Environmental Science

Meet some of our ES undergraduates

Eric Pasay '16, ESS

Eric is an Earth System Science major from Guilford, CT; his academic interests are focused on streams and environmental conservation. He intends to incorporate graduate-level classes into his senior year schedule to support his work towards an accelerated Master’s degree in Environmental Science and Policy. As an undergraduate, Eric has taken a wide array of science courses, his favorites being Hydrology, Landscape Ecology, Evolution, and Forest Ecology. He has particularly valued the emphasis of the faculty on the integration of real-life problems with course work. As an example, Eric cites a project undertaken as part of a Landscape Ecology course in which students mapped the distribution of male elephants in Tarangire National Park, Tanzania.  Their efforts culminated in the production of a report that was submitted to the Wildlife Conservation Society for use as a resource in the conservation and management of the park’s elephant population.

During the spring semester of his junior year Eric attended the School for Field Studies (SFS), Peru program, Biodiversity & Development in the Amazon. The focus of this program was to explore the different environmental and social issues of concern in the Andes-Amazon region. For a directed research project at SFS, he conducted an energy and waste assessment of the Villa Carmen Biological Station in the lowland tropical rainforest. The objective of his project was to suggest strategies to reduce energy consumption and increase recycling efficiency at the campus. This complemented Eric’s work-study job at Clark’s recycling center in which students collect, sort and dispose of Clark’s recyclable waste.

In the summer of 2015 Eric was selected to participate in an NSF funded Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) titled, “Evaluating the Effectiveness of Stream Restoration Projects Based on Natural Channel Design Concepts Using Process-Based Investigations.” The REU was hosted by Oklahoma State University and included a total of seven students from around the country. Eric’s research involved comparing methods for sampling deposited fine sediment (a major water pollutant) on streambeds in the Kiamichi River, Oklahoma. The program also introduced him to fish electroshocking gears and various stream assessment techniques, such as surveying.

Eric reports that Clark’s interdisciplinary courses and faculty were instrumental in pushing him to explore the different facets of Environmental Science. “It is through exploration,” he says, “that you begin to determine your interests and find your academic path.” He plans to pursue advanced graduate and professional work in environmental protection and conservation.

 

 

Nicholas Pagan ’15, ECB

As an undergraduate at Clark I am majoring in Environmental Science (Environmental and Conservation Biology) and have been working with the Foster/Baker lab since the beginning of my first year. During my first year I worked with stickleback, helping to produce and interpret various life history and allometry data. I became interested in ecosystem and landscape level ecology in freshwater streams, particularly in how the dynamic physical processes of streams shape their ecology. During 2012-13 I worked with the Mt. Grace Land Trust conducting macroinvertebrate surveys on a set of small streams with varying levels of anthropogenic disturbance in order to explore possible relationships between local land use and stream health. Having a clear understanding of the nature of these relationships is imperative to facilitating effective conservation measures.

The project that I am working on right now serves as a culmination of my prior research at Clark and will be continued into a thesis in the accelerated BA/MS program. My current project builds on the basic principles of stream bioassessment that I explored in previous research, but utilizes a sampling technique that is novel to Clark University’s biological research program. The Chironomid Pupal Exuvial Technique (CPET) differs from conventional benthic sampling because it focuses sampling on the discarded skins of chironomid pupae as opposed to the living larvae in the substrate of riffles. This allows for rapid assessment of a multitude of habitats because exuviae found in collection points such as weed beds and leeward lake shores represent communities from many different lake reaches. This allows for a more complete and efficient sampling than the conventional benthic technique.

Over the summer of 2014, under a Carlson Summer research fellowship, I partnered with Robert Nuzzo of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection to train in CPET sampling and identification methods. The planned project will use CPET to conduct biomonitoring on roughly 30 Massachusetts water bodies, including lakes that are affected by varied levels of human disturbance. This project aims to understand how human disturbance in Massachusetts’s streams and lakes affects chironomid community structure and also looks to establish a system of reference lakes for the DEP’s coming probabilistic lake survey. Sampling will occur May, July and September of 2015. This research partnership with Bob Nuzzo from the DEP potentially opens the door for future research collaborations between Clark Environmental Science students and State agencies such as the DEP.

 

Hannah Reich ’15, ECB

Hannah’s research interests all stem from her love for the outdoors and the preservation of the natural environment. As an extremely eager senior in high school, Hannah approached Dr. John Baker, wanting to begin research in conservation biology as soon as possible. Joining the Foster-Baker lab as a first year student, Hannah jumped right into field research, participating in multiple research projects: one monitoring and quantifying macroinvertebrate diversity in the Otter River system as an assessment of stream health and one in the East Branch of the Swift River (Petersham, MA).

Her major focus in 2012-13 arose from concern over the possible compromise of genetic diversity in otherwise healthy populations of the fresh water pearl mussel, a species that is globally threatened but appears to thrive in the relatively pristine East Branch of the Swift River. Supported by LEEP Pioneer and Maurine Milburn Fellowship awards in 2013, Hannah undertook a survey of local streams for the mussels, quantifying their abundance, age/size structure, distribution and genetic diversity and collected DNA samples to evaluate the degree of fragmentation and population differentiation throughout her study area. During the spring-summer of 2014 Hannah continued to focus on the assessment of stream health in the East Branch of the Swift River using macroinvertebrates populations as environmental indicators. Her summer 2014 stream research was supported by a SURE undergraduate research fellowship.

