A Detailed Description of the Program:
Research Experience for Undergraduates at the Center for Great Lakes Studies
Funded by the Division Of Ocean Sciences (Geosciences Directorate)
National Science Foundation



       Introductory Components

       Shipboard Research Possibilities

       Interdisciplinary Opportunities

       Academic Support

       Social Activities

       Program Conclusion




Yellowstone Team in ActionAs environmental sciences steer towards ecosystem and global-scale studies, the hallmark of 21st century research scientists and teaching faculty must be a synoptic and interdisciplinary outlook.Skilled in their disciplines, today's scientists work increasingly in groups that collectively encompass the diverse needs of integrative process studies.Exposure to such teamwork early in their scientific careers can be of immense benefit to students.In this environment, the desire to both hone their specific skills and to broaden their perspective will produce a continuing stream of proficient and modern research colleagues.In the words of one of our 1997 REU Fellows, I was lucky in that I got to work together with Jeremy and put up a joint project.Since science is in real life frequently a collaborative effort, I think more students should be exposed to this sort of thing.



Team Strickler 2003This is in fact exactly what we now do.During the last seven years we have placed several (earlier) to most (recently) of our students with mentors working on collaborative projects, encouraging the students to choose topics complimentary to the projects and to each other's work.In 1998 we began a serious effort in this direction, placing 5 students in our Yellowstone Lake hydrothermal vents program and several others in aquaculture and estuaries teams. Based on exit evaluations and research vigor, we conclude that this approach does not detract from the REU experience, but rather enhances its value by facilitating stimulating interaction and strong peer/mentor support. Through this method we have greatly increased exposure of students to interdisciplinary, collaborative research opportunities while maintaining diversifying academic, social, and field exposure components.

Besides the experiential component engendered in Site activities, a major contributor to student success is found in networking. This aspect of education is addressed in our companion program, "Support for OCE REU Students To Attend Ocean Science Meetings." also recently approved for 3-year renewal. We believe that the Broader Impact of our greater work (that is, all OCE REU Sites and supporting programs) is summarized in the sentiment of an email response to follow-up queries received recently: 


       Without the REU program I would not be where I am today.I went to a small private college for a BS in physics and marine geophysics.Without the REU  REU Networking at Ocean Sciencesprogram I would probably be struggling to be accepted into a geophysics program, as many of my friends and fellow graduates are doing.Because of the REU program along with my presentation at a national meeting [this was a "meetings" fellow], I switched tracks onto something that I love, physical oceanography.I was also immediately accepted by two of the three graduate programs I applied to, both with full support.I choose to attend the University of Rhode Island, a long standing and prestigeous program.A friend of mine from Eckerd also applied here with similar classes and a slightly higher GPA. She was accepted without support amd was unable to attend.I am very confident that it was my REU experience that made the difference.URI was able to see exactly what I was capable of and that I would be an asset to the University.The REU program provides an invaluable experience to the researchers, problem solvers, and experts that will be so very needed in the future. It is my sincere hope that you reconize the untold potential and value of the REU program.



Programmatic Aspects:


Mentors: The availability of REU students to mentors is based upon our perceived success of the mentor’s laboratory and academic environment as it pertains to the REU experience.By these criteria, mentors who actually come in on a regular basis year-'round and who spend significant time with their students in the lab, field, and office are considered potentially superior. Two mentors who themselves are “too busy” for extensive direct interaction with students but who have vigorous laboratories with skilled Post-Doctoral investigators and senior graduate students working in highly viable research areas are also regulars. Each of these people has had long-standing, positively-reviewed REU activity and reliably take on summer students.Among our available top quality, reliable mentors are: 







Carmen Aguilar




J. Rudi Strickler

Animal Bioenergetics,

Behavior, Fluid Dynamics

Fred Binkowski


Fisheries Biology


J. Val Klump

(Institute Director)


