A blog highlighting undergraduate research in the LeRoy Lab at Evergreen

Author: tholau29 (Page 1 of 4)

Last Day Huge Collaborative Thank YOU!!!

We have been so lucky to work with so many awesome individuals in the field and in the lab over the past five years. Our NSF-funded research at Mount St. Helens has involved collaborators from the US Forest Service, Science Museum of Minnesota, Missouri State University, UW Tacoma, and Desert Research Institute.  

We have created research opportunities for over 25 undergraduate students at The Evergreen State College. Undergraduate students work collaboratively on this research from the very beginning of experimental design all the way through the final stages of publication!  

We would like to thank the National Science Foundation for our funding, the US Forest Service for in-kind support of Shannon Claeson, and the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument for our permit to do research on the volcano. We thank The Evergreen State College for logistical support and for the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship program for students. We thank the Mount St. Helens Institute for coordinating opportunities for science outreach 

Interview with Evergreen Undergraduate Kelly Zenn

This photo was taken during summer 2019 fieldwork at Mount St. Helens by Evergreen undergraduate Angie Froedin-Morgensen.

If an animal represented your research methods, what would it be?

 “If I were to choose an animal that reflects my research style it would be a crab: I’m a bit protective of my work, always triple checking everything, moving backwards as much as I move forward.” 

What attracted you to this research?

“I learned about Carri’s work when she sat as a panelist for an event my film class put on “Waters Connect Us: A conversation about protecting and restoring water with Indigenous Communities, Environmental Scientists, and Media Creators” in 2019. I was intrigued by the unique opportunity to study newly formed watersheds on Mount St. Helens. It seemed to intersect perfectly with my interests in restoration ecology and I was inspired by how this research could be applied to environmental justice.”

This photo was taken during summer 2019 fieldwork at Mount St. Helens by Evergreen undergraduate Angie Froedin-Morgensen.

What do you love about MSH?

“I grew up in Kentucky, the land of soft, rolling hills. When I moved out West I knew only of the story my parents told about visiting the Mount St. Helens with my sister before I was born—how, when the curtains parted at the visitor center to reveal the volcano—my sister burst into tears, terrified by the destruction she had just seen on film. I always expected to feel that same fear. When I took my first steps through the Pumice plain, however, I was reminded of a quote from Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass that reads, “a basket knows the dual powers of destruction and creation that shape the world. Mount St. Helens knows of these powers, too, of course. The eruption laid bare the conditions for new life to take hold and the fields of wildflowers now stand as a gentle reminder that things do not end with tragedy; there is always another page.”

This photo was taken during summer 2019 fieldwork at Mount St. Helens by Evergreen undergraduate Angie Froedin-Morgensen.

Do you identify as a Greener?

“I do, but I haven’t always. In identifying as a Greener, I’m grateful for the talented, patient professors I’ve worked with, the expansion of my worldview, and peers that helped me form a more comprehensive moral framework. There are so many incredibly unique opportunities at Evergreen and supporting students doing graduate-level research as an undergraduate is just one example of Evergreen’s strengths. For this and much else, I’m proud to call myself a Greener.”

The SURF Program

Celebrating the successes of our Summer Undergraduate Research Fellow students in 2019. From left, Angie Froedin-Morgensen, Carri LeRoy, Joy Ramstack Hobbs, Iris Garthwaite

The Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program here at Evergreen is a multidisciplinary opportunity in which faculty design summer research projects with undergrads that open a pathway to a variety of opportunities!    

Evergreen Summer Undergraduate Research Fellows Iris Garthwaite and Angie Froedin-Morgensen presenting their research in 2019.

This program allows students to engage in real-world research and apply new skills to a wide range of research topics! Undergrads get to participate in seminars, work with a variety of collaborators, and participate in a final Symposium during the fall! 

Angie Froedin-Morgensen proudly presenting her final research based on the SURF program at Evergreen. Photo by Shauna Bittle.

