Stone Lab Student Spotlight: Katie Steirwalt

Major: Environmental ScienceStierwalt              Specialization: Water Science     Graduation: Fall 2016

Ohio State’s Stone Laboratory          Summer 2014                                     Click Here for More Info on Stone Lab

When I came to Ohio State as a freshman, I thought I knew the direction I was taking in my life. I knew I wanted to attend medical school but I was unsure of what major to choose. After some thought about my interests, like my love for the outdoors, I decided on Environmental Science. I learned about Stone Laboratory through the School of Environment and Natural Resources and decided to apply for their Research Experience for Undergraduates Program. I grew up near Lake Erie so I was very intrigued in studying the harmful algal blooms that have recently been plaguing the lake.

During my experience at Stone Lab, I stayed on Gibraltar Island, a small 6-acre island very close to South Bass Island in Lake Erie, with over 30 like-minded students. For five weeks, I alternated days between taking Ecology (EEOB 3410) and conducting research on harmful algal blooms with Dr. Justin Chaffin and Dr. Doug Kane. I wish every class I took were as hands on as my class at Stone Lab. Almost every day we got to go outside or go on an educational field trip. On my research days, I got an amazing firsthand experience at going out into the field to collect water samples, rain or shine. I was able to do a lot of work in the water quality lab using state of the art equipment. I learned that one of the most important parts of completing research is learning about research that has already been conducted. This involved lots of reading but I enjoyed every moment of it. Through my experience at Stone Lab, I learned more about myself than any other experience. I discovered that medical school wasn’t the best fit for me but that my true passion lies in studying and researching the environment. I am so grateful that my studies and experiences in SENR have helped guide me in my educational experience as well as provide a direction for my future career goals.

Internship Spotlight: Ben Rubinoff

Major: Environmental Science, Honors Program                                                   Graduation: May 2016Ben1

Internship: Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) in the Benthic Ecology Laboratory, Summer 2014

While I may love Ohio State, my heart is on the coast. While I grew up in Cincinnati, family vacations and trips to the Newport Aquarium resulted in a passion for marine life. I have carried this passion with me since when I was first able to say the word “water”. As a result, I have firm career goals that involve marine research. Although Ohio State doesn’t offer a marine biology major, I have been able to get involved in cutting-edge aquatic research, getting my feet wet in science since my freshman year. While I am thankful for my education in Columbus, I am especially grateful for an internship I participated in. In the summer of 2014, I interned for the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) in the Benthic Ecology Laboratory under the direction of Dr. Richard Osman and Dean Janiak.

Ben2My project investigated how infaunal invertebrate communities vary by habitat type in the Rhode River, a sub-estuary of the Chesapeake Bay. I was in charge of creating a biodiversity sampling protocol of soft-sediment communities for a global Smithsonian-funded research initiative called MarineGEO. I applied a habitat-based sampling design, randomly sampling habitats based on proportions. Dean and I performed a “bioblitz” style approach, taking 153 samples over the course of 3 days. Over the rest of the summer, we sorted all 153 samples and I identified more than 18,000 individuals to species level, encompassing roughly 1/3 of the samples. After identifying a subse
t of the samples, I used PRIMER, SigmaPlot, and Excel to statistically analyze differences in community composition.

Ben3This internship allowed me to develop laboratory skills such as microscopy, taxonomic identification, and sample preservation/processing. Even though most of my time (45 hours a week) was spent looking under a microscope, I was oddly comforted and happy with this tediousness. As a result, this experience confirmed my love for research and marine science. The project also increased my proficiency in the use of various statistical analysis software and GIS programs (Google Earth). Overall, my internship at SERC gave me an opportunity to see a research project through from start to finish, allowing me to present at conferences and hopefully publish my research. My work for the project is ongoing—I am currently working on writing/publishing. Stay tuned for more information on my summer research!

Study Abroad Spotlight: Paige Hagley

Major: Environmental Science, HonorsLava cave exploration
Graduation: May 2015

SENR Study Abroad Program:                  Iceland, August 1st-14th                                         Click Here For More Information

I had never been homesick for anywhere other than the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains until I traveled to Iceland in the summer of 2013. After finishing my second, and most mentally challenging, year as an environmental science student, I embarked on a study abroad to Iceland with the School of Environment and Natural Resources. Not only was I captivated by the volcanoes, glaciers, and black sand beaches, but I also began to develop an understanding and appreciation for the way other cultures manage and protect the environment. We toured farms, geothermal power plants, hydroelectricity generation plants, museums, and hiked among geologically and historically important wilderness areas. These places gave me new perspective on how important positive mindsets are when working to change the way we treat naHike along Hellarture. In fact, when deciding to specialize in environmental communication in my undergraduate career, I was reminded of the Soil Conservation Service of Iceland’s difficulty in working with hostile farmers and citizens. I decided I wanted to work among scientists to help communicate information necessary to make informed decisions affecting the environment.

