The University of Mount Union’s Brumbaugh Scholars Program has given students the opportunity to work with a faculty mentor for hands-on research at the Huston-Brumbaugh Nature Center. Selected students were expected to commit at least eight weeks to their research and collaboration with their mentor. Their research was supported with an hourly pay and a stipend of up to $3,000.
This year, the projects included determining water quality, identifying soil types, and microplastic presence.
Chemistry major Emily Maroni ’23, of Youngstown, Ohio, researched the presence of microplastic, a topic she has expressed passion for after realizing how integral plastic is in society. Her research consisted of gathering soil samples throughout the Nature Center in the most traveled and deepest areas. She extracted one millimeter or larger plastic particles from the sample but hopes to develop a way to extract microscopic particles in the future.
The experience allowed her to identify problems and work to find solutions in collaboration with Dr. Amy McElhinney associate professor and chair of the Department of Biology. This hands-on learning opportunity allowed Maroni to get a head start on achieving her goals.
“Ultimately, my goal is to have a career researching more sustainable alternatives to plastic packaging and other household products,” Maroni said.
Jarod Hunter ’21, a biology major of Sebring, Ohio, was able to work with Dr. Lin Wu, professor of biology and assistant director of the Nature Center. Together they sampled micro and macro organisms to analyze if the ponds had a healthy community and good biodiversity. Hunter was interested in seeing if his research would lead to a solution in increasing the health of ponds. His research was a great chance to work in the field and lab with Wu. He learned skills and techniques from her that he will apply in his future career.
“I learn better by working hands-on,” Hunter said. “So I believe this research was very helpful to me and really supported my education in a way that traditional classroom teaching may not have done.”
Geology and environmental science double major Carson Ciesinski ’21, of Hinckley, Ohio, had a similar experience. He worked with Dr. Andrew Hutsky, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences, to determine the effects of agriculture on the environment. To test for pollutants, he sampled soil and water and conducted a soil macroinvertebrate survey to discover if the present organisms could tolerate the pollution. Ciesinski took the lead on this research and was given the freedom to plan and learn from his work that will benefit him and other students for years to come.
“I hope that it can provide a sturdy base or inspiration for future students to conduct research in geology, or any science for that matter,” Ciesinski said.
Students inspired by the research and interested in The Brumbaugh Scholars Program can reach out to Dr. Chris Stanton, director of the Huston-Brumbaugh Nature Center and professor of biology by visiting mountunion.edu/nature-center. More student projects will be funded through the Brumbaugh Scholars Program for Summer 2021 on a competitive basis. The research does not have to be scientific in nature, but should involve the Huston-Brumbaugh Nature Center in some way.