Monday, October 19, 2020

Wyoming EPSCoR's Alex Buerkle to Head $6 Million Project

Wyoming EPSCoR's, Alex Buerkle, has been awarded a 4-year, $6 million NSF EPSCoR RII Track-2 grant.  The award comes in support of a proposal entitled Creating Explanatory, Process-Based Models to Harness the Data Revolution in the Life Sciences.  

The volume and availability of data have increased enormously over the last decade in life sciences.  Such expansion is occurring rapidly, changing the standard scale of analyses and is leveling and extending access to a broader population of both scientists and general audiences via open-access data.

With such rapid expansion in mind, this project aims to "establish a consortium that will fundamentally advance our capacity to analyze challenging, highly dimensional data in the life sciences".  Their plan to reach this goal falls within 3 primary objectives.  Each objective has been reviewed to ensure they are complementary to each other while remaining integrated into the specificity of the project.  Those objectives include:

1. Assessing, developing, and disseminating innovative and computational methods for predictive and explanatory models of high dimensional data.

2. Formalizing life science knowledge in models for three cross-scale domains.

3. Training and fostering the development of scientists for the workforce, through education and inclusion in data science.

To aid in completing these carefully established goals, the interdisciplinary data science team is looking to hire 12 postdoctoral researchers.  Incoming researchers will, ideally, span multiple research areas in ecology and evolutionary biology.  They will also span three universities, uniting the University of Wyoming, University of Nevada-Reno, and the University of Montana, Flathead Lake Bio Station.  

In the words of the interdisciplinary data science team,

"We initiated this consortium to address cross-cutting challenges in the analysis and representation of knowledge in the life sciences."

We look forward to providing updates on the project as research begins to unfold.  But, for now, we would like to congratulate Alex Buerkle, once again, on his 4-year, $6 million NSF EPSCoR RII Track-2 grant!

Monday, September 14, 2020

Science Loves Art Hosts Fermentation Festival

 "Learning about fermentation and the importance of the microbes on our gut health is [something] we are excited to share.  It is a culinary art..."


Rene Williams, owner of Science Loves Art is clearly passionate about the event she hosted a couple of weeks ago.  The Fermentation Festival serves as one of SLA's biggest fundraisers and, due to COVID-19, it was feared that the show would not go on.  However, with the help of SLA's Marketing Manager, Cullen, Rene and the team were able to modify the event to fully comply to COVID safe measures.  The team committed to closing off the street, limiting the number of guests, complying with social distancing, and requiring masks to be worn.  With all safety measures in place, the event opened its doors a couple of weeks ago.  

The event ran from 3:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m., and hosted live music, tasty food, and locally brewed drinks.  The music was important for setting the mood and giving the event a final taste of summer.  Hunter Hicks, Cousin Flamingo, and Mantisgrove played the entire time, and paired well with the beautiful weather and sunset.  

The wafting of live music may have been a big part of drawing a crowd to the festival, but the fermented brews, donated by local brewers, got them in the door.  Beer tokens were sold for $2.50, and were used to purchase brews from SLA's microbe collaborator, Shannon Albeke, Bonds Brewery, Coal Creek Tap, and Altitude Chophouse and Brewery.  One of the most popular brews of the night came from Bonds Brewery as they supplied a special blend using fresh basil and strawberry rhubarb.  Yum! 

In addition to the breweries, local fermenter favorite, Mama Boos debuted some new fermented water, kefir drinks, and kefir grain kits alongside their traditional fermented favorites.  Keeping with the theme, Rene explored and created fermented salsa.  Alibi was able to provide sour dough starters and bread samples as well.  With great diversity in fermented products at this year's festival, it's no surprise that guests were able to learn about how microbes work to ferment.  In fact, they learned so much that there is rumor of starting an official fermentation club!

250 tickets were available for purchase on a donation basis, but sold out quickly due to the promise of good music and great food.  While there were a lot fewer guests than originally anticipated, there were no lines for food or drink, and there was plenty of space for relaxing.  Attendance may be limited in the future simply for the positive impact it had on the event.  Despite the lower attendance, Science Loves Art was able to pull together a great festival that raised enough money to fund art kits for nearly 1,000 kids this school year!

While Rene, and the entire SLA team, hope to host the event next year without masks, it was a very successful evening and all who were able to attend had a great time.  Local businesses were supported, and a great conversation about microbes and the fermentation was started.  Rene hopes to continue this conversation as her business grows and the planning for a 2021 Fermentation Festival begins.  In her own words, Rene concludes,

"The Fermentation Festival may have been a singular event, but is beginning to have an effect on our community and state."