Bruce Brown

Geology, Geochemistry


John Janssen

Fish Physiological Ecology

Russell Cuhel




Chuck Wimpee

Molecular Biology, Symbiosis

Timothy Ehlinger

Ecosystem Dynamics


Paul Roebber

Physical Oceanography

Newly Added Faculty/Staff as yet untested but interested in Mentorship

Erica Young

Phytoplankton Physiology


John Berges

Phytoplankton Physiology

Matt Rise (12/03)

Fish Genomics


Rebecca Klaper

(Nov 03)

Environmental Policy








Among these sufficient diversity is available to support the proposed interdisciplinary REU site with 9 students per year. Not all mentors are available all years (faculty often leave during the summer, for example, but many of our mentors are Ph.D. academic staff with vigorous research programs) and some work every year, but mentor burn-out is not significantly worse than that reported by other programs. Part of the reason is that we have seriously weeded out those faculty who are unsatisfactory as mentors. Based on exit reviews and first-hand observation, a name or two has been removed from action each year until the lean but real cadre of caring individuals reached maturity. Several adequate mentors, not listed, provide reserve capability, and several new hires pending at the main campus may join Ehlinger, Young, Wimpee, and Berges.


Introductory Components: Introduction to the program and mentors will occur during the first two weeks in early June. At that time, students will decide what research specialty they wish to pursue with their laboratory, develop an understanding of the study in which they will participate, and become familiar with necessary techniques.On the first day, we have an extended meeting in which we distribute a variety of materials pertaining to the Site, local activities (Summerfest and weekly ethnic festivals are very big social opportunities), campus facilities (library access, health center services provided, email accounts, etc.), and the "Curricula in Oceanography and Related Disciplines" (Marine Technology Society). In the afternoon, personnel from Environmental Health and Safety provide workshops on laboratory safety practices, emergency response, and radiation safety. One-day introductory cruises aboard our vessel, the R/V Neeskay, give exposure to a wide  UV Light Measurement Aboard Shipvariety of field sampling techniques and the joys of being at sea. Beginning in 2000, we matched the offshore day with a day of inshore exploration using a small Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) coupled with water and benthos sampling procedures. This aspect has taken on new significance since the beginning of the recent invasion of Lake Michigan by a new mussel species (Quagga Mussel; Dreissena bugensis); students gain an early sense of participation as they add a new number to the developing database of observations regarding the incursion.

       By the middle of the second week they will have had time to write a required one-page research proposal.This is used throughout the program to make sure students are staying on track with their project.Over the first two weeks seminars on the interdisciplinary nature of research as it applies to active programs will be given by mentors and graduate students at CGLS.This intensive period will be strongly supported by the PI's, our two full time Research Specialists, and individual laboratory staff within the specific programs.These people are all skilled bench scientists, well versed in the analytical techniques required for the ongoing studies.Academic and conceptual mentorship will be provided by the PI's and mentors through group and individual conference and assimilation of proposal content for the chosen program.



Oceanographic-Scale Research Experience (Extended Shipboard Activity): During the third or fourth week, recently-acquired skills may be put to the test on an oceanographic expedition to a seamount, the Mid-Lake Reef Complex (MLRC), aboard the US Environmental Protection Agency's vessel R/V Lake Guardian (pending competitive proposal success). If awarded, a broad variety of students (REU, local college students, and teachers from the NSF Teacher Aquanauts  The ROV on East Reef, MLRCprogram) Because the MLRC rises almost 2/3 of the way to the surface in deeper mid-Lake Michigan, it imposes major fluid dynamic, hydrographic, chemical, and ecological forces on mid-lake ecosystems. In addition, it is the focus of invasion of a new deepwater mussel impinging on lake trout spawning habitat, and therefore of practical as well as fundamental interdisciplinary interest.Only 6 hours steaming from Milwaukee, with the 20 bunks available all the students could get 5 days on the MLRC. Hydrographic (CTD), water column, epibenthic, and sediment sampling involve all disciplines and put most methods to the test, with several analytical procedures completed on board. These measurements, chosen for their sensitivity to instructive ecosystem variability, include chlorophyll (fluorescence), silicate (flow injection), light penetration (Secchi disk and submersible photometer), phytoplankton composition (microscopy; FlowCam particle imager), zooplankton composition (dissecting microscope), and benthic invertebrate abundance and distribution.In addition, gravity cores for sediment type and pore water chemistry (squeezer technique) have recently been added.Combined with real-time hydrographic information (temperature, dissolved oxygen, conductivity, pH, transmission, fluorescence) for parameters that vary systematically along the slope and onto the plateau of the seamount, students learn a great deal about interactions among physical, chemical, and biological parameters.The Chief Scientist (Cuhel), with 12 of these REU cruises included in his more than 1200 days at sea, provides strong supervision and interpretive support along with a Co-Chief Scientist (Janssen or Aguilar most likely).Students are encouraged to apply their own project concepts to cruise opportunities.