I consider that trip to be the best thing I’ve ever done. Not only were the sights breath-taking (including soaking in hot tubs and watching the sunset), but it completely changed the way I viewed my future. Before the trip, I didn’t think there were many opportunities for me internationally, besides the occasional vacation. But the trip inspired me to apply to the University of Iceland’s graduate program. The experiences and friendships I gained from the trip will last me a lifetime. I am counting down the days until I can return, and in the meantime I am stuck in frigid Ohio watching nature videos and reading news articles about that wonderful island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.Surround by two volcanoes after our mountain hike

Leadership Spotlight: Alissa Finke

High Sierra-150-Exposure-M

Major: Environmental Science Specialization: Ecosystem Restoration Graduation: May 2016

Program: Leadership, Backpacking   The High Sierras OSU Outdoor Adventure Center (OAC), July 2014

What is STEP? What is the OAC?

I wanted to get away from everything and get out of my comfort zone.  In order to, I decided to go backpacking for two and a half weeks and walked 129 miles in the wilderness of the Sequoia and Kings Canon National Park. I was given this opportunity through funding from the OSU STEP program. Myself and seven other students left Columbus and headed for California. We were all strangers and were being lead by two men, who worked for the Outdoor Adventure Center at OSU – Tyler and Blake. We had no idea what lay ahead of us. We were all going to have to work together as we learned about the kind of leaders we were and how to take the lessons back to our lives at OSU. We took only what we could carry on our backs. There are no bathrooms, running water, or technology. There was only you, your company, the trail, and the endless skylines. We all had a lot to adjust to: changes in elevation of 7,000ft to 12,000ft, 9-13 miles a day with 35+lbs packs. We lived simply. We were organized, and we trusted each other with our lives.

High Sierra-513-Exposure-MOnce Tyler and Blake had given us the skills we needed to survive in the backcountry, they took a step back and were no longer our leaders. Instead, they became our equals. We then had one of the students be leader of the day. This might sound pretty simple, but you wouldn’t be more wrong. As leader of the day, you had charge of everything: the route we took, what we were eating, and when. The leader decided the number of water breaks, and everyone’s safety. We all had different leadership styles that emerged, and we each found our strengths and weaknesses. There were great accomplishments where we were able to go from 8,000ft to 12,000ft and back down to 9,000ft in one 13-mile day. When we reached the top of this pass, the view was simply like nothing I could ever describe with justice. We were on the edge of a rift between two mountainsides. A storm brewing to the east and a sun set in the west. It was something out of a dream.

High Sierra-578-Exposure-MThen there were the moments where I would collapse from exhaustion, my feet bleeding, my eyes running with tears. I felt defeated. I wanted to just scream, but I had no strength. Then my team tells me it is time to move on. I take a deep breath and make myself stand. Then I start to take one step after the other. We all had moments like this. Each and every one of us had a time where we wanted to give up. Yet every single person made the decision to get back up and keep walking. We experienced these extreme highs and lows together, giving us a bond so genuine.

I came away a stronger and more confident leader. I know I will constantly be growing, but after this experience I know I am ready for anything.

Internship Spotlight: Alissa Finke

Major: Environmental Science  Specialization: Ecosystem Restoration Graduation: May 2016

Internship: Conservation Department Intern at The Holden Arboretum, May 5th- August 22nd 2014                    Click Here to learn more

I started applying for internships in January 2014 and I thought I would never be hired. Thankfully I stumbled upon the Holden’s website and their advertisement for interns. I was so excited! This position was everything I was looking for. I would work outside everyday and learn about conservation. My typical day consisted of numerous tasks, primarily removing invasive species. We managed for about ten invasive species while I was there over the summer. We hand picked, cut down, or sprayed the invasive depending on how each plant was managed. Our primary target was hand picking and carrying out Garlic Mustard and spraying the seedlings with a biodegradable herbicide.

I also participated in several wetland delineation’s, trail mapping, and restoration maintenance within The Holden Arboretum’s 3,000 acres of natural area. This was a great learning experience because I was able to learn about and use the Ohio Rapid Assessment Method for Wetlands (ORAM), and exspose myself to different types of wetlands in Ohio. I most enjoyed my direct involvement with developing a Rapid Upland Forest Assessment and my work with invasive worm monitoring. I gained skills regarding basic GPS and GIS technology and plant identification. I loved it! (Welcome to my office!)