Colorado State University Watershed Science Student Presents Undergraduate Research at International ASLO Conference

Colorado State University senior Mikaela Cherry has been selected from hundreds of students across the nation to present her undergraduate research at the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography (ASLO) Conference in New Orleans this month. Cherry will present her research project, “The concentration and composition of dissolved organic matter in Lake Michigan,” which she worked on as a participant in the prestigious National Science Foundation’s Research Experience for Undergraduate Students Program (REU).

Cherry is a watershed science major at CSU’s Warner College of Natural Resources, and competed against thousands of students from across the nation to participate in the ocean science REU program. She was selected to participate in the 10-week program at the University of Wisconsin’s School of Freshwater Sciences during the summer of 2012.

“Because of the amazing professors at CSU, my research mentors from REU and University of Wisconsin. and the access I’ve had to research opportunities as an undergrad, I have been able to advance my education and get closer to my goal of being a leading watershed scientist,” said Cherry.

While at Wisconsin, Cherry worked collaboratively with other students and REU mentors on researching the concentration and composition of dissolved organic material in Lake Michigan in hopes of discovering how the lake has been affected by factors such as invasive species and river flow. During her 10 weeks there, Cherry took water samples at different depths of the lake then analyzed the composition of dissolved organic matter in the water. She observed the effects of the river flow into Lake Michigan and also found that invasive species of quagga mussels, natural filter feeders, have reduced the amount of organic matter in the lake.

Cherry is one of 26 ocean science REU students from across the country selected to participate in a special posters session at the conference that gives undergraduate students the opportunity to present their research to an international scientific audience. With the attendance of influential people and international leaders in the water science field, Cherry hopes to advance her career and learn about other research opportunities at the conference. She is also working hard to develop her undergraduate thesis into a manuscript, and hopes to have it published in a scientific journal by the end of the year.

CSU Warner College Professor John Stednick with the Department of Forest and Rangeland Stewardship and Associate Professor Steven Fassnacht with the Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability serve as mentors to Cherry and have worked closely with her to help her excel in her studies and gain access to research opportunities.

“Mikaela is a stand-out student and has really pushed herself to take full advantage of opportunities to gain hands-on research experience as an undergraduate here at CSU,” said Fassnacht. “I’m so proud to see her hard work be recognized at the national level, and know she will have a bright career in watershed science.”

Cherry made the trip from her hometown in Kansas to Colorado State University in 2009. Although initially pursuing chemistry major, Cherry soon found her path at CSU’s Warner College of Natural Resources and switched majors to watershed science, with a minor in chemistry. This choice has enabled her to thoroughly explore her interest in water science and has led to research opportunities throughout her college career.

Cherry is graduating in May 2013 and plans to attend graduate school to further her knowledge in water sciences and study isotope hydrology. Her goal is to become a full-time research scientist for a global organization like the International Atomic Energy Agency.