       The cruise provides much more than a structured shipboard research experience.Each participantchooses a specialty related to their perceived area of expertise and learns it to a functional level (component accumulation, set-up, and analysis execution).Initially each student performs their part, with near-real time integration of results during transit and/or multibeam mapping.Later, students rotate stations to learn each analysis and its application.Following some experience, each student gets one or two chances to be "Chief-Scientist-for-a-Station", fostering teamwork and leadership skills.To quote Noah Kopp (2001): "The option to be chief scientist for 1 station on the Laurentian was a very valuable experience." This event has always been highlighted as a major "life experience" in exit questionnaires (they are young yet).Due to the level of actual sampling, a request for actual use items (filters, solvents, single-use containers, cruise-specific student project expendables) is included in the budget.


Interdisciplinary Research Experience:Our new twist makes its entrance after the REU cruise.At this time, two or three groups of students will partition for the next phase.Depending upon the distribution of disciplinary and subdisciplinary interest, teams will prepare for participation in one of our larger programs.By way of example only we will use the just-finishing Life in Extreme Environments: Microbial Life In Freshwater Hydrothermal Vent Systems work (2001-2003; Aguilar, PI/PD; see also Prior Support) from NSF's LExEn panel. We assembled teams (3-5 students) containing (as possible) students interested in (1) analytical chemistry; (2) robotics or mechanical/electrical engineering; (3) geology/geophysics; (4) microbiology; and (5) geochemistry (see titles table). These students applied their talents to facets of the research program in an actively interdisciplinary atmosphere.PI's on site represented several institutions or agencies in a wide variety of interests, including our own Institution, Marquette University, the US National Park Service, the US Geological Survey, and Eastern Oceanics, Inc. 

       The operative concept here is: concurrently.Every day, each of these investigators or their skilled representatives were plying their trades in a cohesive effort to elucidate the role of geothermally-altered water on the chemistry, microbiology, and ecology of Yellowstone Lake.Opportunities for participation in water column and sediment sampling, vent sampling with an elaborately-appointed Remote Operated Vehicle, and on-site analytical work-up with state-of-the-art equipment were routine.Interaction with National Park Service personnel broadened the view of career opportunities and what they actually entail.Regular meetings of the scientific staff promoted awareness of the results of activities in each specialization and served to facilitate compatible sampling plans to maximize interaction.


Other Large Program Opportunities: Aside from the Yellowstone project, several other large-scale projects are currently funded and are suitable for team efforts such as those described above.A long-term study of biogeochemical cycling in smaller inland lakes (Cuhel, Aguilar, and Brown) also provides opportunities in virtually all disciplines.A continuing Coastal Monitoring programprovides frequent cruises and a strong base for individual projects within a coastal team effort.Recently CGLS has become involved in NOAA's "Ocean Exploration" program at the MLRC, and Janssen has numerous activities at that site relating to lake trout ecology. Wisconsin Sea Grant is gearing up some major work on the Quagga Mussel invasion. Altogether there are sufficient opportunities for multiple small team (2-3 students and 1-2 PIs) projects.


       There remain many areas in which individual, focused mentorship and research are most appropriate. Molecular biology, classical geology, physical geochemistry and other project areas remain as assets frequently enfolding individual REU students. These continue, and evaluations indicate no resentment among students involved in either team or individual pursuits to date.


