A blog highlighting undergraduate research in the LeRoy Lab at Evergreen

Tag: Research

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.” 

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!

Insects on Willows: Weevils, Beetles, Galling Herbivores

Chrysomelid beetle larvae chew on willow leaves – leaving these patterns of skeletonization behind. Photo by Carri LeRoy 

Willows across the Pumice Plain of Mount St. Helens provide more than just riparian vegetation! They provide shelter, habitat and food to a variety of insects. Insects like Chrysomelid beetle larvae chew their way through willow leaves!

The poplar & willow stem-boring weevil, Cryptorhynchus lapathi, was introduced to Mount St. Helens in 1989. Photo by Carri LeRoy 

Another insect that utilizes the willows is the stem-boring weevil, which is native to Europe but was introduced to Mount St Helens in 1989! The tiny long-nosed guys, show up a lot in our studies as they cause branch death and mortality of willows.    

Galling herbivores like this likely galling midge show variation in activity across the Pumice Plain of Mount St. Helens. Photo by Carri LeRoy

Insects like galling midges have specialized feeding behaviors that require willow leaves as a host. They create new microhabitats for their young via galling. Stay tuned to learn more about the aquatic macroinvertebrates that colonize willow leaves that fall into streams!

Dr. Deb Finn – a Hyporheic Dynamo!

Evergreen Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) students Angie Froedin-Morgensen and Iris Garthwaite had opportunities to work with Dr. Deb Finn from Missouri State University in summer 2019. Photo by Carri LeRoy. 

Collaborator, Dr. Deb Finn (@streambug), Assistant Professor at Missouri State University, has provided many assets to our research program, far more than strictly field work. Connections like these provide Evergreen students with unique networking opportunities.

Dr. Deb Finn, measuring hyporheic depth in a shirt that matches the beautiful monkey flower in Forsyth Creek in 2019. Photo by Carri LeRoy. 

Working with Dr. Finn on the Pumice Plain means we had the opportunity to study the hyporheic zones of new streams at Mount St Helens! Undergraduates learned how to install and monitor hyporheic wells along the streams.

Evergreen undergraduate Iris Garthwaite checking hyporheic height in a well on the Pumice Plain of Mount St. Helens in 2019. Photo by Carri LeRoy.  

Assessing hyporheic zones generated a lot of data for our team to better understand the novel watersheds at MSH. It turns out that 40 years isn’t long enough for most hyporheic zones to develop but we gained insight into up and downwelling and the potential for hyporheic habitat development!

Approaching Mount St. Helens 40th Anniversary..

Hello Ecology Enthusiasts! 

To honor the 40th anniversary of the Mount St. Helens eruption our team will be hosting a glimpse into the amazing work and research we’ve been able to be a part of on the beautiful landscape of MSH. Join us in our daily postings to learn more about what our team has been up to! 

The Prairie Lupine 

After the devastating event of the May 18, 1980 eruption, the mountain was laid bare. Just two years following the eruption, scientists found the first plant to colonize the Pumice Plain, the Prairie lupine (Lupinus lepidus)These beautiful purple flowers sparked excitement in the world of ecology and studies on early succession in areas following disturbance. 

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s content and dive deeper into our field work at Mount St. Helens!