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Congratulations Lauren Shoemaker!

"To recognize an outstanding contribution to research by an early career researcher, we are delighted to announce the launch of the Ecology Letters Early Career Researcher Award."

In 2019, the Ecology Letters invited researchers ranging from Master's students to Postdoctoral researchers to self-nominate their submitted papers and be considered for an annual prize.  The winner was selected by the Senior Editors of Ecology Letters and was announced just a few weeks ago on July 3, 2020.  So, who won?

We are thrilled to announce that our very own Lauren Glenny Shoemaker was names the inaugural winner of the Early Career Researcher Award!

Lauren was chosen for the award after submitting her paper, Pathogens Manipulate the Preference of Vectors, Slowing Disease Spread in a Multi-Host System.  Upon receiving news of her selection, Lauren was scheduled for a webinar where she was able to present her work and officially receive the award.  She presented on July 7th in a virtual session alongside Tim Coulson, the Editor-in-Chief of Ecology Letters.  In addition to hosting a live audience, the presentation was posted to the Ecology Letters website and Twitter page.

In addition to hosting a webinar, Lauren's award included:
  • $1,000 prize money
  • Video Byte Service to present the impact of her paper which can be used to promote her work through social media, lab websites, and YouTube
  • An invitation to join the Ecology Letters Associate Editor Board

Wyoming EPSCoR is beyond proud of Lauren for her hard work and dedication to her chosen STEM field.  She is a wonderful role model for upcoming female scientists and researchers who may also want to explore the world of pathogens.  This is surely just the first step in a broader impact.  We look forward to seeing how this award broadens Lauren's opportunities for future research!

Lauren Shoemaker paved the way for the Ecology Letters newest award.  If you, or someone you know, are interested in being the second winner of the Early Career Researcher Award, submit a nomination!  Ecology Letters are currently accepting paper submissions for their 2020 award.  For more details on how to submit, check out their website.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

EPSCoR Summer Science Journalism Internship Expansion

In an effort to better support science journalism in the state during the COVID-19 pandemic, the EPSCoR science journalism initiative was expanded to give more support to newspaper journalists and this year’s University of Wyoming summer science journalism interns.

EPSCoR stands for Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research and is designed to fulfill the mandate of the National Science Foundation (NSF) to promote scientific progress nationwide. Wyoming EPSCoR received a 5-year grant in 2017 from NSF, and a significant amount of the grant has been dedicated to science journalism initiatives intended to help the Wyoming journalism community through internships, awards for best science reporting, and workshops at the Wyoming Press Association (WPA) conventions.

The University of Wyoming COJO (communication and journalism department) Associate Professor Kristen Landreville, director of the summer science journalism internships along with Emily Stewart Verco, Education, Outreach and Diversity Coordinator reached out to the WPA in early April regarding ideas on how to expand the program and grant funding to support Wyoming journalists.  The main goal was to stay within the scope of the NSF grant to resource Wyoming newspaper journalists. This collaboration process resulted in the new mentorship program.

The WPA sought out partnerships with journalists to offer the science communication interns additional expertise and support during their summer placement at newspapers across the state. By making recourses available to any news outlet with science-minded reporters willing to mentor, the objective of expanding the student learning experience would combine with the goal of supporting Wyoming's journalists.  

The three Wyoming newspapers that have journalists participating in the EPSCoR mentorship program include The Sundance Times, The Sheridan Press and Casper Star-Tribune. The Sundance Times has been paired with the intern at the Jackson Hole News&Guide, Jillian Bissell. The Sheridan Press will be mentoring Logan Stefanich interning with the Laramie Boomerang, and journalists with the Casper Star-Tribune will mentor the Rock Springs Rocket-Miner intern Chase Galley. Mentors will work to improve the interns’ understanding of the profession and facilitate professional development in science journalism.

Sarah Pridgeon is a reporter at the Sundance Times and had this to say about her experience mentoring, “The program has been as much of a positive experience for me as I hope it has been for the student I am mentoring. Brainstorming is always a great way to expand one's horizons and helping her talk through ideas and work through potential sticking points has so far been both rewarding and a learning opportunity for both of us.”

Last year The Sheridan Press worked with an EPSCoR science journalist intern and the paper was extremely excited to be a part of the new mentorship program. Ashleigh Snoozy, managing editor of The Sheridan Press commented about their experience participating in both EPSCoR summer science journalism programs.

