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Lake Superior State University Center for Freshwater Research and Education Students Reel in Big Honors

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Four Lake Superior State University students working at LSSU’s Center for Freshwater Research and Education (CFRE) this summer were recently awarded prestigious funding from Michigan Sea Grant and Trout Unlimited to support undergraduate research on projects that will enhance fisheries management and invasive species control as well as address water pollution.

Elizabeth Belanger, a conservation biology major, was awarded a Michigan Sea Grant Environmental Internship and plans to conduct research on lake sturgeon and their habitats in the St. Marys River, using an aquatic remotely operated vehicle equipped with water quality sensors. Her research will focus on locating both adult and sub-adult lake sturgeon and linking those locations with water quality and habitat data to help inform conservation of this ecologically and culturally important species.

Tristan Compton, a conservation biology major, was also awarded a Michigan Sea Grant Environmental Internship. Compton will test microplastics for their presence and density across seasons and land use types in the St. Marys River to better understand the extent of microplastic pollution and how it changes before and after rainstorm events along the river network.

Simon Freeman, a fisheries and wildlife major, was the recipient of both a Michigan Sea Grant Environmental Internship and research grant from the Copper Country Chapter of Trout Unlimited. He will conduct sampling of larval lake whitefish and zooplankton in Lakes Michigan, Huron, and Superior to better understand factors affecting lake whitefish recruitment dynamics in the Great Lakes. He will work with scientists at the Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians, Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians, and Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians.

Dakota VanFleet, a fisheries and wildlife management major, was awarded the Cynthia Kitzman-Fred Waara Memorial Scholarship from the Fred Waara Chapter of Trout Unlimited. The funding will support VanFleet’s research on Didymosphenia geminata, an invasive algae recently discovered in the St. Marys River. VanFleet will work with researchers at LSSU, University of Wisconsin, and Ontario partners to better understand what triggers nuisance levels of Didymosphenia and guide control strategies.

“I could not be more proud of Elizabeth, Dakota, Simon, and Tristan,” said Dr. Kevin Kapuscinski, assistant director of research at CFRE. “CFRE’s faculty and staff strive to connect our students with external collaborators and employment and research opportunities, but it is up to the students to capitalize on these connections. The efforts of these four students are being rewarded with opportunities to enhance their education and conduct research that will advance conservation of freshwater resources. All of us at CFRE look forward to working with them on their important projects.”

LSSU President Dr. Rodney S. Hanley added, “These students represent some of the best qualities of our campus. They’re capitalizing on a wide range of opportunities to grow academically and to leave the region environmentally sound. And they epitomize LSSU’s institutional learning outcomes of use of evidence, analysis and synthesis, formal communication, and professional responsibility.”