Many students who wish to work in a scientific field dream of becoming involved in undergraduate research.
Each spring, hundreds gather at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point for the College of Natural Resources Undergraduate Student Research Symposium, an event where students present research projects on a variety of resource-related topics.
This year’s projects are wrapping up and presenters are refining their work as they prepare for the symposium, which will be held on April 10, in the Trainer Natural Resources building.
Students will display and explain their projects as an oral presentation, a poster hung in the main lobby, or both. Willing participants will have their work judged and those who score within the upper quartile will receive top honors.
Immense autonomy is given to researchers, and all appropriate projects are accepted for the event. Many students’ work extends over long periods of time in distant places and projects cover a wide range of topics, though the majority are related to wildlife and forestry.
Opportunities for research have defined the CNR for many years.
Victor Phillips, a former dean of the CNR, created the event because he saw a need to provide students with the opportunity to conduct and present research in a professional way. A student steering committee currently works with faculty and staff to organize the event. This year is expected to be one the largest in its history.
“The beauty here is that you’re students; you’re learning,” said Dr. Richard Hauer, a professor of forestry.
Hauer serves as a faculty coordinator for the symposium and believes it is a worthwhile experience. The symposium is a highlight of the university not only because it encourages research, but because afterward “students are a step ahead,” Hauer said.
“Implementing what you learn in class is where you build your skill set and your confidence,” he said.
As an undergraduate, Hauer was involved in a research project which he continues today, sometimes with the help of his own students. He believes faculty mentors are imperative to the research project and should be recognized.
“Most of the faculty were mentored at some point,” Hauer said. “To do it well, you have to invest a lot of time. They do this because they enjoy it.”
Rebecca Kelble is a senior majoring in wildlife ecology and biology. She has been involved in several research projects during her college career and is now chairperson of the steering committee.
Kelble said her involvement began when she approached an advisor as a freshman looking for ways to get research experience. She was put in touch with Hauer and was able to fill an opening on the steering committee.
“Every year we get more and more presentations, which is really exciting,” Kelble said. “It’s really cool for students to see what their peers are doing. It’s a great day of show and tell.”
Rob Knauber, a senior majoring in forest ecosystem restoration, plans to present research at this spring’s symposium. Knauber’s research is a seed bank analysis of the Moses Creek restoration area in Schmeeckle Reserve.
Knauber said his project is a continuation of work done by UWSP students in past years.
“We collected seeds and we’re germinating them in the greenhouse,” Knauber said. “We’re simulating spring conditions.”
The goal of the project is to evaluate effects of the restoration efforts on the landscape, which aims to restore the land to a wetland condition.
“It wasn’t a wetland a few years ago,” Knauber said. “We’re going to look at the species there and compare.”
Knauber is excited about the opportunity to be involved with research.