Students earn scholarships for geological research

Three UW-Whitewater students received scholarships this semester to conduct research in geological science.

Senior Kristie Hansen, junior Shane Wulf and sophomore Daryl Johnson were each awarded a Wisconsin Space Grant Consortium scholarship to conduct undergraduate research in the coming months.

Hansen

Hansen was awarded a grant in addition to the WSGC scholarship, bringing the grand total to $7,000 between the three students.

WSGC Institutional Rep. Rex Hanger said to be considered for the scholarships, each of the students had to submit a brief essay about their intended research projects and its relevance to the interests of NASA.

To make sure she was considered for the additional grant, Hansen said she submitted a more thorough document detailing her proposed procedure, timeline and budget for her research.

All three students will be honored for their achievements at the WSGC 2012 Wisconsin Space Conference hosted on the UW-Whitewater campus, August 16-17.

Each of the WSGC scholarship recipients will be conducting research in geology.

According to Hanger, none of the students began their undergraduate education as students of geology and few students actually begin their collegiate careers intending to study geology.

Hanger said this could be attributed to students being under-exposed to geology in high school.

“As opposed to biology or chemistry, geology is often only one subject in a course that may include several other disciplines of science,” Hanger said.

Hansen to conduct research on modern and ancient snails

Under the advisement of Hanger, Hansen said she would broaden her ongoing research of modern snails from the Mukwonago River to include comparisons to ancient snail fossils.

Although the WSGC usually awards funds to students conducting projects within the areas of physics and chemistry study, Hansen said she was able to secure her awards from the WSGC by tying her study to NASA’s interest in how species have survived mass extinctions and adapted to new environments.

“Even if I wasn’t getting the grant, I would probably be doing [the research] anyways,” Hansen said. “It’s an added bonus to get recognized [for] what I’m doing [as a project]

Johnson

worth funding.”

Hansen said she plans to travel to Wyoming on May 20 to collect fossils of “the snails the dinosaurs saw,” with, potentially, one more trip to follow sometime over the summer.

Hansen said the purpose of her research is to find what characteristics helped ancient snails survive extinction. Hansen will compare these characteristics to modern snails,which currently are in a population decline.

She said she hopes to be able to determine the adaptations possibly hindering the modern snail from thriving in its current environment.

Johnson, Wulf research mass extinction

Wulf

The scholarships Johnson and Wulf received will go toward research regarding oxygen levels near the end of the Permian Age, as recorded in the Hughes Creek Shale of Nebraska.

With Hanger as their adviser, Johnson and Wulf will be conducting separate studies in order to produce comparable data sets.

According to Hanger, the two are planning their first trip to Nebraska as early as April 26 and may take as many as three trips over the course of the summer and early fall.

Johnson, 20, said she was excited about being the youngest of the scholarship recipients to win this year’s WSGC scholarships.

“It’s absolutely possible for freshmen and sophomores to get these kinds of awards to do research,” Johnson said. “I did.”

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