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UAS Announces Awards for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities

eligible projects are awarded up to $2500, and ten students received awards

Date of Press Release: March 2, 2017

The Undergraduate REsearch & Creative Activities (URECA) program at the University of Alaska Southeast provides opportunities for students to engage in extra-curricular research and creative activities that complement and expand upon traditional classroom learning. Eligible projects are awarded up to $2500, and ten students received awards for 2017. Funding for this year’s awards came from several sources, including generous private donors via the University of Alaska Foundation. "We are quite pleased at the variety and quality of this years’ cohort of URECA scholars, who span a range of artistic, humanistic, and scientific fields and display the sort of creative thinking characteristic of UAS students," stated Dr. Brian Buma, chair of the UAS Research and Creative Activity Committee. 

The Icicle Seafoods fund provided financial support for three awards for marine science topics.  Esther Bower was awarded $1413 for her study “Determining the feasibility of a nearshore Pandalus model”, in which she will develop a model to study spot prawns, using dock shrimp as they are obtainable any time of year from the local docks at Auke Bay. Bower notes, “There is a lack of understanding about the biology in general and sexual differentiation in particular in this (Pandalus platyceros) commercially important protandric species.”  Bower’s faculty mentor is Dr. Sherry Tamone.

Cole Deal was awarded $1244 from the Icicle Seafoods fund for his study, “Ecdysteroid circulation in Chionoecetes bairdi and how laboratory holdings affect hormone expression”, a research project which will keep Tanner crabs under laboratory conditions and compare them against those with natural tidal cycle exposure. Deal explains, “The main goal of this project will be to determine whether there is a clear and present difference in ecdysteroid concentration between Tanner crab that have been exposed to lunar cycles; meaning they have tidal, temperature, depth and photoperiod influences, compared to lab setting Tanner crab, which will not have these external influences acting upon them.”  Dr. Sherry Tamone also serves as Deal’s faculty mentor.

The third project to benefit from the Icicle Seafoods fund was Emma Luck’s “Killer Whale ecotypes in the Juneau area.” Luck received $192 to collect photographs taken of killer whales between 2012 and 2016 and use them to identify the number of resident, transient, and offshore whales found in the area.  “It is my hope that this study will tell us more about the killer whales of Juneau, and perhaps aid in the management and conservation of this species,” said Luck. Dr. Heidi Pearson is Luck’s faculty mentor.

Rosie Ainza was awarded $2466 from the general URECA fund for her project “Familia de Inmigrantes:  Finding heritage on the road.”  She will be creating a poetry collection inspired by heritage and culture she experiences traveling in Southern California.  Ainza said, “I find joy in creative travel writing. The road can be a vibrant poetic muse. I often wonder about my birthplace and the places my family immigrated to during the 1960's.  I am Latina, yet I lack a connection with my Mexican heritage. My URECA project will highlight the shared hopes and fears of my own family and people I meet, particularly within this current political climate.” Associate professor of English Emily Wall is serving as Ainza’s faculty mentor.

Avery Stewart received $2400 from the general URECA fund for “The art of audio production:  Recording an original album.”  Faculty-mentored by Dr. Brian Buma, Stewart will professionally record and produce an original album featuring music he has written over the last two years.  Intended for distribution online and within the Juneau community, proceeds from the album will benefit the homeless shelter The Glory Hole. 

The Bald Eagle/Coastal Rainforest Ecology Fund provided $2465 to Axel Gillam for his project “Soundscape ecology of the Auke Lake ecosystem.”  Mentored by Dr. Heidi Pearson, Gillam is exploring this new field which links acoustics to the health and functioning of an ecosystem. Gillam will set up two recording sites around Auke Lake, one near the UAS campus and one on a wilder portion of the lake trail.  “By having two sites, I can compare the soundscapes and determine if anthropogenic sounds have an impact on the changing soundscape,” explained Gillam.

The Blue Waters Foundation/Undergraduate Research Fund provided support for Elizabeth Hawkins, who received $525 for her study, “White privilege: The effect of informer race on perceived legitimacy.”  Dr. Amanda Sesko is Hawkins’ faculty mentor for the research which will examine how the race of an informer of white privilege affects persuasiveness of a message.

Adriane Honerbrink, mentored by art faculty Jeremy Kane, received $2500 from the Blue Waters Foundation/Undergraduate Research Fund for “Salmon: Our connection.” Honerbrink will create a professionally welded, free-standing sculpture of a Coho Salmon for display on the grounds of the UAS Auke Lake campus. The piece will merge knowledge from both anatomical science and art. Honerbrink states the sculpture will be “a representation of the connections between our landscape and marine environment.”

Receiving $1390 from the Alaska Coastal Rainforest Center, Abigail Nathlich’s project “Investigations of dust and black carbon content in snow from the Juneau region” will look at snow samples collected during the summer of 2016 to quantify dust and black carbon concentrations, which can influence snowmelt rates. She will collect a new set of samples this spring, comparing black carbon and dust in snow gathered from lightly and densely populated areas of Juneau.  Abigail is mentored by Dr. Sonia Nagorski.

Elise Sorum-Birk’s language project “Mapping Tlingit place names:  An interactive approach to historic resources use” was awarded $1130 in combined funds from the UAS Student Engagement Fund and the Emma Marks endowed memorial for Alaska Native Languages Fund.  Mentored by Dr. Glenn Wright, her project will analyze Tlingit place names to “determine what information they convey about historic land ownership and resource use.” Sorum-Birk aims to create an interactive map to be used by teachers.

Projects will be highlighted during the URECA Symposium, which occurs during National Undergraduate Research Week.  On Wednesday, April 5 beginning at 2:00, students will deliver presentations at the UAS URECA Student Symposium on the Juneau campus, in the Glacier View Room in the Egan Classroom Wing.  All are welcome.  Dr. Karen Schmitt, dean of the UAS School of Arts and Sciences said, “This year’s group of URECA student grantees is bigger than ever and the quality of their proposals was outstanding! With the generous support of business and community donors, UAS was able to support this year’s exceptional number of URECA funding awards. I can’t wait to see the student presentations at the UAS URECA Symposium this spring.”

Additional Resources

Press Release Contact

Keni Campbell
University of Alaska Southeast
(907) 796-6509