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Seven Graduate Students Immersed in Sea Grant Science

Sometimes scientific research involves getting dirty, getting wet, and getting credits. The University of Minnesota Sea Grant Program is spending roughly $417,000 to pay for the tuition, salary, and benefits of seven graduate students for two years. This graduate support comes in addition to a sum exceeding $600,000, which the program awarded in 2007 for the research projects the students are working on. The projects are designed to benefit Lake Superior and Minnesota's other aquatic resources.

Working at unorthodox jobs to support their academic goals and Sea Grant's investigations, the University of Minnesota graduate students are entering into their second year of inquiry on topics ranging from managing sea lampreys to discovering the sources of beach bacteria.

Jeremy Erickson, a master's degree candidate in water resources science, is one of the Sea Grant scholars. His work is contributing to a larger investigation into the ways streams flowing into Lake Superior reflect land use.

"The days often last 15 hours," Erickson said, "but I like being in the field and managing the challenges that come with the research." Those challenges include drought, deluges, biting insects, and what feels like perpetually sopping feet. "We sacrifice a lot of tennis shoes," he said. "The best part of the day is when you can take off your wet shoes and get dry feet for the first time."

Erickson is measuring stream metabolism, the rate at which organisms living in streams produce and consume oxygen. Yard maintenance, agriculture practices, and stormwater runoff from roads and parking lots can alter stream metabolism. The results of this study will help city planners, county zoning committees, resource managers, and citizens make decisions about land use with regard to retaining desirable stream characteristics, like temperatures that support brook trout.

"Jeremy is building our capacity for future work," said Lucinda Johnson, the project's principle investigator and associate director of the Center for Water and the Environment at the University's Natural Resources Research Institute in Duluth. "Professors managing a multi-faceted project like this seldom have the luxury of time to learn new techniques or to conduct extensive fieldwork. Without the energy and creativity of graduate students, we would still be on the steep side of this investigation rather than nearing its completion."

"Part of Sea Grant's function is to ensure that emerging scientists are poised to conduct top-notch aquatic research once they leave their graduate programs," said Jeff Gunderson, associate director of Minnesota Sea Grant. "Having been a recipient of a Sea Grant fellowship, I know how important it is to give young scientists opportunities to generate and test hypotheses. It's gratifying to see our former Sea Grant graduates applying their hard-won skills in academia, natural resource management, and other areas associated with coastal and aquatic science."

For more information about Minnesota Sea Grant and the research it conducts, visit www.seagrant.umn.edu or call (218) 726-8106.

Posted on October 20, 2008

This page last modified on April 22, 2009     © 1996 – 2020 Regents of the University of Minnesota     The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer.
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