Redefining the Classroom

Grants foster research into alien empathy, Great Lakes invaders

Posted: January 20th, 2013

TO BOLDLY GO – Lake Superior State University student Sarah Becks, third from left, takes actors through rehearsal for a science fiction play she has written, produced, and directed with the help an undergraduate research grant. She presented the production to full houses in LSSU's Black Box Theater last November. Two fisheries and wildlife management students also received grants to study the sea lamprey and the round goby. The deadline to apply for next semester's award is February 1. Details on the program can be found by running a Web search for "LSSU Undergraduate Research Committee." An anonymous donor provides funding for the grants via LSSU's Foundation Office. (LSSU/ John Shibley)

A print-resolution photo that runs with the caption above can be found by clicking here.

SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. – Three students received cash awards this past fall to support undergraduate research projects at Lake Superior State University. Research plays a vital role in helping students develop their full potential, as well as contributing to the growth, dissemination, and application of knowledge beyond campus.

"An area of pride for our university is the incorporation of student research into the academic programs," says Dr. Barb Keller, Dean of the College of Natural, Mathematical and Health Sciences and also the Chair of the Undergraduate Research Committee that awards these grants. "The availability of the undergraduate research funding has given students access to funding for research projects that otherwise may not have been possible."

The grant application process has students define their projects' timelines and submit a detailed accounting for materials and supplies, printing costs, software, project-related travel, and other related expenses excluding student wages. Each line item also requires a formal justification as to how it relates to the project's final outcome. Students must also disclose other potential funding sources, be they departmental, state, or local; even expenses covered out of pocket.

Finally, if animal or human test subjects are part of the study, a full research plan must be submitted to faculty oversight committees that verify certain standards of laboratory care and research ethics.

This past semester's grants forward research on two Great Lakes invaders — one old; the other, relatively new — while helping to underwrite an original science fiction production in LSSU's Black Box Theater.

Sara Dimick
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Fisheries and wildlife management junior Sara Dimick (Rogers City, Mich.) studied the variation of round goby energy density across the Great Lakes. Round gobies are a non-native fish that invaded the Great Lakes in the 1990s. They cause harm by out competing and preying on native species. In recent years many native top predators such as lake trout, cormorants, and water snakes have been consuming round goby. But are round gobies a good food source? The goal of this study is to determine both the average round goby energy content and variability in energy content across Great Lake locations and seasons. This information is essential for predicting growth of round goby predators and for understanding food-web linkages in the Great Lakes.

James Osaga
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James Osga's ongoing survey looks at the spatial distribution and potential mortality of adult sea lamprey in the St. Mary's River. Sea lamprey appeared in the Great Lakes as shipping canals were opened between 1825 and 1919. The very primitive fish, essentially unchanged for hundreds of millions of years, has depleted Great Lakes fish populations in the last century. Control efforts focus on the St. Mary's River because it is a known “hot-spot” for lamprey spawning. Management techniques are limited due to lack of information on migratory routes and distribution in the river. Using high-technology tracking equipment, sea lamprey distribution and movement prior to, during, and after the spawning season was determined. Findings indicate that lamprey aggregate in areas not currently treated to trap and eliminate lamprey. Osga's study will contribute to new management techniques to control sea lamprey in the St. Mary's River. He is a junior in fisheries and wildlife management from Frederic, Mich.

Sarah Becks
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Sarah Becks' Beyond Perception is an original science fiction drama in two acts that focuses on an empath’s struggle with knowledge, belief, and where the truth lies, and the importance of being able to see beyond one's own point of view. Her project was a nine-month journey that began last February with a proposal that continued through rewriting, casting, designing, rehearsals, to end in a final production that played to full houses last November in LSSU's Black Box Theater. Becks, from Cheboygan, Mich., graduates this spring with a secondary-education teaching bachelor of arts degree in English literature and dual minors in Spanish and computer science.

Initial funding for the Undergraduate Research Grant was provided by an anonymous benefactor. However, as the program grows, so does financial support from alumni and friends through the LSSU Foundation Office. Memorial gifts were received during 2012 in honor of LSSU faculty member Deb Stai Ph.D., who died in November 2011.

“There are many opportunities for students to collaborate with faculty on research, however it has always been a challenge to help fund such collaborations,” says LSSU Foundation Executive Director Tom Coates. "The anonymous donor determined an area they wanted to support and made these opportunities possible. The greater Lake State community continues to consolidate and grow the resources students need."

Anyone who wishes to support the undergraduate research fund can contact the LSSU Foundation office at (906) 635-2665 or make a contribution through the LSSU Foundation online giving form.


CONTACTS: John Shibley, e-mail, 906-635-2314; Tom Pink, e-mail, 635-2315; Dr. Barb Keller e-mail, 635-2185 ; Sharon Dorrity, LSSU Foundation, e-mail, 635-2665.