The Sheridan Press has found great success with the EPSCoR internship and mentorship programs for the past two years. In our first year, Sheridan native Kiley Carroll came back [after] the summer to work full time for us. To say the internship was a success is surely an understatement — we offered a job to Carroll following the internship because of her incredible work throughout the summer. She opted to finish her education, which we fully support.

In this year’s mentor program, our collective relationship with Logan as news staff has been mutually rewarding. As an editor, I’ve been able to coach Logan along with his internship, answering questions I know I couldn’t have had as much time to answer as an intern mentor last summer. Logan has been able to speak with our crime reporter and photojournalist so far, and we anticipate sharing our knowledge with the aspiring journalist throughout the rest of the summer. We all enjoy our interactions with Logan over Zoom. I personally find his approach to stories refreshing and appreciate being able to answer questions that many students don’t have the experience to ask without time in a real-world newsroom.

As Logan told me yesterday in our weekly meeting, he’s grateful to learn through his internship that he actually likes journalism and being a journalist. As an employer, it’s really nice to have a group of students coming from the University of Wyoming that can get a taste for the job on a daily basis, closing the gap between college newspaper experience and a daily newsroom.

Overall, The Sheridan Press staff has found great success in both programs and hopes to continue the positive partnership with the University of Wyoming.


At the Casper Star-Tribune health/education reporter Seth Klamann, energy and natural
resources reporter Caille Erickson, photojournalist Cayla Nimmo and Brandon Foster managing editor have been working remotely with EPSCoR mentee Chase Galley. Foster had this to say about working with Chase.

Each week, the four of us hold a Zoom call with Chase where we’ve discussed a variety of journalism-related topics — from writing techniques to tips on working from home.

While Chase obviously has his home paper at the Rocket Miner, we hope to provide any help and context we can from Casper. In between our weekly Zoom calls, we’ve rotated in taking the lead on communicating with Chase on subjects more specific to our individual roles at the Star-Tribune. For instance, last week Camille reviewed a story he wrote that touched on energy, which is her beat. We’re looking forward to continuing to work with Chase over the course of the summer and are excited to see where his journalism career takes him.

What began as a collaboration to offer support to local Wyoming journalists has developed into a full-fledged mentorship program.  Both Wyoming EPSCoR and the WPA look forward to making this a more permanent program to continue supporting local journalists as well as the summer science journalism interns.  

Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter as we highlight the 2020 summer science journalism interns and the stories they are sharing with the guidance of their mentors.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Welcome Dulcinea!

"This position supports my long-term career goals in academic research in paleoclimatology and paleoecology, to use past environmental change in sensitive ecosystems to place ongoing rapid climate and ecosystem change in context. I am especially excited to integrate the tools developed in this project with my past experience in high latitude prehistoric global change, to address knowledge gaps about past climate and ecosystem change of coastal grasslands of the Falklands and coastal moss peat banks of the West Antarctic Peninsula." 
Currently a postdoctoral researcher at Lehigh University, Dulcinea is ready to take on a new postdoc adventure at the University of Wyoming.  She plans to use prior research experience to promote the development of a new proxy using microbes.  Dulcinea completed her Ph.D. in Ecology and Environmental Science in 2018 from the University of Maine.  It was there that she began exploring multi-proxy ecosystem reconstructions.  Dulcinea also looks forward to bringing her past experience working in alpine lakes throughout Maine, Sierra Nevada, and Cordillera Blanca (Peru) to UW's laboratories.  

It is clear that Dulcinea has a passion for her work and area of expertise.  She explores a very specific aspect of the science field and is proud to demonstrate her knowledge on the topic.  When asked to describe herself, she explains,

"I am a broadly trained, interdisciplinary paleoecologist with expertise in abrupt climate change impacts, paleoclimate proxy development, and ecosystem ecology in extreme environments."  

Being well trained in her field, Dulcinea plans to utilize her time in the university's labs to conduct a modern calibration study of branched GDGTs in microbes from lake waters, riparian soils, and lake sediment cores to support paleoclimate reconstructions from alpine lakes in Wyoming.  She plans to utilize a multiproxy approach to build on this proposed project by combining paleoclimate reconstructions with additional paleoclimate proxies.  All in all, her project seems to be a phenomenal addition to the work of UW's postdoctoral candidates for this upcoming year.

