We are entering the final week of the 2015 REU site. Despite all the rain, flooding, and hours of tabbing, better weather arrived and fieldwork ensued. The archeology students had several days in the field with many of them putting shovels into the ground for the first time. The ecology students finally had the chance to go out onto the boats to systematically sample fishes in the Mississippi and Illinois rivers. Throughout the weeks, the ecology and archeology students formed interdisciplinary teams and taught each other about their respective skills.

After their time in the field ended, the archeology students worked at the Illinois State Museum (ISM) Research and Collection Center with Dr. Terry Martin. They spent two weeks with the comparative skeletal collection, learning zooarcheological methods and generating datasets that they incorporated into their final projects. Students identified multiple species of mammals, birds, reptiles, and fishes from various archeological sites throughout the Lower Illinois River Valley. Fish species identified by the students are central to their summer research projects.

The students were very thankful to have the opportunity to use collections at the ISM, particularly given the possibilities of the Museum closing in a few months. Collections, like the comparative skeletal collection at the ISM, are essential for students and researchers investigating past environments of Illinois. Please help save the Illinois State Museum. Our students cannot do this type of research without these facilities.

With both the ecology and archeology students learning their respective disciplines, the students came back together during the final weeks comparing, analyzing, and testing the archeological and contemporary fish datasets. Each of the five groups formed a working hypothesis concerning changes in fish populations through time. With the guidance of the research mentors, Dr. Carol Colaninno and Dr. John Chick, their GAs, Autumn Beyer and Kelly Brown, and guest speaker Natalie Marioni, Education Manager at the National Great Rivers Research and Education Center, the students are pulling together their data and creating research posters.

If you are interested to see what our students accomplished this summer, we welcome you to the First Annual NSF REU Poster Session, Friday, August 7th 2015, at the National Great Rivers Research Center from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm. The students will present their original work to the public for the first time and expand upon the topic they chose to research over the past few weeks. The poster session is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be served! Please join us and encourage these students as they embark on a career of scientific inquiry and sharing that knowledge with the public.

Blog post by Autumn Beyer, Kelly Brown, and Carol Colaninno


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