Historical Perspectives of Urban Environmental Education

The goal of this project is to archive and interpret historical records concerning the formation and evolution of an urban environmental education program in Springfield, MA, specifically the Environmental Center for Our Schools, or ECOS. UMass Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) holds 50 years of ECOS documents, including information about its beginnings under Title III through the Office for Civil Rights. Research assistants will process this collection and have the opportunity to develop and pursue independent research questions involving these documents.

Isotope Probing for Active Soil Microbes

Metabolically active soil microorganisms may cause an increase in respiration in response to climate change. At the Harvard Forest, three long-term soil warming plots were established nearly 25 years ago to determine how forest ecosystems are effected by warming. Researchers are using various approaches to determine which organisms are actively contributing to respiration in the soil. My dissertation research addresses the question of which soil organisms are metabolically active using an isotopic labeling approach.

Creating a land cover map for fire analyses

Fire is a natural component of many of Earth’s ecosystems, and it has a profound effect on carbon storage. Humans have altered natural fire cycles in many places by providing ignition sources, and altering fuel loads (ie. from the introduction of invasive plants), and these changes are likely impacting our natural carbon sinks. In Dr. Bethany Bradley’s Spatial Ecology Lab, we look to address such issues at the regional level using GIS and remote sensing technology. By focusing on a large spatial scale, we are able to search for patterns and make inferences about spatial relationships.

Wine quality of emerging grape varieties for New England

The cold climate wine industry has recently boomed in the Northeastern America after the successful breeding of cold-tolerant grape varieties. These cultivars are also of interest in a broader geographic area as they are the most resilient to climate change. Cultural practices can have tremendous effect on fruit juice quality (sugar, acidity,...) and might allow to control disease by sustainable means rather than the use of pesticides. This project will quantify the effect of cultural practices on grape varieties to optimize fruit juice quality and control diseases.

Pathogens, parasites, and predators of an invasive insect

The winter moth (Operophtera brumata), an invasive insect accidentally introduced to eastern Massachusetts from Europe, has been causing widespread damage to deciduous trees and crops. I am looking for a motivated student interested in ecology, evolution, pathology, or entomology to work with me, a Ph.D. candidate in Organismal and Evolutionary Biology, on various aspects of winter moth population ecology. Projects include microscopy of diseased samples, molecular work evaluating the parasites affecting winter moth, processing field samples, and more!

DNA Extraction, PCR and Sequence Alignment of a Gall Wasp

This project will be based in an invasive insect and biological control lab. The black oak gall wasp is a stem galling insect that causes extreme oak tree mortality on Cape Cod and Long Island. The student will assist a PhD student with DNA, PCR and sequence alignment of parasitoids of the black oak gall wasp. It is not expected that the student have experience with these methods prior to hire. If the student does have experience, that will just accelerate the process and increase their independence.

Genetics and molecular mechanisms of host-microbe mutualism

The Wang Lab, located in the Life Science Laboratories, is interested in the mechanisms of beneficial host-microbe interactions. Our experimental system is the symbiosis between legumes and nitrogen-fixing rhizobia, with important economic and environmental relevance, as well as similarities to pathogenic interactions. The BURA student will be engaged in dissecting the genetic basis of the nitrogen-fixing symbiosis, in particular characterizing the defects in host mutants unable to sustain a successful symbiotic relationship.

Ecology and Evolution of Primate Communities

Primates do not live by themselves in the forest. They interact with many other plants and animal species and these interactions can have important effects on primate behavior and ecology. Primate communities consist of all the primate species that interact with each other in a particular study site or area. Data are now available for several hundred primate communities from around the world. These data can be used to examine broad patterns of diversity and to test if these patterns are similar or different across continents.

Evolution of Primate Hair

Humans are unusual primates in many ways, including our hair morphology. Human body hair is very short and less dense than other primates. In addition, many human populations exhibit scalp hair that has very long growth cycles. Other primate species exhibit interesting variation in their hair characteristics, though the reason for this variation is poorly known. Our project will test several hypotheses to explain variation in hair length, width, and density across many primate species.

Invasive Species Ecology and Climate Change Research

The Stinson lab is looking for two students interested in a holistic ecological research experience; the research will involve field and laboratory work. Overall, we are looking for students interested in earning 1 or 2 credits for helping with ecological research within the Environmental Conservation Department. Before November, some time will be spent out at the Harvard Forest (in Petersham, MA) looking at microhabitat effects on a metapopulation of garlic mustard – an invasive, biennial plant.


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