Academic Support:REU students with Junior standing are particularly concerned about the next step in their careers.Due the variety of agencies housed within the newly-designated Great Lakes Wisconsin Aquatic Technology and Environmental Research Institute (WATER), REU’s are able to interact first-hand with professionals in many types of career options.These include a fisheries wing of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the Wisconsin Aquaculture Institute, the Southeast Wisconsin Regional Sea Grant Advisory Services office, and the Aquatic Biomedical Core Facility of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.The Great Lakes EPA vessel Lake Guardian berths at our dock. During the first few weeks we hold a workshop on career options, drawing on the varied backgrounds of CGLS scientists, graduate students, and affiliates.In addition we use current job advertisements from a wide variety of sources including B.S. to faculty openings in industry (rare, but they exist); local, state, and national government agencies, research, and teaching. A particularly well-received component is the Friday brown-bag lunch, including sessionswith the two graduate students and one staff scientist who were REU students at our site previously.We further stockannual reports and curriculum bulletins from many Oceanography graduate schools.This gives them the opportunity to discuss their future options with our professionals later in the summer. 


Social Environment: Besides an immersion research experience, social interaction and peer support are extremely important in the success of the summer internship.During the first few weeks, a great deal of academic activity is spiced with Brown Bag Lunches.These may include slide shows of the lighter side of oceanography, tales of oceanographic expeditions, and career progressions of current graduate students recruited from the REU program.At least two barbecues are held on weekends at the home of the PI’s. Most live together in the College of Nursing dorms (see Budget Justification), and comaraderie is encouraged through group participation in a variety of available events.Milwaukee is also one of the “Summer Festival Capitals of the US”, and REU students spontaneously tend to party together at such events.


Poster Presentation at Session EndProgram Conclusion: A serious component of the REU experience is the final summation, i.e., the synthesis of research results in oral (10 minute public presentation), poster (4x4' board concurrent with orals), and written (full paper) form.The final two weeks (9 and 10) of the program, at the home site, will be devoted to final analytical work and preparation for final reports.We usually provide two workshops on writing and presentation; one general concept discussion early in the session (week 3 or so) and one detailed interactive workshop during week 9 or the Monday of week 10.In 2002 we instituted a requirement of producing the final paper by the end of the session (or no last check), in addition to the required poster and oral presentations.This resulted in a little less work done but a much higher yield of final papers.Though not specifically remarked upon, my feeling is that this approach is preferred by the students, as it provides the sense of closure important to programs such as this.


Coordination with Other Programs: Our Site has always been active in exchange of information and student applicants with other OCE Sites.Few other locations need any additional applicants, but we stay in close communication near deadline time.Last year we were able to provide two minority applicants with successful placement at other sites.Dr. Aguilar (Hispanic) and I (white hippie) have both been vigorous mentors for Dr. Cuker’s CURMLO program and numerous other minority-serving programs and events locally and nationally.Our work as coordinators of the Ocean Sciences OCE REU Meeting program and Special Sessions on Undergraduate Research is strong evidence of our interest in inter-Site connections. With the added administrative capability afforded by two working PIs, we will continue to enhance interaction of our Site with other Sites and programs.


Evaluation and Follow-up: Several levels of evaluation and follow-up are undertaken. In real time, student progress and focus is monitored by the PIs. At the conclusion, an exit evaluation is provided as well and is show below, with examples of pertinent results. Between these two we are able to assess the competence of mentors, determine favorite and undesirable program elements, and minor operational details or needs. IF YOU HAVE BEEN IN EITHER OF OUR PROGRAMS, PLEASE DROP US AN EMAIL WITH YOUR CURRENT ACTIVITIES!!! mailto:cglsreu@uwm.edu


Summary: We have persistently tried to achieve a balance between extreme hands-on research education and integration of that research into the fabric of global living and personal responsibility. Our Site provides a good level of exposure to a diverse variety of interdisciplinary projects, while maintaining the personal atmosphere peculiar to relatively small (in personnel) institutions.We have been approved to continue offering these opportunities to 9 nationally-recruited, exceptionally talented undergraduate students for three more years (2004-2006).