In summer 2019, Undergraduates Iris and Angie joined the SURF cohort to conduct individual research projects on the Pumice Plain of MSH! The L3 lab is excited to work with this year’s 2020 SURF cohort and support our new student Aife Pasquale! 

Interview with Evergreen Undergraduate Lauren Thompson

Transferring from GHC, Evergreen undergraduate Lauren Thompson has always had an interest in Freshwater systems. Photos by Maddie Thompson & AG.

What is one of those mind blowing facts about MSH that you can’t un-know because it it so cool?  

“It is absolutely mind-blowing that there are novel stream systems on MSH! I am really into stream ecology so that blows my mind!” 

 What attracted you to this research?  

“Stream ecology focus. Previously I’ve worked in hatcheries and studying urban water systems. The whole concept of novel stream systems, scientist don’t get to witness first-hand novel streams, usually they are very old! So that really stuck with me in my interest of MSH.” 

 What is your role in the L3 lab?  

“To learn from Seniors in the group, get trained on things so that I can continue to pass that knowledge to others. I am leading the blog work, communicating our UG research is important because Evergreen isn’t really known for the research opportunities it provides UG. Public outreach!”  


What is a future goal you have? Next week, next year or 5 years?  

“Graduate school! My future goal in life is to obtain my PhD. I never would’ve pictured myself in doing so but I have really found where I excel in college. I think the L3 lab is an ideal environment in which I can learn vital skill sets in preparing myself more for grad school!”  


Evergreen undergraduate Lauren Thompson helps out with numerous tasks with MSH leaf litter, including weighing/grinding, DNA extractions, and condensed tannins! Photos by Lauren Thompson  

Do you identify as a Greener? What does that mean to you?  

“I am still new to Evergreen, so I haven’t found my role as a greener. At the same time, I have. You have to be both independent and collaborative and I do that with a lot of enthusiasm.”   

What is that thing that you can do now, that your past self would have never dreamed of?  

“For starters, I am a first gen student. I didn’t think I was going to go to college. More in depth, I never thought I would excel in statistics and scientific writing. I am very introverted, not normally vocal, but I am so passionate about public outreach. I excel at it and I am not afraid to put my voice out there when it comes to science communication.”   

There’s an idea of a scientist that we all carry, how do you fit or break that mold/expectation?  

“I definitely break that mold, I am not your typical scientist. I feel like I break those stereotypes because I know where I belong in the sciences. There’s an idea of a fully independent scientist, but I really believe in collaboration and I think that’s really how it works.” 

A little love for canceled conference abstracts!

Photos taken during summer 2019 field work at Mount St. Helens by Evergreen undergraduate Angie Froedin-Morgensen.

For the 2020 Society for Freshwater Science Annual conference, our lab had submitted 8 abstracts to present! The conference was canceled but let’s highlight some of the awesome work our lab members were eager to share! 

Evergreen undergraduate Angie Froedin-Morgensen has taken the lead on identification off MSH benthic macroinvertebrates! Her poster presentation focused on the macroinvertebrate communities between female and male Sitka willow leaf litters dropped in both summer and fall into MSH streams.

Photos taken during summer 2019 field work at Mount St. Helens by Evergreen undergraduate Angie Froedin-Morgensen.

Evergreen undergraduate Iris Garthwaite designed her own study that focused on Mount St. Helens willow flower inputs! Her poster presentation addressed differences in decomposition between catkin litter and willow leaves in a headwater stream of MSH!

Evergreen undergraduate Maddie Thompson took charge in describing canopy covering surveys done across the Pumice Plain! Her poster presentation aimed to address how post-eruption canopy cover development influences in-stream ecosystems! 

Photos taken during summer 2019 field work at Mount St. Helens by Evergreen undergraduate Angie Froedin-Morgensen.

