A blog highlighting undergraduate research in the LeRoy Lab at Evergreen

Tag: Pumice Plain (Page 1 of 2)

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 

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.” 

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.” 

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!

Published Undergraduate Co-authors!

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)! 

One of the first papers to be published from our work at Mount St. Helens. Four co-authors are undergraduates at The Evergreen State College. (LeRoy et al. 2020, Ecosphere)
Several figures from the paper showing male-female willow differences in initial leaf chemistry and chemistry throughout the decomposition process. (LeRoy et al. 2020, Ecosphere)

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.

Getting started on data analysis and paper writing around the fire at our field camp at Mount St. Helens in summer of 2018! Photo by Shannon Claeson

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!  

Our study made the cover of the issue in Ecosphere. This is a drone photo taken with a permit of willow colonization on the Pumice Plain. Photo by Carri LeRoy (Mavic 2 Pro)

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! 

Condensed Tannins!

Prepped samples of ground leaves (left) and tannin samples mid-extraction process (right). Photos by Iris Garthwaite

Across the Pumice Plain of Mount St. Helens, Sitka willows (Salix sitchensis) make up a major percentage of the riparian (streamside) vegetation. Parts of our research focuses on identifying phenolic compounds called condensed tannins within willow leaves!

Evergreen undergraduates, Lauren Thompson (left) and Maddie Thompson (right) running the condensed tannin extraction and assay. Photo by Iris Garthwaite

Condensed tannins of willow leaves may act as anti-herbivore compounds and make willow leaves less palatable based on their concentrations. The processes of condensed tannin extraction and assay are very long but filled with numerous colorful steps!  

The colorimetric condensed tannin assay results in an awesome gradient of pink! Photo by Madeline Thompson

Phenolic compounds may differ across the Pumice Plain or by plant sex (willow is dioecious!). Leaf chemistry can influence which insects utilize the leaves and rates of decomposition for leaf litter!

Benthic Macroinvertebrates of MSH

Caddisflies of all shapes and sizes have colonized Mount St. Helens. Photo by Angie Froedin-Morgensen

The eruption of Mount St Helens created pyroclastic flows, mudflows, and ash fallout that covered the Pumice Plain in over 100 ft of sterile material. Since then, new watersheds have formed, diverse fauna has colonized MSH streams, and our lab team has been there to document!

Our benthic macroinvertebrate sorting station. Photo by Angie Froedin-Morgensen

The benthic macroinvertebrates of MSH colonize, eat and utilize leaf litter that falls into streams. With the use of leaf litter bags, Undergraduates Angie Froedin-Morgensen and Brandy Ku’ualoha Kamakawiwoole spend hours under a microscope sorting these aquatic insects!

Stoneflies are particularly common inhabitants of Mount St. Helens streams. Photo by Angie Froedin-Morgensen

Aquatic insects like Ephemeroptera, Trichoptera, and Plecoptera all play a critical role in the aquatic food webs! Benthic macroinvertebrate communities provide amazing insight as indicators of biological conditions, and communities differ across MSH streams!  

Interview with Evergreen Undergraduate Angie Froedin-Morgensen

What is one of those mind-blowing facts about MSH that you can’t un-know?“I love how Mount St Helens was a completely sterile environment, then lupines showed up. The process of natural regeneration is amazing. It reminds me of the Big Bang Theory, 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!

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