Student Profile: Junior Environmental Conservation Biology Major Daiyanera Kelsey and Assistant Professor Lauren Kinsman-Costello, Ph.D.
What kind of research did you complete?
Kelsey: My research was starting to look at road salt in the Summit Street wetland. I wanted to know where the salt was going in the wetland. What I have been looking at is the specific conductivity which is the electric currents in the water. If there's electric currents in the water, that indicates there could be anthropogenic salt, which means humans are putting salt into the water.
Dr. Kinsman-Costello: Daiyanera's project is part of a larger group of projects in my lab looking at how wetland ecosystems process salt that comes from anthropogenic sources. Humans, especially in areas of the world where snow and ice are a factor, add a lot of salt to the environment. This is done mostly through road salt, but there's also salt, that comes out of the materials that we use to build roads and parking lots, that naturally wouldn't be there. For a long time, it was assumed that this salt would just dissolve in the water, wash away and not be harmful but there's a lot of recent evidence that salt seems to be accumulating and building up in soil and groundwater. This affects the organisms, the bugs, the plants and other amphibians that live there. For streams, wetlands and ponds that are supposed to be freshwater this means the water is getting salty and it can be harmful to those organisms.
How did you get involved with the SURE program?
Kelsey: The SURE program seemed like a natural fit for what I was already doing. It was the next step in my studies. The main thing that I wanted to do was process new data. There's this coding program, the R project for statistical computing, that Lauren showed me which creates graphs and processed all of our data and made it into an accurate representation.
Why did you choose your major? For professor, why did you choose to study this research?
Kelsey: I'm an environmental conservation major, so my focus is on the environment and I've always had this fascination with how the environment ticks. When I first got started in Lauren's lab, my interests seemed to align with Lauren's. It fell into place because I wasn't quite sure what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. But then I thought that aquatic stuff was very interesting and after being in the lab, it just got me more and more excited.
Dr. Kinsman-Costello: Daiyanera originally applied for and completed the Sophomore Research Experience. The Sophomore Research Experience is another Kent State program organized to get sophomores involved in research. Daiyanera's been supported by a lot of these great programs at Kent State for student research.
Salt is really an urban problem and prior to my coming to Kent State, I hadn't worked in very many urban aquatic ecosystems. The first time a colleague, Anne Jefferson in the geology department, sent over some water samples from a stream that she was studying I was really unprepared for the salt concentrations and I had to change the way I analyze them on my measuring equipment. That really opened my eyes to how pervasive salt is in all of the water where we live. It made me think about how salt might be affecting the processes I usually study, which has to do with how wetlands cleanup phosphorus and nitrogen--which can be pollutants when there is too much of them.
What are the benefits of having a mentor/mentee relationship between faculty and students?
Dr. Kinsman-Costello: Undergraduates are a really critical component of most of the research labs that I'm familiar with. The research is really enriched by their participation. I really value training students in the kinds of research practices and ethics that I think are important in society right now. I value the opportunity to kind of create the scientists and citizens I see in the world. That's the benefit that I get out of the mentor/mentee experience. From a practical standpoint, without undergraduate researchers, a lot of science wouldn't get done.
How has participating in the SURE program affected your overall experience here at Kent State?
Kelsey: It's affecting me because for a long time, I thought I'd go into molecular studies and it really helped change my perspective. It opened my eyes that there's a different world to science and on top of that, with aquatic ecology, I used to hate chemistry. Then I got involved in Professor Kinsman's lab and really enjoyed chemistry. It really changed the way I look at science and at my future.