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UAS Announces Awards for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities

Eligible projects are awarded up to $2500, and seven students received awards for 2018.

Juneau, Alaska

Date of Press Release: February 21, 2018

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 seven students received awards for 2018. A large portion of the funding for this year’s awards came from the University of Alaska President’s Priority Funds, as part of President Johnsen’s Strategic Investment in Research Support. "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.

Luke Holton was awarded $2,500 in support of his project, Cultural trauma and resiliency in colonial displacement of Tlingit place names. Holton notes, “This film project will document the history of European colonialization of Southeast Alaska by analyzing the system of place names. I intend to research the stories behind ten traditional Tlingit terrain features and compare the subsequent Anglo names assigned by explorers and the U.S. Board of Geographic Names. This is in hopes of increasing the importance of language revitalization programs and understanding the effect of language and place within cultural identity.” Holton’s faculty mentors are Dr. Dan Monteith and Dr. Glenn Wright.

UAS disc golf baskets - relocation for new course creation is the title of Morgan Johnson’s project; she was awarded $2,500 and explains, “My project would be relocating the existing disc golf baskets on the UAS campus to the woods behind John Pugh Hall (JPH) to build a functional 9 hole course, complete with a tee box to every relocated basket, trashcans, benches, signs and trails throughout the course. I would use mobile GIS to plot points of the baskets, tee boxes, trails and trashcans thus creating a map overview of the course that could be displayed at the beginning of the course. The final product would be a functioning disc golf course people could use featuring a map overview at the beginning of the course displaying hole information and layout.” Johnson’s faculty mentors are Dr. Brian Blitz and Dr. Sanjay Pyare.

The third URECA project to be funded is titled Growing up in care and is directed by Richard McGrail who writes, “Drug addiction rates have increased in Alaska since 2010, and as a result, more children have been entering foster care. Some will spend their entire childhoods living “in care”—either in group homes, in foster homes, or with relatives. This project aims to document their experiences through film. It will video record the oral histories of young adult residents of S.E. Alaska who grew up in foster care. It will ask them about the challenges they faced and how those challenges continue to affect their daily lives. It will also explore the relationships between drug abuse, domestic violence, and the legacy of colonialism in the region. The film will be shown at UAS and will be freely available online.” McGrail’s faculty mentor is Forest Wagner.

Trevor McLean was awarded $2,350 for his project High frequency pH oscillations in the benthic region of SE Alaska. He describes his project in this way, “My project analyzes deployments of a Seabird Sea pHOx CTD (Sea pHOx) in Auke Bay. To acquire data, the instrument needs to be deployed in the field. I’m requesting funds to purchase needed research equipment to deploy the Sea pHOx.” McLean’s faculty mentor is Dr. Mike Stekoll.

The salinity threshold of Market Squid embryos in Southeast Alaska proposed by Vasily Sekerak was the fifth project to be awarded from the President’s Priority funds and Vasily writes, “My research project is to predict geographical limits of market squid spawning by testing the salinity thresholds of their embryos. I will simulate sea conditions of the inner passage of southeast Alaska. This is a significant topic because market squid, who normally only range into Alaskan water temporarily under certain warm conditions, have been observed in increasing numbers in recent years. The questions I seek to answer are, where can they spawn and what does this mean for ocean and fisheries health? By collecting data on how squid embryos react to changes in their environment I will be able to contribute new information to Alaskan marine biology and fisheries.” Sekerak’s faculty mentor is Dr. Mike Navarro.

Breanna Walker was awarded $2,500 for her project, Investigation of water quality and heavy metals concentrations in streambed sediments in the vicinity of a proposed mining project, Glacier Creek, SE AK and Breanna explains, “This project will collect samples of streambed sediments in Glacier Creek, which is part of the Chilkat River Watershed, to obtain baseline heavy metal concentrations. A mining exploration project is underway in Glacier Creek Watershed, exploring a sulfide deposit, which if developed, would likely generate acid rock drainage (ARD). The nearby towns, Klukwan, a Tlingit Village, and Haines, Alaska, rely on the Chilkat River for the salmon fishery it supports, both commercial and subsistence. ARD and trace metals pose a high risk to salmon and water quality. It is critical to assess heavy metals before further mining activities occur. The data collected in this project will be used to assess the concentration of heavy metals in streambed sediments in Glacier Creek; it will also serve as a benchmark indicator for future water quality assessments.” Walker’s faculty mentor is Dr. Sonia Nagorski.

Dawn Wehde’s project, Insight into the increasing presence of market squid, Doryteuthis opalescens, in Southeast Alaska through statolith microstructure and physiology analysis was awarded $240. She states, “Market squid, Doryteuthis opalescens, have been observed continuously in Southeast Alaska since 2015. Prior, only transient populations were documented. To better understand their persistence, in this ongoing pilot study squid were collected from the 2017 Alaska Fisheries Science Center Ecosystem Monitoring and Assessment GOA benthic trawl survey on 5, and 10-11 July 2017 and opportunistically collected from Sitka Sound on 8 May 2017. Analysis of samples will include mantle length, gonadosomatic index, and statolith microstructure to estimate the sexual maturity, hatch time, age, and growth rate of the squid. In California, market squid tend to feed offshore and migrate inshore to reproduce. Because of this, we anticipate that the squid collected offshore will be younger and further from sexual maturity than those caught inshore at Sitka Sound. Our findings will aid in the understanding of the market squid population in Southeast Alaska.” Wehde’s faculty mentor is Dr. Mike Navarro.

Projects will be highlighted during the URECA Symposium, which occurs during National Undergraduate Research Week. On Wednesday, April 11 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. Paula J.S. Martin, Interim Dean of the UAS School of Arts and Sciences said, “Undergraduate research provides enormous benefits, to students, to faculty, and to expanding discovery. These young scholars gain experiences usually reserved for more senior graduate students, preparing them for post-graduate opportunities of all kinds. This year’s URECA projects range from truly creative creations, to multi-cultural social science studies, to valuable scientific explorations of natural resources. Impressive! I am looking forward to hearing more from these students, both at the April URECA Symposium and into the future.”

Press Release Contact

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