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NREM student funds undergraduate research with National Science Grant

Anna O’Hare received a National Science Foundation grant last summer to help support her research on native grasslands in Manhattan, Kansas. We caught up with the junior natural resource ecology management major from Oklahoma City to learn more about her project.

Anna O’Hare received a National Science Foundation grant last summer to help support her research on native grasslands in Manhattan, Kansas.

We caught up with the junior natural resource ecology management major from Oklahoma City to learn more about her project.

Tell us about your research project.

For this research project, I am looking at the restoration of native grasslands after the invasion of a non-native grass, Old World bluestem. My project took place over the summer of 2015 and into this year. The research was primarily conducted on the Konza Biological Station in Manhattan. Once a native tall grass prairie ecosystem, the plots I worked on had previously been invaded by 100 percent cover of Old World bluestem. The grass was eradicated temporarily by alternating spraying with chemicals and burning. On the bare plots, we tested for germination and plant survivorship of a mix of native forbs and grasses we planted after being treated with one of four different treatments: whole native soil, autoclaved sterile soil, non-inoculated soil and a control of non-inoculated and no seeds.

What kinds of things are you studying?

In this project I am primarily studying the belowground microbial processes in restoration success.

What has your research grant allowed you to do?

The research grant from the National Science Foundation not only funded the research and materials, but it also allowed me to live in Manhattan for 10 weeks last summer in order to work on the Konza Biological Station. I also was able to join in the Research Experience for Undergraduates program at Kansas State University, where I worked and learned alongside undergraduates from different areas of study.

Are you still doing research? Is it the same project?

Yes, I am continuing my research on the same project through a Wentz Research Grant, which has allowed me to expand the project beyond the 10 weeks this summer and continue to measure germination and plant survivorship.

What motivated you to participate in undergraduate research?

My interest in undergraduate research began when I started working in a graduate research lab in the NREM department. Through my experiences in the lab, I was given firsthand insight into the research process and became enamored with the research that was going on. When I was offered the opportunity to head my own project, I immediately knew it was something I wanted to pursue.

How do you think undergraduate research benefits students?

Undergraduate research benefits students by giving them the opportunity to lead a project. It gives students the opportunity to apply what they have learned in the classroom in a hands-on setting, cementing knowledge while exposing them to deeper learning. My research has challenged me to consider how to address a problem and come up with creative ways to plan my own experimental design. Additionally, my experience with undergraduate research has helped shaped my future career goals.

Is there anything else you would like to say about your project?

Although it has been frustrating at times to not receive the results I wanted in the field, working on my project has been one of the most rewarding experiences I have had in college. I have been challenged in ways that caused me to think outside of the box, and have learned more than I ever thought possible in the process.

The OSU College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources believes in the value of hands-on education and the importance of having a well-rounded student experience. Our award-winning faculty members are dedicated to developing students and passionate about adding value to the total educational experience.  With 16 majors and 62 study options, plus more than 60 student organizations, the college is committed to expanding minds and inspiring purpose. Learn more at casnr.okstate.edu.

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