Rogers State University student Shelby Blair is the first Biology and Environmental Conservation major to be accepted to the National Science Foundation’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates program. The Wagoner native will spend 10 weeks this summer in Dauphin Island, Alabama.
“We are immensely proud of Shelby’s dedication to her field of study. She is setting an example for the high expectations we have for future RSU students seeking to conduct field research with the National Science Foundation,” Dr. Jerry Bowen, department head and professor for the department of biology, said.
Blair will conduct research in a sea lab on Brittle Stars, marine invertebrates with five forked and spiny arms that regenerate. Brittle stars occupy many marine habitats, often at great depths. Her main goal on Dauphin Island is to learn how to conduct proper research and receive hands on experience.
“I am grateful for this wonderful opportunity to do what I love – field research. This is a chance for me to gain valuable experience on a beautiful island with mentors whose sole focus is to aid in my education and experience,” Blair said. “Brittle Stars play an important role as seafloor ecosystem engineers. They reshape the seafloor sediment surface and influence the distribution of other seafloor species. Brittle Stars are fascinating. Typically, their populations are generally abundant and stable, but climate change, pollution, and habitat destruction threaten their population health. I want to do my part to ensure they survive and thrive.”
The National Science Foundation funds many research opportunities for undergraduate students through its REU Sites program. The REU program is designed to provide college students with experience in authentic scientific research. The students take ownership of their project and present the results at the end of the internship period.
An REU Site consists of a group approximately 10 undergraduates who work in the research programs of the host institution. Each student is associated with a specific research project, where they work closely with the faculty and other researchers. The program helps fund the experience by providing students with travel funds, housing and a monthly stipend.
Associate Professor Dr. Craig Zimmermann is thrilled that Blair was accepted to the prestigious opportunity.
“The program is highly competitive, so the award to Shelby is testament to her intelligence and aptitude. Shelby is a new student in our environmental conservation degree program, so the field experience she gains while on Dauphin Island will help her develop into a mature environmental scientist,” Zimmermann said.
Blair said the small class sizes and labs allow her to focus and ask questions. At RSU, accomplished faculty are attentive, engaging and committed to each student’s success.
“Being able to see and look at things under a microscope and look at the inside or just the structure is fascinating to me. At RSU there are a lot of resources to help me if I need it and professors are always willing to help,” Blair said.
RSU offers a bachelor’s degree in biology with an option in environmental conservation along with associate degrees in biological science or physical science with options in geology and chemistry. RSU students have access to a 100-acre, nature reserve at the Claremore campus that serves both research and recreation purposes and the RSU Scientific Research Station, a 260-acre undeveloped site about five miles southwest of Claremore.
For more information on these programs, visit www.rsu.edu/biology.