A Typical Day at the (Vernal) Pool

IMG_8447Truman students pursue everything that intrigues them, like Conor Gearin, who stepped outside the walls of the classroom for an internship experience in Maine that connected his interest in science with his passion for writing.

Conor Gearin, a senior at Truman State University, spent this past summer in a learning environment that elicited hands-on participation studying the water chemistry of ephemeral wetlands in Maine known as vernal pools. The internship was a natural extension of his chemistry class at Truman, which featured an environmental science lab. Gearin, who had studied dissolved oxygen, nitrogen, and phosphorus in a creek as part of his classwork, found he was well-prepared for the internship at the University of Maine-Orono.

DSCF8368Gearin notes that crucial wildlife habitat is not always a large river delta or grassland. “The vernal pools are small, but they have an importance disproportionate to their size,” says Gearin. These pools, which fill up with snowmelt in the spring and dry up by the fall, are critical to the life cycle of several amphibian species — including frogs and salamanders — which depend on the vernal pools for breeding.

Working with his research team, Gearin explored these important wildlife habitats taking water samples at vernal pools across an urban-rural gradient, sampling at urban sites in Bangor, Maine, and relatively remote sites in Hancock County. He also made use of his dual biology-English major by becoming a writer for the project’s blog, “Of Pools and People” (http://ofpoolsandpeople.weebly.com/blog).

DSCF8323DSCF8348Through his participation in the project, Gearin saw first-hand how important it is for researchers to build up a relationship with the public. “The faculty and graduate students at the University of Maine have spent years cooperating with residents of Maine who own the land containing vernal pools,” says Gearin. “They have done an excellent job of explaining the importance of vernal pools to landowners and creating practical but effective conservation strategies,” says Gearin.

Conor GearinHe also discovered that, when working the field, mosquitoes and blackflies can be vicious. “We wore mesh bug jackets and vinyl gloves in the field to protect ourselves,” says Gearin. “If we took these precautions, we could avoid most bites.”

Gearin’s internship was funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation’s Coupled Natural and Human Systems (NSF-CNH) program, and while these positions can be quite competitive, Gearin thinks they are worth pursuing. “You get to work outside studying wildlife or the environment, doing a small part to improve our understanding of the changing natural world,” says Gearin, who also enjoyed having a chance to work with other undergraduates, including a civil engineering major. “Completing an internship in a field outside your major can help broaden your experience and perspective on your career,” says Gearin.

Internships often nurture a student’s excitement for the field, and Gearin, who plans to pursue a career in science education and communication, hopes his internship experience will lead to more opportunities to do field work. “The research and science writing experience I gained have reaffirmed that I want to work on science questions that directly impact people and to help in communicating scientific discoveries to the public,” says Gearin.

>>More Learning Opportunities at Truman State University

Truman Ranked No. 2 Master’s University in the Nation

Truman State University continues to work its way closer to the top of yet another prestigious college ranking.

Truman has improved to take over the No. 2 spot in the Best Master’s University category of the 2014 Washington Monthly College Rankings. Additionally, Truman was the No. 1 public school on the list and had the lowest net price in the top five.

A fixture in the top 10, this marks the third straight year Truman has climbed in the rankings. Truman is the only Missouri school on the entire top 100 Master’s Universities list.

The Washington Monthly rankings are unique in the fact they are based primarily on civic engagement, research and social mobility. Schools receive high marks for contributing to society, enrolling low-income students, helping them graduate and keeping costs affordable.

“In addition to providing an excellent education, we pride ourselves on contributing to the greater good and producing graduates who will go on to make a difference in their communities,” University President Troy D. Paino said. “Truman rates highly on a number of lists, but we have never sacrificed our mission as an institution to chase rankings. Continually improving on this list proves we are doing things right.”

Washington Monthly is a bimonthly nonprofit magazine covering politics, government, culture and the media. The college guide and rankings appear in the magazine’s September/October issue. The complete 2014 rankings and feature stories can be found at washingtonmonthly.com/college-rankings.

Alumni Chapters Welcome New Students

Every summer Truman’s alumni chapters host send-offs for new first-year students. It’s their way of welcoming the students and their families into the Bulldog community!  Thanks to everyone that helped out and participated in this year’s send-offs! See photos on Facebook.
Student Send-Off