Tuesday, July 2, 2013

SRAP Student Spotlight: Joshua Snider and Desert Fires

SRAPer: Joshua Snider
Home state: Utah
Grade in school: Senior
Plans for after high school: Attend a university, studying geology

As a child, Joshua Snider had an unusual interest that set him apart from other children.
“I’ve just always liked rocks,” says Joshua. “Since I was a kid, I’d pick up a piece of gravel and think it was interesting.”
Joshua’s interest in rocks has led him to want to pursue a degree in geology after he graduates from high school. His experience working in the SRAP program will be a great opportunity for him, as he is working in the Paleoecology Lab in the Geography department with Dr. Tom Minckley.
“We’re working on fire history for the Cuatrocienegas Basin in Mexico,” says Joshua. “We’re taking samples from a nearly 5 meter long sediment core and counting the amount of charcoal that’s in it as well as what other materials were in it at the time to determine if it was wetter or drier in the past to determine when there were and weren’t fires.”
The research that Joshua is doing will play an important role in understanding the impact of fires in deserts.
“It’s important because at the biodiversity hotspot, there were 70 endemic species,” Joshua says. “So we want to find out why they’re only there, and how fire affects them and their environment.”
Not only is this research extremely important to many different species, but it’s also an interesting topic to Joshua.
“My favorite part is probably getting to look at the different things in sediment,” says Joshua. “Find out what there was in the past, look at the shells and seeds and other stuff in the samples.”
By studying the sediment and looking at what it is composed of, Joshua and Dr. Minckley are able to create an environmental history of this particular point of the North American continent, which allows them to better understand the world we live in today.
“The project we’re working on here goes back about 5,000 years, and that gets into the societally relevant time period of the desert being formed as it is, and how these disturbed patterns might have affected these modern ecosystems,” says. Dr. Minckley. “It really helps the management and restoration of this protected area.”
Joshua’s experience with SRAP will give him a unique and challenging opportunity to gain knowledge and experience working in a field that he loves.

SRAP is a six-week intensive research program for high school students. It is based at the University of Wyoming and sponsored by Wyoming EPSCoR

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