. As the field season begins to wind down, we’ll highlight three of the twenty-two incredible graduate student researchers living and working at UMBS during summer 2022.
Dana Martin (MS student, Concordia University-Montreal; UMBS Gleason Fellowship)
Project title and description: Phenological mismatch and the indirect effects of insect herbivory on pollinator communities
“The main goal of my research is to evaluate how manually induced foliar herbivory influences pollinator visitation through the floral traits of Asclepias incarnata (swamp milkweed). To do this, I've grown 90 plants and exposed them to different levels of herbivory (5% or 50% leaf removal) at different times in the season to mimic potential future phenological shifts. Then, I'll measure different floral traits and conduct visual surveys to see how many and what kinds of pollinators visit the plants. When I first arrived, all of my time was dedicated to setting up the experiment, but now I'm getting ready to start making observations!”
How has your fellowship helped enable your summer research?: “The funding that I've received through UMBS has allowed me to build and lead my very own experiment in a wonderful environment. It has given me the means and encouraged me to pursue my research goals, explore my independence as a graduate student, and travel somewhere new! It has also given me the opportunity to network with a variety of people from different academic backgrounds, all of whom bring something special to the table. I'm so grateful to UMBS for this unique opportunity and for facilitating all the lasting connections I've made.”
Anything else about your summer experience?: “My summer at UMBS has exceeded all of my expectations. Aside from research, my summer has been full of hiking, swimming, exploring, and simply spending time with all of the lovely people here (also a lot of Walmart trips). The community that has been cultivated here is so kind and welcoming. People are so eager to lend a hand, and there's always someone to talk science or bounce ideas off. Although, I think my favorite thing about living here is all of the waves, smiles and ‘Good mornings’ that happen with a quick walk across campus. It's really hard to feel homesick here.”
Nick Weld (MS student, U-M Flint; UMBS Neff Fellowship)
Project title and description: Evaluating the Presence and Distribution of a Once Extirpated Species
“The target species of this research is the fisher (Pekania pennanti), previously thought to be extirpated in the lower peninsula until recent sightings have been recorded. The project involves setting non-invasive hair snares across the northern portion of the lower peninsula in areas of their preference habitat. Any hairs collected that cannot be identified in the field are taken back to the lab for further testing. Genetic analysis is used to determine the species of origin of the sample. Microsatellite analysis is performed to determine individual fishers.”
How has your fellowship helped enable your summer research?: “Aside from lodging and food, this fellowship funding has allowed me to sample sites surrounding the station and follow my methodology that would not have been possible otherwise. I was able to sample the areas closer to the station within my set time frame that would not have logistically worked if I did not stay at the biostation. This funding also allowed me to focus on my project as opposed to reworking my schedule and reallocating funds.”
Anything else about your summer experience?: “My experience at UMBS has been wonderful. I appreciate the natural history surrounding the station and the friendly atmosphere. The staff are welcoming and outgoing. Among the phenomenal staff at the station, I am very grateful to Renee, Karie, and other staff members. They went above and beyond to provide support and assistance throughout my stay.”
Ysabelle Yrad (MS student, U-M School for Environment and Sustainability (SEAS); UMBS McKenzie Fellowship)
Project title and description: Sustaining Freshwater Services as we Anticipate Climate and Development Changes Within the Obtawaing Biosphere Region
“The University of Michigan Biological Station was designated as a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1979 to conserve biodiversity and recognize its contribution to ecological understanding (see UMBS' plaque outside of the Admin Office). This year, our project team is working with UMBS as well as local partners, rightsholders, and stakeholders that have conservation land in Michigan’s Northern Lower Peninsula and Eastern tip of the Upper Peninsula under the re-imagined ‘Obtawaing Biosphere Region’. We're focused on mapping the hydrological, ecological, and sociological systems as a way to identify regional trends and create geo-visualizations for collaboration as well as collective understanding. Our interviews and site visits with partners recognizes that a strong emphasis on regional water systems and inclusivity is essential for concerted efforts in sustainable development and climate resilience.”
How has your fellowship helped enable your summer research?: “The location and presence of UMBS allows myself and my team the opportunity to finally meet with Obtawaing BR partners in-person, as well as witness first-hand the work they provide to protect our waters, lands, and beings. Additionally, as a Lake Erie lover and former Ohioan, I have never experienced life Up North, which is a large piece of the conservation and development puzzle that is the Obtawaing BR.”
Anything else about your summer experience?: “Working in the UMBS Administrative Office, visiting conservation lands and shores, as well as connecting with so many new people has been the highlight of my graduate school experience - I could not have imagined a better summer! This time has also reinforced my desire to work with people and nature, as well as promote the outdoors as a place for all identities.”