Global Experience: Research Takes Students to Puerto Rico

Castleton University students Ashley Sanders and Kate West spent their February break presenting a poster of their research involving carbon degradation in various landcovers during different hydrological events at the 2019 ASLO Aquatic Sciences Meeting in Puerto Rico.

At the conference, Sanders and West, who are both junior Environmental Science majors, were able to interact with professionals and researchers from institutions around the world, as well as participate in a forum addressing the water crisis in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria in 2017.

Sanders and West worked as paid research assistants in Professor Dr. Andrew Vermilyea’s research lab throughout the summer, studying the role of sunlight in nutrient transformation in Vermont rivers and streams as part of a collaborative grant with University of Vermont, titled Basin Resilience to Extreme Events.

“Our area of research combines both field and lab work throughout the summer. We dedicate a few days during the summer to collect our stream samples from northern Vermont. We conduct all of our experiments and analysis right at Castleton, which gives us critical hands-on experience with various instruments and laboratory protocols,” Sanders said.

According to Dr. Vermilea, conducting research provides students with greater opportunities to learn, both in and out of the classroom.

“From the research itself, to traveling, to presenting their research to experts in their field, I think this has been an incredible experience for Kate and Ash. Castleton has allowed them to immerse themselves in their area of study, experience new places, and make connections for life beyond graduation,” he said.

Participating in the conference made West realize how fortunate she was to be able to conduct research as an undergraduate student.

“I didn’t realize how lucky I was to have an opportunity to conduct research as an undergrad. It wasn’t until we got to the conference and met other students in graduate programs that I realized it was fairly uncommon for undergrads to do such vigorous research,” West said. “In fact, a student in a master’s program we met was doing the same research we were. I feel as though this research gave me a step-up with experience, in general.”