RECCS Student Researchers 2019

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Vanessa Arnold

Project Title: Environmental Factors that Influence Nest Box Utilization by Black-Capped and Mountain Chickadees.

Mentors: Scott Taylor, Kathryn Grabenstein and Angela Hansen, INSTAAR/LTER Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department at CU.

Bio: Vanessa resides in Longmont, Colorado and has lived in Colorado for the past 12 years. She is originally from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. A few years ago, she began a hobby of collecting houseplants, repotting them and providing regular care. She found that she loved learning about plant species and getting her hands dirty. She took several career placement exams and all of their results yielded similar results: environmental science.

Currently, Vanessa is attending Front Range Community College and will be completing her associate’s degree in applied science with an emphasis in biology in December 2019. She has applied to CU Boulder for Fall 2019 and she is most interested in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

Vanessa is working in Scott Taylor’s Lab, specifically on the Boulder Chickadee Project. This lab is researching hybridization and possible speciation between Mountain Chickadees and Black-Capped Chickadees. Vanessa will be researching what factors cause a chickadee, whether Black-Capped or Mountain, to use the placed nesting boxes. The causes could include temperature, proximity to water, height location of the nest boxes and openness or arrangements of branches surrounding the nest boxes.

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Claire Atkins

Project Title: Trouble in the High °C’s?: The Influence of Thermally Stable Refugia on Rocky Mountain Pika Occupancy.

Mentors: Chris Ray and Ashley Whipple, INSTAAR/LTER/Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department at CU.

Bio: Though she was born in Philadelphia, Claire has also lived in many other parts of the country. Her scientific interests vary and are significantly influenced by natural curiosity as well as a wide range of personal experiences. She is excited about finding new ways to engage and communicate with the public about climate science, and she is also looking forward to spending lots of time in the mountains this summer.

Claire attended the Community College of Denver, where she got her first taste of independent research through a transformative field biology course at the Rio Mora National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico. This fall, she will be attending the University of Hawai’i at Manoa, where she will pursue an advanced degree in Marine Biology. Claire is currently working in collaboration with the Niwot Ridge LTER to assess environmental factors which affect the persistence and extirpation of Rocky Mountain pika populations.

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Alex Brunson

Project Title: Quantifying Burn Severity Through Laboratory Simulation: The Dirt on Wildfire.

Mentors: Ben Livneh and Carli Brucker, CIRES/Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering Department at CU

Bio: Alex is originally from Montana and has lived in Colorado for the past ten years. She has spent most of that time living near the base of Rocky Mountain National Park in Grand County, which exposed her to the vast geology of the Rocky Mountains. Alex was employed by the Town of Granby, where she worked as a Water Operator in water treatment and distribution. Both this job and her geographical surroundings prompted her to pursue higher education in the field of geology.

While working full time as a Water Operator, Alex completed her associate's degree through the online program at Front Range Community College. She will be attending the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado in Fall 2019 and pursuing a degree in Geological Engineering, focusing on Ground Water Engineering. She is currently working at CIRES with the Water and Climate Research Group in the Cache la Poudre (CLP) basin, in a post-fire landscape, where she will research increased runoff and sedimentation rates affected by the wildfire - which ultimately affects water quality and water supply systems. Though this research, she hopes to gain a better understanding of the adverse effects of post-fire environments and its effect on water quality and supply systems. She hopes this research will provide a foundation for exploring significant effects on water quality on a global scale.

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Alec Elder

Project Title: The Physiology of Desulfobacterium autotrophicum in Chemostats.

Mentors: Sebastian Kopf and Jesse Colangelo, CIRES/Department of Geological Sciences at CU 

Bio: Elder is a Colorado native, residing in the hills of Evergreen, Colorado. His favorite pastime is rock climbing and exploring nature. By working in natural disaster recovery efforts, he developed a respect for the forces of nature outside our control and for the efforts of those who try to mitigate their impact.

He currently attends Red Rocks Community College in Lakewood, Colorado and is studying biochemistry and genetics with an interest in microbiology. After he finishes his Associates in Chemistry, he plans to transfer to CU Boulder in Fall 2020. Currently, Elder is working with the Department of Geology in the University of Colorado Boulder to discover a potential new model organism for understanding the sulfur cycle.

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Nicole Fulgham-Scott

Project Title: Understanding Snowmelt Distribution: Analyzing Snow Depth, Melt Rate, and Snow Water Equivalent Across the Niwot Ridge Saddle Catchment.