Evergreen undergraduate Lauren Thompson found in interest in continuing some work regarding organic matter processing rates using canvas strips as a proxy. Her poster presentation focused on how organic matter processing differs across early successional streams at MSH!

Both Lauren and Maddie as well as our collaborator Abby at Missouri State University were awarded prestigious INSTARS fellowships which included travel awards to attend the conference and enhanced mentoring and networking while at the conference. Too bad the conference was canceled, but we’ve all pivoted to writing scientific papers instead! 

USFS Ecologists Shannon Claeson and Charlie Crisafulli

Spirit Lake. Photo by Charlie Crisafulli

Our lab has collaborated with numerous scientists while working across the Pumice Plain of Mount St. Helens. We have had the honor of working with USFS Ecologists Shannon Claeson and Charlie Crisafulli! Shannon is an aquatic entomologist and has co-led the stream surveys across the Pumice Plain since 2015.

USFS Ecologist Charlie Crisafulli has worked on Mount St. Helens since the eruption and helps us understand the willow stem boring weevil Cryptorhynchus lapathi. Photo by Carri LeRoy

Charlie Crisafulli has worked on Mount St Helens since the eruption in 1980 studying the initial and long-term responses of communities and ecosystems to large disturbances. A portion of his work focuses on the nonnative stem-boring weevil colonization and its influences on plant succession!

USFS Ecologist Shannon Claeson has collaborated on stream surveys at Mount St. Helens since 2015, but has worked on the mountain for over 10 years. Photo by Carri LeRoy

In working with Shannon and Charlie, our team members have been able to learn more about stream evolution across the Pumice Plain as well as the stem-boring weevil and its influences on MSH willows. In fact, our team has even identified that weevils prefer female over male willows across the Pumice Plain!

Interview with Evergreen Undergraduate Madeline Thompson

Transferring from GHC, Evergreen Undergraduate Madeline Thompson has always had an interest in working with freshwater ecosystems. Photo by Lauren Thompson 

What do you love about MSH? 

“The landscape has multiple areas that scientists of many different backgrounds can investigate. It’s not just a mountain, there are multiple scales of science that bring people together. “

What is one of those mind blowing facts about MSH that you can’t un-know because it is so cool? 

“It literally baffles my mind, that is was a moon landscape, literally bare, no life! To see all the pictures and it’s development in the last 40 years is mind-blowing. I had no idea! I wasn’t aware of the extent of the ecological impact of the eruption. “

What attracted you to this research? 

“Carri’s passion about the topic in general. Her first time talking about it showcased positive outcome from something that was pretty devastating. This resonated with my general optimism in life and my interest in streams. I gravitated towards her positivity and knowledge about the mountain.” 

Evergreen undergraduate Madeline Thompson working through several processes of DNA Extraction from incubated leaf litter. Photos by Lauren Thompson 

What is your role in the L3 lab? 

“I’m a blog enthusiast! DNA extractions. As a new member, it is a lot of learning from Angie and Iris (other undergraduates), but I bring my own skills and knowledge. Tasks like leaf chemistry, aquatic bugs and canvas strips, no limitations! I’ve been progressing in scientific writing with the help of Carri!”

What is a future goal you have? Next week, next year or 5 years? 

“I want to feel confident in UG experience and then go to grad school. In academia, you can always feel like there is more to learn, but also, I’ve come a long way and learned a lot and I want to feel confident in that.”  

Evergreen Undergraduate Madeline Thompson using the nanodrop on MSH willow DNA extraction samples. Photo by Lauren Thompson 

Do you identify as a Greener? What does that mean to you? 

“I had a hard time understanding what that meant until I joined the L3 lab. It means openness, it’s a family, we don’t expect anything from each other, we see each other’s contributions as being important. Acceptance is a great word to describe it.”

What is that thing that you can do now, that your past self would have never dreamed of? 

“Anything related to genetics, DNA, microbial communities. To reach that level of understanding, I just didn’t think I could ever do that kind of work.  Getting the opportunity to work w/ highly intelligent scientists and learn from them directly!”

