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Student summer research UWL student researchers continue their excellence beyond the academic school year.

Digging up the past

A birds-eye view of the Tremain Site near Holmen, Wisconsin.

Associate Professor Dave Anderson, Archaeology & Anthropology, leads a group of UWL archaeology students at a site near Holmen, Wisconsin. The site contains refuse pits from the Oneota culture, A.D.1450-1600.

Top, students learn hands-on recording and digging techniques. Bottom, a UWL student shows a pottery sherd from the site.

A microscopic look at a mess

UWL student researcher Anna Hilger pulls a sediment sample from the La Crosse River Marsh.

If a train derailed, spilling crude oil into the La Crosse River Marsh, what would happen to the community? The community of microbes — that is. Microorganisms — such as bacteria — are nearly all invisible to the human eye, which makes them easy to overlook. However, their value in an ecosystem is great, says UWL graduate student Anna Hilger. Her master’s thesis work is investigating what would happen to these microscopic organisms if crude oil spilled in the marsh. View the full story: http://news.uwlax.edu/a-microscopic-look-at-a-mess/

To mimic a potential spill, UWL graduate student Anna Hilger and her faculty mentor, Bonnie Bratina, UWL associate professor of Microbiology, set up containers outdoors where they introduced a mix of marsh water and sediment, as well as crude oil.

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Growing on the farm

Olivia Schauls, Anthropology

This is Olivia Schauls’ second summer working on Old Oak Farm near Bangor, Wisconsin, but it is the first time the UWL senior is applying her UWL cultural anthropology studies on the farm. Through her cultural anthropology classes, Schauls has learned about how systems in place for producing and consuming food impact people. While some people may visit a grocery store and pick avocados from Mexico or oranges from Florida with little thought of where those foods originated, Schauls and anthropologists consider who benefited and who suffered in this contemporary process of getting food from farm to shelf. Growing food locally and organically has its benefits, notes Schauls. In addition to supporting the local economy and providing people access to fresh and nutritious produce, it cuts down on a huge amount in energy to transport products long distances.

UWL student Olivia Shauls picks peas at the Old Oak Farm near Bangor, Wisconsin.
Schauls' takes notes in a field journal during her research at the Old Oak Farm.

Wood debris on the Mississippi River

Eric Drost, Geography

Eric Drost's research is determining locations of visible large, woody debris using aerial photography and testing the effectiveness of locating submerged debris using side-scan sonar. Large, woody debris can have several important implications for river systems that can affect planiform and structure, flow patterns, wildlife habitat, pool formation and levels of available organic material. The research is sponsored by UW System Water Research Fellowship, representing a collaboration between UW-Eau Claire and UW-La Crosse.

Drost drives a boat along a Mississippi River Pool 8 shore collecting side-scan radar images of large, woody debris.
A computer screen shot of the side-scan radar results in a Mississippi River backwater.

Green chemistry

Megan Timmers, Chemisty

"The best part about doing research is that the things I do might go on and be used by other researchers or people who work in industry," says Megan Timmers. Timmers, Chemistry, works with UWL Professor Rob McGaff to research and develop a suite of catalysts that can be used to carry out oxidation reactions in a more environmentally-friendly way. McGaff participated in the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) Accelerator Program, which focused his research on three, specific processes for making industrially-important chemical compounds. "Knowing that the things I did are being used to help other people and the environment is really cool!" she says

In addition to making new discoveries in the chemistry field, Rob McGaff, a chemistry professor at UWL, has several undergraduate research students who help him with various aspects of his green chemistry studies. Here he works with undergraduate student researcher Megan Timmers, a UWL junior this fall.

Clues to a civilization abandonment

Charlotte Peters, Geography

The abandonment of the ancient Native American site Aztalan near Lake Mills, Wisconsin has baffled scientist for decades. Charlotte Peters, Geography, is hoping to find answers by analyzing sediment core from Mud Lake, Wisconsin as a basis for understanding climate change and its effects on the settlement, habitation and subsequent abandonment of the Aztalan site around 1250 CE in southeastern Wisconsin. The analyses will inform about past physical, hydrologic and chemical conditions and thus make it possible to chronologically view past climatic changes.

High-Flying adventures

Jack Radenz, Geography

At UW-La Crosse, drones aren’t just a techy toy, they’re a tool to meet business needs. Working with Assistant Professor Niti Mishra, Senior Jackson Radenz flew a drone over a local rock quarry earlier this summer to generate 3D maps of space and stockpiles. Later, he’ll do another to determine rock lost through image analysis. This helps the company manage assets easier instead of using time-consuming, manual ground surveys.

Mississippi mussels

Ashley Nowak, Biology and Archaeology

Researchers can use artifacts in helping dig through environmental challenges today. Ashley Nowak, Biology and Archaeology, is identifying species and amounts of certain types and species of mussels from archaeological assemblages of the Upper Mississippi River Valley. Through this research she hopes to draw from other archaeological mussel assemblages and current-day mussel assemblages in order to compare environmental changes along the Mississippi River over time. Nowak, says about her research, “No matter what you discover it still aides learning in some way," Nowak explains."The results of research projects can usually be tied into other projects to gain a better insight on not only the projects themselves, but also the world that we all live in.”

Global Minds

UWL CBA students

This summer, 14 UWL College of Business Administration students in the Global Consulting Program applied research to provide solutions for business clients in Bratislava, Slovakia. Working within international teams, the UWL students conducted research on a range of business topics, from employer branding to stock prices to recruiting and retaining a younger workforce. The student teams then applied their findings to inform solutions and creative recommendations for their clients, which included organizations like the US Embassy, Siemens and Dell.

Macbeth take two

From left, Emily Farebrother and Carly Boles

“Nobody in our student-run theater company has ever worked on a project of this nature before, but we face each new challenge together with a positive attitude and an open mind,” says Carly Boles, UWL student and co-producer. The theatre production is an actor-collaborative and gender-neutral production of Shakespeare's, ‘Macbeth.’ The production’s famous role of Macbeth is played by a woman and multiple other male characters are played by women and vice versa. Actors will play more than one role throughout the show. The student-run company is composed of eight actors and four designers. “This project pushes students outside of their comfort zone by requiring them to take an active role in all aspects of a theatrical production,” says Boles. The project is funded by a UWL Undergraduate Research Grant.

Aging Muscles

A group of UWL student researches study muscle aging.

As a person ages, muscles weaken and lose their ability to contract like they once could. A group of UWL researchers led by student Alex Steil, are studying muscles at the cellular level. Muscle contractions are reactions to changing calcium concentrations. An important player in this process is the protein Calmodulin. Calmodulin is responsible for detecting changing calcium concentrations and subsequently telling the cell to behave a certain way. The students are trying to understanding how an “aged” Calmodulin mishandles calcium and leads to weakened muscles. They have also used gene-editing techniques to develop a mutant Calmodulin that is resistance to aging – which may be useful as a gene-therapy intervention for degenerative muscle disorders.

Bottom Left, The team of researchers include from left, Jennifer Klein, Associate Professor, Biology, Brandon Harris, Rachel Kragenbrink, Jacob Kailing, Alex Steil and Daniel Walgenbach.

Credits:

University Communications

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