Dulcinea is wildly passionate about her work and we are thrilled to have her enthusiasm in the lab at UW!  We look forward to seeing her project develop during her time at the university.  

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Welcome Lorelei!

Lorelei Curtin comes to us from Columbia University in New York where she studies Earth and Environmental Science.  Clearly passionate about her work, Lorelei introduces us to her work explaining, "I provide critical context for potential future climate change scenarios by examining past periods in Earth’s recent history, particularly the Holocene and Last Interglacial periods. I reconstruct past changes in hydrology and temperature, which are poorly understood during these important intervals."  

Lorelei's passion for the Earth seems to stem from her undergraduate career.  She achieved a Bachelor of Arts in Geology with a minor in Environmental Analysis from Pomona College in Claremont, CA.  She continued her scientific journey by branching out and attending the University of Otago in
Dunedin, New Zealand.  It was there that she completed her M.Sc. with Distinction in Geology before returning to the states.  Once back in New York, she completed her M.A., M.Phil., and Ph.D. in Earth and Environmental Science.  

If that isn't enough to demonstrate a strong passion for her field, Lorelei has continually held teaching assistantships and pedagogical training positions to broaden and enhance her science experiences.  Her teaching experiences range from tectonics in 2012 to paleoceanography in 2018.  Being active in the classroom as both a student and teacher has afforded Lorelei the opportunity to experience earth sciences on varying levels.  This is sure to broaden her knowledge base and open her mind to new opportunities as she seeks to join the Post-Doctoral team at the University of Wyoming.  She clearly demonstrates these prospects noting,

"I am excited to build an ecosystem-scale understanding of Holocene climate and ecological changes in Wyoming through the use of additional lipid biomarkers, including leaf wax isotopes, alkenones, and mammalian and algal sterols. Furthermore, I am enthusiastic about participating in the Shuman lab as a mentor for graduate and undergraduate student researchers. This research and mentoring experience will help me attain my professional goal of becoming a professor at a small liberal arts college."

With 7 publications (3 published, 1 in review, 3 in preparation) under her belt, numerous honors, awards, and fellowships, and just over $28,000 in grants it is clear that Lorelei is a smart choice for the university's Post-Doctoral program.  Aside from her practical experience, Lorelei is passionate about her work and field of study.  She is not afraid to branch out for new experiences and is willing to tackle any challenges to pursue new opportunities.  We are thrilled to welcome Lorelei to our Post-Doctoral Team at the University of Wyoming!  We cannot wait to see all that she accomplishes during her time on campus.

Science Loves Art: Beating the Quarantine Blues

Quarantine got you down?  Struggling to keep your kiddos entertained while working from home?  Wishing there were more educational activities available for your family?  You are not alone.  And, luckily for you, Science Loves Art (SLA) has the perfect solution!

Based out of 4th Street Studios in Laramie, Science Loves Art is a 501(c)3 non-profit with a goal to merge art and science.  They tackle this goal through experience and discovery using their Science Loves Art Kits.  There are a variety of kits that master the perfect combo of science and art.  You can
choose from a bookmaking kit, paint pour kit, beeswax wrap kit, or the Suminagashi - Japanese

marbling kit.  With several options to choose from, you and your family can spend hours creating art projects for the refrigerator while learning a little something along the way!

While the SLA Kits are a great way to beat the quarantine blues, this family-owned business is taking extra precautions when it comes to saving summer.  If you drove by the shop last Thursday or Friday, you may have noticed the bright sidewalk chalk art, big white tent, and flourishing greenery. To help welcome the summer season, SLA decided to host a socially-distant Pollinator Week Celebration where they took their traditional shop outdoors.  Laramie community members trickled into the outdoor shop throughout the afternoons, seeking their own form of a creative outlet during these unprecedented times.  Some
purchased tomato and basil plants for their gardens.  Others sought out the beeswax kits and fabric squares to create their own plant sleeves.  I walked away with a bright pink succulent and some decorative stickers to add pops of color to my home office space.  It was a wonderful way to spread the word about Pollinator Week and bring the community together despite everything going on in our world today.

Bummed that you missed this awesome event?  No need to fret, there are plans in the works for a block party later this year!  To stay up-to-date on that plan or just to keep in touch, you can subscribe to their newsletter here.  If you are looking to get your hands on some SLA kits or other creative projects in the meantime, check out the Science Loves Art website.  Here you can browse a plethora of products, downloadable projects for your kiddos, and upcoming events.