There’s an idea of a scientist that we all carry, how do you fit or break that mould/expectation? 

“I do both. I am advocate for women in STEM, and minority groups. To stereotype a scientist really limits things and the opportunities to advance both in yourself and others.” 

GEOGIRLS! Science Outreach

GeoGirls working in Willow Creek on the Pumice Plain of Mount St. Helens in summer 2019. Photo by Carri LeRoy (Mavic2Pro by permit at MSHNVM).

One of the most exciting outreach activities done at MSH is a geology and nature camp for middle school girls that focuses on engaging the youth in the amazing world of science. They are called the “GeoGirls” and are organized by the Mount St. Helens Institute! Watch this short video:


“GeoGirls” are middle school girls from all over the country who spend a week doing research with scientists at Mount St. Helens. Photo by Carri LeRoy

This unique opportunity allows middle school girls to join in on fieldwork on the Pumice Plain and learn about the history of the mountain. Encouraging and supporting the youth developing skills, knowledge, and memories they can take with them for a lifetime! 

We volunteered to teach 25 middle school ”GeoGirls” how to measure stream velocity and sinuosity both summers 2018 and 2019. Photo by Carri LeRoy

GeoGirls is a collaborative effort that runs during the summer where those involved get to learn from REAL SCIENTISTS! Our lab volunteered to teach the 2018 and 2019 GeoGirls to measure things like stream sinuosity and velocity of MSH watersheds! 

Society for Freshwater Science: Mount St Helens Research!

The joint ASLO-SFS conference was planned for early June of 2020. Our lab would have had a strong showing! 

Every year the Society for Freshwater Science holds an annual conference where scientists around the globe meet to share research done across a vast variety of aquatic ecosystems. Our lab had the honor of presenting our MSH research in June 2019! We submitted 8 abstracts to present in 2020, but the conference was canceled.

Undergraduate students Iris Garthwaite and Victoria Cowan present the results of our research projects at the Society for Freshwater Science conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, 2019. Photo by Carri LeRoy. 

Evergreen undergraduate students Iris Garthwaite and Victoria Cowan presented at the SFS 2019 Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah! Their project focused on the effects of nitrogen addition and herbivory interactions that alter litter chemistry and in-stream litter decomposition at Mount St Helens!

A trip to the Red Iguana in Salt Lake City as part of the Society for Freshwater Science conference in June 2019. It was a Marks-LeRoy-Best Lab reunion! 

Conferences are great opportunities to see old friends and make new connections. This is a joint Marks-LeRoy-Best lab reunion dinner at the Red Iguana. Stay tuned to learn more about our lab members who submitted abstracts for the 2020 Annual Conference!

Open/Closed Canopy Study- MORE RESEARCH!

The 2018-19 Open/Closed Canopy Study was done for 10 paired sites along Camp Creek, Geo-West Creek, Clear Creek, Forsyth Creek and Redrock Creek.

Following the largest landslide recorded in history- our team examined open and closed canopy differences along the five new watersheds! Looking at 10 paired sites along Camp Creek, Geo-West Creek, Clear Creek, Forsyth Creek and Redrock Creek we found some pretty interesting stuff!

Evergreen undergraduates Victoria Cowan and Lily Messinger filtering water for chemical analysis. Photo by Shauna Bittle, The Evergreen State College.

From July 2018 to May 2019 we were able to measure temperature patterns throughout wet and dry periods. As well as other physio-chemical measurements, algal community structure, macroinvertebrate community structure, and organic matter processing using canvas strips- but what’s so interesting?

A figure of the In-stream Canvas Strips: SH2 and FH2 showing the preliminary results.  

Macroinvertebrates were different among the streams! Algal communities also showed differences among streams and were influenced by DO and conductivity. Remember the canvas strips? They also showed differences in processing rates among the open and closed canopy sites and across streams!

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