Undergraduate Research

Opportunities for participation in original research projects are available for undergraduates on an individual basis. Research topics vary in scope, time and skill requirements. As with all research, it is expected that students will seek to present the results of their work at professional meetings and to participate in preparing their results for publication. Students interested in pursuing research opportunities should consult the Director of Undergraduate Studies or individual faculty members in their area of interest.

The UC Office of Undergraduate Research also has resources and opportunties available to support student research.

Recent student research projects

The following is only a partial list representing the many ways our students are involved in performing, presenting, and publishing cutting-edge research!

Nathan McCarthy and Bianca Neale, with Dr. Brett, are working on two paleoecology projects: an edrioasteroid encrusted hardground from the upper Ordovician Grant Lake Formation, and a rare mass occurrence of cyclocystoids. This project will result in a senior thesis for Nathan, a short, co-authored paper, and talk at an upcoming GSA meeting.

Tyler Scott, Nathan McCarthy, and Bianca Neale, working with Dr. Brett, performed documentation of the stratigraphic succession in the Clifton Court Hall excavation on UC campus. Measurements, samples and photographs of the excavation walls (already being covered in October, 2021) are being compiled to complete the first detailed reference section of the Miamitown, Bellevue and lower Corryville members (Grant Lake Formation) in their type region. These classic successions were named and crudely measured nearly 120 years ago (Nickles, 1902) based on small exposures that no longer exist. 

Jake Parsons (B.S. 2021), working with Dr. Dan Sturmer, performed digital elevation model analysis of landslides in the Carson Range in Nevada. He presented a poster on his work at the GSA Cordilleran Section meeting in May ‘21. He has just started a PhD in Geophysics at University of Houston.

Twelve undergraduate members of the Fall 2020 geophysics class, working with Drs. Sturmer and Lowell, performed a seismic mapping project using CHIRP data collected from 6 lakes in Maine. These were presented at the GSA NE section meeting in April 2021.

MacKenzie King worked with Tom Lowell and Aaron Diefendorf (2020-2021) to identify lakes for potential diatom biomarker calibration and paleoclimate reconstruction. Kenzie also analyzed chemical and temperature profiles from a suite of lakes in Maine and developed python code to standardize the data. Kenzie is now a MS student in Environmental Science at Georgetown.

Kyle Roberts worked with Drs. Lowell and Diefendorf (2020-2021) to develop a more green organic extraction method for biomarker analysis that eliminated chlorinated solvents while also minimizing extraction of interfering compounds to reduce downstream cleanup efforts. 

Sam Little, Samantha Niewierowski, and Joshua Bellamy worked with Dr. Brett (2020-2021) on Curation of the Stephen Felton Stratigraphic Collection of Cincinnatian fossils. A database of more than 200 localities (some of which no longer exist) was compiled and these collections were filed in stratigraphic order to form the core of a Cincinnatian stratigraphic collection, which will ultimately go to Paleontological Research Institution, Ithaca, NY. Students participated in all phases of this large curation project. A summary of the stratigraphic occurrences and the register of localities is being compiled for a new book on the Cincinnatian to be published through Cincinnati Museum Center. From this collection Sam Little, Alex Rasool, and Josh Sebastian examined more than 150 well-preserved, articulated brachiopods of the species Vinlandostrophia ponderosa from a single stratigraphic interval at Taylorsville for patterns of encrustation by epibionts. These studies show that the majority of V. ponderosa had some form of encrusters on their shells. Commonly this encrustation covered less than a third of the shell surface area and slightly favored the brachial valve. The results of this study will be presented at an upcoming meeting of GSA.

Anna Schartman, working with Drs. Lowell and Diefendorf (2017-2019), was instrumental in assisting with lab work, developing age-depth models (became an expert in the R package Bacon), and developing and following through with her own projects to analyze changes in Late Glacial to Holocene hydro climate in the Adirondacks region (NY). She wrote and published one paper and co-authored 4 papers related to this project:

Freimuth, E.J., Diefendorf, A.F., Lowell, T.V., Schartman, A., Landis, J.D., Stewart, A.K., and *Bates, B.R., 2021. Centennial-scale age offsets of plant wax n-alkanes in Adirondack lake sediments. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 400, 119-136. doi.org/10.1016/j.gca.2021.02.022

Corcoran, M.C., Diefendorf, A.F., Lowell, T.V., Freimuth, E.J., Schartman, A., Bates, B., Stewart, A.K., and Bird, B.W., 2020. Hydrogen isotopic composition (δ2H) of diatom-derived C20 highly branched isoprenoids from lake sediments track lake water δ2H. Organic Geochemistrydoi.org/10.1016/j.orggeochem.2020.104122

Schartman, A.K., Diefendorf, A.F., Lowell, T.V., Freimuth, E.J., Stewart, A.K., Landis, J.D., and Bates, B.R., 2020. Stable source of Holocene spring precipitation recorded in leaf wax hydrogen isotope-ratios from two New York lakes. Quaternary Science Reviews 240doi.org/10.1016/j.quascirev.2020.106357

Freimuth, E.J., Diefendorf, A.F., Lowell, T.V., Bates, B., Schartman, A. Bird, B.W., Landis, J.D., and Stewart, A.K., 2020. Contrasting sensitivity of lake sediment n-alkanoic acids and n-alkanes to basin-scale vegetation and regional-scale precipitation δ2H in the Adirondack Mountains, NY (USA). Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 268, 22-41. doi.org/10.1016/j.gca.2019.08.026

Kaitlin Sommer (B.S. 2017), working with Dr. Brooke Crowley, used isotope analysis to identify nesting grounds of migratory birds-of-prey. Kaitlin processed samples, obtained a student research grant to help fund the analyses, and presented initial results at a regional GSA meeting and the Goldschmidt Paris conference in 2017. These contributed to a peer-reviewed publication: 

Crowley, B.E., Bataille, C.P., Haak, B., Sommer, K.M., 2021. Identifying nesting grounds for migratory birds with dual isotope provenancing: A test with North American raptors. Ecosphere, in press.

Eric Baumann completed a senior thesis with advisor Brooke Crowley: The isotope ecology of extinct proboscideans from the Cincinnati region. Stable carbon, oxygen, and strontium isotopes values in molars were used to reconstruct the foraging and habitat preferences of mastodons and mammoths during the Late Pleistocene.  Results suggest that most individuals were regional residents, but one mastodon appears to have immigrated into the area, most likely from southern Appalachia.  Among the resident individuals, isotope data indicate mammoths foraged closer to the retreating ice sheet than mastodons.

Benjamin Ginter (B.S., 2015) worked with Dr. Dylan Ward on Examining lithologic and base level controls on the size and shape of Ordovician Kope Formation knickpoints in Ohio River tributaries using structure-from-motion photogrammetry, which was presented at the North-Central GSA meeting in May 2015.

Allison Young and Alex Reis, with Dr. Carl Brett: Sequence stratigraphy and biotic patterns of an unusual interval in the Upper Ordovician Lexington Formation, central Kentucky. This research was presented at the 2013 meeting of GSA. 

Megan Moore, with advisor Warren Huff: Correlating K-bentonites in the eastern United States: Implications for volcanic activity during the Silurian Period. The project involved ESEM and XRD analysis of a collection of Silurian K-bentonites to show how well they could be correlated and visualization of the variety of volcanogenic phenocrysts within the K-bentonites.