Mentors: Kate Hale and Sabre Duren, INSTAAR and Geography Department at CU

Bio: Nicole’s interest in environmental science was inspired by growing up and exploring most of the United States. Nicole started in Oceanside, California, and currently lives in Boulder, Colorado. Some of her passions include dancing like no one is watching, reading adventurous stories and spending time with her ball python, Benjamin. Nicole is committed to the enrichment of communities through education, sustainability and encouragement.

Having completed an Associate of Science and an Environmental Education Certification at Front Range Community College in 2019, Nicole plans to further her education in environmental biology and genetics. While she considers compatible institutions, Nicole will be taking time to travel, learn and experience the ever-changing world around us.

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Nelson Heider-Kuhn

Project Title: When North Goes South: Investigation of Selected Geomagnetic Variations in Boulder, Colorado.

Mentors: Rick Saltus, Neesha Schnepf, and Manoj Nair, CIRES/NOAA/NCEI

Bio: Nelson is originally from Fredericksburg, Virginia. He currently lives in Lakewood, Colorado, on an acre farm where he grows food, herbs and flowers for his local community. Throughout Nelson’s life, he has tried to find ways to help lower income and marginalized communities. Through growing food, he is a part of the local sustainable food movement to help everyone have access to healthy and nutritious produce.

Currently, Nelson attends Front Range Community College in Westminster, Colorado. He has plans to attend the Colorado School of Mines, at which he plans to get degrees in Environmental and Geological Engineering with a concentration in soil and hydrological remediation. Through this, he plans to be on the forefront of helping with the transition to a more sustainable and regenerative way of life throughout the state of Colorado and the world. He is currently working at NOAA with the GeoMag team to study the effects of geomagnetic fields.

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Keely Lawrence

Project Title: Mapping an Active Debris Flow Site Using a Deep Convolutional Neural Network.

Mentors: Greg Tucker and Katy Barnhar, CIRES/Department of Geological Sciences at CU

Bio: Keely was born in Southern California, where she spent her childhood years before living in various places throughout Southern Appalachia. After completing a buckskinning apprenticeship outside of Asheville, North Carolina, she moved to beautiful Boulder, Colorado, at the end of 2017. In her free time, Keely enjoys learning primitive skills, reading, trail running, hiking, going to operas and exploring new cities and towns.

Keely is currently enrolled in Front Range Community College. In Fall 2019, she will be attending CU Boulder, where she will work towards her bachelor’s degree in Geology. Keely’s ultimate goal is a career in research as a professor, and plans to pursue a PhD related to natural hazards directly following her graduation.

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Hailee Nolan

Project Title: Modeling Downstream Changes: A Lagrangian Study of Sediments and Microbial Communities Along Powder River in Wyoming and Montana.

Mentors: Jennifer Underwood and John Moody, USGS and Center for Water, Earth Science and Technology

Bio: Jennifer Underwood and John Moody, USGS and Center for Water, Earth Science and Technology Bio: Hailee is a Colorado native from Fort Collins. She has also lived in Rye, Colorado and Colorado Springs, but she is currently living in her hometown again. She has a long-term love for the environment that started with an insect obsession at a young age. With this passion, she hopes to acquire as much knowledge as possible during her education experience and use that knowledge to give back to our planet and community. Her environmental interests show through in her hobbies as well such as camping, hiking with her dog Zylah and art forms like drawing, metalsmithing and pottery.

After entering college completely undecided and experiencing wonderful instructors with interest in some science classes, Hailee graduated from Front Range Community College in Larimer County with her Associate of Arts degree. She will be attending Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado, in the fall with a major in Geology and a minor in Ecosystem Science and Sustainability. She is currently working at the USGS for the summer and is still exploring a specific career path to optimize a positive impact on the environment.

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Austin Ortiz

Project Title: Effects of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation on Stratosphere-to-Troposphere Transport over the Western United States.

Mentors: Juliana Dias and John Albers, CIRES/NOAA/ESRL

Bio: Austin Ortiz was born and raised in Lakewood, Colorado. Originally pursuing a degree in accounting, he found his love of science on his journey. He completed a research internship before entering the RECCS program, which took him to the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Annual Meeting, as well as Paris, France. His passion is in space science and cosmology. However, he also found new excitement in atmospheric science. He spends a lot of his day studying, spending time with his family and playing with his puppy.

Austin is currently taking courses at Red Rocks Community College, where he has already received two Associates degrees in Business and Accounting. He is working hard to finish his math and science courses so he can pursue his degree in science at the University of Colorado Denver. In addition, he will be working on his Master’s degree in accounting. His goal is to get a PhD in planetary science and spend his life working for NASA, making new discoveries about the universe.

