Monday, January 22, 2018

Beyond the Ice

Dark granite spires stand out against the white snow and blue skies found in the Dinwoody Cirque, located in the northern Wind River Range. In the past few decades this breathe taking landscape has slowly changed. The Dinwoody glacier is now filled with snake like channels of melting ice. A team of staff, faculty, and students from Central Wyoming College (CWC) took on the challenge of trekking the glacier in search of answers beyond the icy surface.

The Interdisciplinary Climate Change Expedition (ICCE) is a program that takes CWC community college students on a two week field expedition to collect data for original research. These undergraduates are majoring in a variety of fields, including outdoor education and leadership, archaeology, and anthropology. ICCE allows undergraduate research opportunities in hydrology, ground-penetrating radar (GPR), soil sampling, kite aerial photography, and high-alpine archaeology.

Jacki Klancher, associate professor of environmental health and CWC, has developed and led this expedition for the past five years. Fellow professors Darran Wells and Todd Guenther  have also helped prepare and guide students into the back country to collect data used to answer a variety of scientific questions.

This past summer students studied water flow and quality, black carbon, and geo-spatial mapping. With a research area located at 10,000 feet, the expedition is both mentally and physically challenging. Students and staff who participate come in with background experience in NOLS or other outdoor leadership courses. The research team of 19 required 9 horses, 600 lbs of scientific equipment, and 300 pounds of food.

Students trek up the Dinwoody Glacier. Photo by Christian Harder.
"We work with really bright and capable students. They love the outdoor experience, but it's very unlikely to get them into STEM fields through the lab. So ICCE brings more skills in the analysis realm after they've been in the outdoor environment," Klancher explains.

Klancher enjoys seeing her students take their next steps after the ICCE prgram. Many undergraduates go on to the University of Wyoming and continue their research. They also return to the following year to help train new students out in the field. 

The team prepares to use the ground penetrating radar. Photo by Christian Harder
Ariel photography of the glacier. Photo by Christian Harder.

This year, ICCE will begin to study the microbial communities in and around the Dinwoody Glacier. With changing snow fields, data collection of microbes may show how microbial communities are changing as the glacier recedes. 

Klancher looks forward to learning and teaching new microbiological data collection methods.

"Adding this microbiology component is letting us cover as many science fields as possible. So each student can really find what lights their fire," Klancher says.

Klancher works to find grants, support, and wishes to further expand the program by bringing in new instructors and mentors. With other great ideas on the radar, Klancher is looking forward to expanding ICCE to other parts of Wyoming.

"We are delighted to share what we've learned with other community colleges across the state," Klancher says.  

She is thankfully for the support the program has received from Wyoming EPSCOR, INBRE, and the Wyoming State Grant. 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Registration Opens for SRAP, WY EPSCoR's High School Learning Experience. Join Us!

The dog days of summer bring a different energy to Wyoming EPSCoR, that of high school age youth. Those curious, perhaps unsure, eager, and wide-eyed individuals spend six-weeks of their summer at the University engaged in hands-on research through the Summer Research Apprentice Program, or SRAP. In addition to research in the lab, participants spend time with mentors and program staff discussing college preparation, trying out new activities in and around Laramie like rock climbing, and building a vision for themselves enrolled in college. The program is aimed at first generation college students who may be interested in going to a university. This experience offers an opportunity to try college life on, to cultivate comfort on a college campus, and think through their next steps in a safe space. SRAP participants live in the dorms and eat at the dining hall together, some rent bright yellow cruiser bikes to navigate campus and town. They often walk together in groups to their research labs, to the gym, or out to enjoy the sunshine. Individuals come from a variety of backgrounds and geographies but soon find a family among the diverse faces.

SRAP, Summer Research Apprentice Program from Wyoming EPSCoR on Vimeo.

This year SRAPpers will dig into research questions associated with the microbial ecology of the state, Wyoming’s new EPSCoR RII Track 1 Research Project. Check out a day in the life of SRAP in this film. Participants will engage in activities from data collection and analysis to modeling, depending on the associated lab. These practices will build on what students learn in high school and offer practical applications for that information in a lab setting. In addition, lab time adds a level of context to the science and mathematics content. Participants will have lab mentors available to guide their process, nurture their curiosity, and support them as they work to answer a research question over the programs duration. At the end of the program, SRAPpers present their findings to their lab groups, peers, and the community at large in a celebration of their effort and learning. In exchange for time in the lab, SRAPpers are paid a stipend of $1920 and receive room and board on campus.

Think SRAP might be right for you or someone you know? We are looking to bring a class of open minded young people to the University this summer. Successful SRAP participants will be willing to explore new fields of science as well as themselves. Whether it is through yoga or lab practices, we challenge participants to grow. In exchange, we will create an environment in which participants can develop new skills and confidence in navigating the world beyond high school through hands-on learning and living. 

Registration is NOW OPEN, an can be found on the SRAP website
Contact Lisa Abeyta: 307-766-6059