Summer 2023 Konza LTER REU Program
The Konza LTER summer research experience for undergraduates (REU) program is a roughly a 10-week summer program geared to provide students with the opportunity to get into the field, do original research, and expand their networks. Students will be matched with a mentor.
Research projects would take place at the Konza Prairie Biological Station, located outside Manhattan, Kansas. Students receive a $6,600 stipend over the summer. From this amount, a student covers their own travel costs, housing, and living expenses.
Applicants must be US citizens. Students from underrepresented minority groups are strongly encouraged to apply. To apply, fill out the application here. Applicants will need to upload an unofficial transcript of your university coursework and a 1-page resume.
Application deadline is February 28, 2023. For questions, contact Jennifer Rhodes.
Available projects for summer 2023 include:
Movement ecology or habitat selection of grassland-dependent birds
We study why grassland birds are declining and how their movements contribute to those population dynamics. Major themes right now involve the role of woody plants on prairies in affect how animals use the landscape and regional-scale studies using Motus technology to study dispersal. In collaboration with members of the Boyle lab, the student will develop a project under one of these broad themes that could involve work at both Konza and the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve.
The K-State Plant Ecophysiology Lab (www.ksu.edu/ecophyslab) studies the physiological responses of grass and shrub species to environmental variation in tallgrass prairie. Lab research projects focus on the physiological and anatomical mechanisms of plants in response to changes in water availability, fire frequency, and grazing by bison. This REU project will measure changes in leaf-level physiology to investigate intra- and interspecific variation of grass responses to vapor pressure deficit. This project is an excellent opportunity to receive hands-on training using common plant ecophys equipment to measure gas exchange responses and plant water stress in the laboratory and the field. A large portion of the summer will be spent conducting field work and handling infrared gas analyzers, porometers, osmometers, and pressure chambers to measure changes in plant function to diurnal environmental variability in the field. No prior experience with this equipment is necessary, just an aptitude for using scientific equipment. At the end of the summer, you will be capable of measuring and interpreting plant stress responses, using environmental data collected from dataloggers, and will have collected data that that extends our framework of understanding for how grass species respond to climate variability in tallgrass prairie.
The Ratajczak lab is currently focused on how the reintroduction of bison alters the plant biodiversity and resilience of tallgrass prairie. We’re leading two projects that would make excellent platforms for REU research. 1) The bison rewilding and reversals experiment: woody encroachment is one of the largest conservation threats in grassland ecosystems. We’re three years into an experiment where we have reintroduced annual fires to areas that have faced heavy woody encroachment. These are combined with large exclosures that give us areas with and without bison, allowing us to measure whether bison help or hinder the reversal of woody encroachment. 2) are bison wallows hot spots of diversity and resilience: cattle have replaced bison throughout their native range. While there are some similarities between bison and cattle, one distinct difference is that bison create numerous wallows—bare depressions of earth that sometimes hold water and consistently form pockets of heterogeneity. Our lab is working to determine whether these wallows host unique plant and microbial communities, and whether during times of drought they are a hotspot of resilience, due their ability to collect water. Our lab is excited to work with REU students on either of these projects, or any work that includes fire, woody encroachment, grassland dynamics, or bison (including both bison behavior or bison impacts on tallgrass prairie).
Bacteria and fungi are diverse and abundant in soils and streams, and their integrated metabolic activity controls nutrient cycling through the ecosystem, thus soil fertility and water quality. Students in the Zeglin Lab study how and why changes in land management practices and precipitation patterns affect microbial growth, survival, and metabolism, which in turn impact soil nutrient retention and stream nutrient export. A Konza LTER REU project in summer 2023 will center on the relative influence of low historical fire frequency and bison grazing on the soil nitrogen cycle. This work will involve a combination of field and lab activities, with specifics to be defined in collaboration with the student to support individual research interests and career goals.