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!
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.”
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.”
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 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!
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!
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!
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!”
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 Ibelong 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.”
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!
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!
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:
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!
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!
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.
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!
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!
Our National Science Foundation (NSF) grant provided funding for two full field seasons at Mount St. Helens. In the first year, we collected a dataset comparing the colonization patterns of willow males and females on the Pumice Plain and published a paper in Ecosphere with four undergraduate co-authors (LeRoy et al. 2020)!
We found that the leaf chemistry of male and female willows differs, where males have significantly higher nitrogen and females have higher C:N ratios (LeRoy et al. 2020). These patterns persist through time in the stream, providing in-stream invertebrates with variation in food resources.
On long field trips, we get right to work analyzing data in the field. Our team consists of Evergreen faculty, Forest Service collaborators, and lots of invaluable undergraduate research assistants. Nothing better than data-analysis by the fire-side!
Some of our research involves using drone technology to explore willow colonization patterns. We were asked to contribute cover photos to the journal Ecosphere and one of our drone images made the cover! Follow along to learn more about the awesome, NSF funded work, collaborative student-faculty research on aquatic-terrestrial interactions in early successional headwater streams of Mount St. Helens!
What is one of those mind-blowing facts about MSH that you can’t un-know?: “I love how MountStHelens was a completely sterile environment, then lupines showed up. The process of natural regeneration is amazing. It reminds me of the BigBangTheory, life happening on its own.”
What attracted you to research at Mount St Helens? “Being outside, learning the fundamentals of stream ecology, and the roles of rivers and streams in larger landscape processes.”
What is your role in the L3 lab? “Bug master!” Angie has been leading the processing of 2 seasons x 3 harvests x 32 #litterbags = 192 litterbag communities. Aq. Insect abundances range from 25-100 per sample, so lots of bugs! Stay tuned for a blog highlighting pictures of some of the aquatic insects Angie’s documented!
Fav aquatic insect? “Caddisfly (Trichoptera). I like the variation in their cases. Caddisfly silk is being studied as a potential waterproof adhesive. That this natural polymer can inspire product engineering is really cool!”
Greatest challenge/area of growth? “Writing has been my greatest challenge. But I’ve learned a lot about keying insects and getting through peer-reviewed papers, getting through them faster, understanding terminology.”
Quirky facts about the L3 lab? “How we aren’t intimidated by each other. We get to troubleshoot things together. We have a lot of independence in our lab, so we get to ask each other all the silly questions!”
What are your future goals? “Finish sorting and identifying all the MSH 2019 litterbag samples, co-author a peer-reviewed paper on the leaf litter study, work with Dr. LeRoy to become a better scientific writer.”
Snacks: What lab member’s lunch are you most envious of in lab meetings? “Iris or Joy!” Who has the best field snacks? “Deb has the best junk food, but Carri’s sesame sticks are also a win.”
Do you identify as a Greener? “I do. I created my own path at Evergreen. It allowed me room to grow. I came to school for one thing, then my interests changed after working with science faculty. Now I’m weeks away from a BS Degree!