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Savanna Pierce

Project Title: Culturing and Sequencing of Novel Microorganisms Found in Boreal Mosses.

Mentors: Noah Fierer and Hannah Holland-Moritz, CIRES/ Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department at CU.

Bio: Born in Waco, Texas, Savanna moved and lived all over the South for most of her childhood. Around 2008, she settled permanently in Colorado and spent a large amount of time in both Northglenn and Denver. Currently, Savanna lives in Lafayette, Colorado, where she can be closer to CU Boulder and enjoy more of the outdoors. Although her childhood passion was in the sciences, her first career was in automotive technology. Savanna was dissatisfied about the trajectory of this field, so she decided to go back to school and pursue something she felt was relevant to her interests and passions. Her hobbies include reading, yoga, and music.

Savanna will graduate from the Community College of Denver in the summer of 2019 with an Associates of Science. During her time at the Community College of Denver, she worked as a research assistant in a genetics laboratory where she discovered her passion for genetics, especially the neurogenetics of neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s and untreated phenylketonuria. Savanna will transfer to CU Boulder in the fall to finish her undergraduate in molecular, cellular and developmental biology and neuroscience plus a minor in biochemistry. She then plans to pursue a PhD and/or an MD in neurogenetics. She wants to study the genetics relating to neurodegenerative diseases with a focus primarily on phenylketonuria. Savanna is currently working with the Fierer Lab culturing novel microorganisms found in Alaskan mosses that have yet to be successfully grown with the hopes that culturing this microorganism will allow it to be more accessible for future experimentation.

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Brandon Sandoval

Project Title: Flowering Time and Reproduction Between Parent and Hybrid Taxa of Subalpine Cinquefoils.

Mentors: Nancy Emery and Kelly Carscadden, INSTAAR/LTER//Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department at CU.

Bio: Originally from Los Angeles, Brandon now resides in Colorado. He enjoys kayaking on the California coast, mountaineering in the Rockies and any activity that allows him to experience the natural world. Brandon recently sold his share in local security company so that he could devote his time to his education. His passion for the natural sciences was heavily influenced by the closed-system experiments of the Biosphere-2 facility in Arizona.

This fall, Brandon will complete his Associate of Science degree at Front Range Community College and transfer to Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado, in pursuit of a degree in horticulture with a botany concentration. He intends on pursuing an advanced degree in ecology and evolutionary biology. Brandon’s ultimate goal is to bring his passion and enthusiasm to the scientific community by contributing to field research and publication.

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Katherine Thompson

Project Title: Analysis of Anthropogenic and Biogenic Aerosols in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

Mentors: Eleanor Browne, Jennifer Berry and Nathan Reed, CIRES, Department of Chemistry at CU Boulder

Bio:  Katherine Thompson was born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska. She drove to Colorado eight years ago for a new adventure and has been living and working in Colorado Springs ever since. She loves geology, her cats, hiking and visiting national parks.

Katherine discovered an interest in geology while taking classes at her community college and was hooked after her first introductory science course. She is currently attending Pikes Peak Community College in Colorado Springs and is finishing her Associates degree in geology. She will be attending CU Boulder this fall to pursue a bachelor’s degree in geology. During this time, she hopes to narrow her field of study and eventually attend grad school to pursue a master’s degree.

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Elizabeth (Izzy) Wallace

Project Title: A Study of Ambient Levels of Air Toxics near a Multi-Well Pad in a Residential Neighborhood.

Mentors: Monica Madronich and Gabrielle Petron, CIRES/NOAA/GMD

Bio: Elizabeth (Izzy) Wallace is originally from Lexington, Kentucky but currently lives in Littleton, Colorado. Prior to moving to Colorado, Izzy was a professional ballet dancer with The New York City Ballet and The Pennsylvania Ballet. After 9 years in the performing arts, Izzy chose to retire and pursue her other passion, environmental science.

Izzy attended Arapahoe Community College for the 2018-2019 school year and will attend University of Colorado Boulder starting in the fall of 2019. At CU Boulder, Izzy plans to complete a Bachelor's degree in Environmental Engineering. Following her undergraduate studies, Izzy intends to pursue a graduate degree in either hydrology or atmospheric science.

Izzy is currently working at NOAA with Monica Madronich and Gabrielle Petron studying BTEX emissions from oil and natural gas sites in Weld county.

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