In the fall of 2013 Hannah enrolled in a semester-abroad program in Marine Resource Studies at the School for Field Studies, Turks and Caicos Islands where she participated in an ongoing benthic habitat assessment for the directed research portion of her program. Her research investigated frequencies of coral bleaching outbreaks of 16+ Caribbean corals by using Coral Health Charts (CoralWatch) to monitor corals at twelve permanent dive sites. This experience sparked a deep interest in the health and conservation coral reefs.

During the summer of 2014, Hannah also attended the Coral Reef Ecology course at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (BIOS), where she met Dr. Gretchen Goodbody-Gringley. Learning of Hannah’s intention to continue research involving coral reef health as a project for Clark’s accelerated degree program, Goodbody-Gringley invited Hannah to complete the field work portion of the project in her lab at BIOS. Consequently, Hannah will intern at BIOS for 10 weeks in 2015, collecting data for her MS project, “Assessing seasonal changes in Symbiodinium clade composition in juvenile Porites astreoides corals on shallow and mesophotic Bermudian reefs.” Hannah and her mentors (Drs. Goodbody Gringley and Deb Robertson) hope to publish her findings to the greater scientific community. This project is supported by a Geller ’77 Research Award, the PADI Foundation, and BIOS. Hannah’s study also marks the first research collaboration between Clark University and BIOS.

Gabriela Jijon Nemalceff , '14, ECB

"2014 is my last year as an undergraduate at Clark. I am majoring in Environmental Science and following the Conservation Biology track. For two semesters, I took directed study courses with Dr. John Baker. In these courses I had the chance to take an in-depth look at many topics on stream systems and riparian forests. The topics that I found the most interesting were the role of riparial forests on stream system health and stream-riparian fluxes.

This summer I will be working in Dr. Baker's lab and will be surveying macroinvertebrates to assess the effects of land-cover on macroinvertebrate distribution and abundance in the East Branch of the Swift River. I am planning to do the 5th year MS in Biology at Clark and to continue sampling macroinvertebrates for my master's thesis."

Before coming to Clark as a freshman, Gaby was a competitive swimmer at the international level for the Ecuadoran National Swim Team. After a brief hiatus from swimming she joined the Clark Varsity Swimming and Diving Team; during her tenure on the team she set individual records in a several swimming events.

Gaby's undergraduate research has been supported by a Global Scholars Program Stipend (2013), a LEEP Pioneer Award (2013), and a Maurine Milburn Fellowship Award (2013).

 

Suela John, B.A. '10, ES&P

Why did you choose ES&P as a major?

I chose this major because I am interested in the correlation between science and policy, and how these two fields can be used when solving relevant issues in society today. I am interested in ES&P because it allows me to get involved in various projects, such as my environmental justice internship, in which I have the opportunity to study vulnerable communities, and the various factors that affect these communities. For the future, I hope to go to law school for environmental science and public health, specifically focusing on environmental justice work.

Are you working on faculty-student research?

I am working on an academic internship this year with ES&P professor Tim Downs. We are using indoor environmental testing to learn more about the communities at risk in the Main South and Piedmont neighborhoods.

Have you participated in an internship this year?

Yes. The internship is focused on indoor environmental sampling and I am a research assistant. My main responsibilities are to help gather information on the various pollutants such as mold and particulate matter, and help with the research as well as sampling. The internship is educational, allowing me to work both independently and in a group setting. Most importantly I enjoy the responsibilities, and the opportunity to gain experience in the environmental field as an undergraduate.

 

Stephanie L. Oleksyk, B.A./M.A. '08, ES&P

Why did you choose ES&P as a major?

As an undergrad I chose ES&P because I am very interested in the natural sciences but was looking for a more flexible curriculum in which I could try a few sciences and apply what I learned to solving environmental problems. I have stayed in this program of study to finish up my Accelerated BA/Master’s Degree Program because I think that there are many different directions I can go in with a background in ES&P. I may seek a position doing ecological research, write remediation plans for an environmental consulting firm, or try to enter the field &f R&D for remediation techniques.

Are you working on faculty-student research?

No, though I am interested in helping with local lead testing in the Worcester community with ES&P professor Tim Downs.

What is your area of interest?

I am very interested in the design and application of remedial technologies, as well as risk characterization and ecological impact studies.

Have you participated in an internship this year?

Yes, I currently intern at Corporate Environmental Advisors of West Boylston. I am writing a release abatement measure plan (RAM) for a former liquid waste dump in Leicester, Mass. This paper will be submitted to DEP before a voluntary clean-up of the site. The RAM plan includes a site description, analysis of the local hydrology, a release history, description of the decision-making process, explanation of the remedial technique of choice, schedule for remediation, an assessment of policies that cover this action, as well as a monitoring plan.