Since the beginning of the program in 2005, many students and mentors from local universities have joined together over the years at Pierce Cedar Creek to partake in various research work over the summer months. The research being done at the institute varies every year, typically narrowed down into four or five projects that are assigned to students.
This program specifically focuses on environmental issues and conservation of the area, also appealing to Grand Valley State University students who are interested in biology. It gives them the chance to learn about the grounds and do research, all while having fun and meeting new students, mentors and professors from many local universities.
“This is a great opportunity for students to get research experience,” said GVSU biology professor and research mentor Paul Keenlance. “The program does a good job to show students if they would want to go to grad school or not.”
The first group of students, including Erika Horne, Brendan Kosnik and Leslie Ventura, are working with their mentors Todd Aschenback and Pricilla Nyamai to study the impact of fire seasonality to help restore oak savanna ecosystems.
The second group of students, Megan Moma and Matthew Silverhart, are working with their mentor Jen Moore to study to growth of eastern massasauga rattlesnakes.
The third group of students, Brianna Hukill and Faith Kuzma, are working with their mentors Paul Keenlance and Jen Moore on habitat usage of eastern box turtles and Blanding’s turtles.
“(How students get involved with this program) varies over the years,” Keenlance said. “I announced it in my classes this year and other years students have came to me about it. The students have to send in an idea for the project to the institute and be accepted by them based on their research paper.”
Keenlance has been involved with this program for a few years now and has sent students down to Hastings three or four times. This year, he worked with his students on researching eastern box turtles.
“Raccoons dig up their nests, so we had to try and figure out where the turtles nests are and put cages over them to protect them,” Keenlance said, adding that the staff “monitors the nests to figure out how long it takes for the eggs to hatch.”
Many of the faculty members involved in this program find it surprising that more students don’t apply. They said the program is a good opportunity for free and fun research during the summer, including free lodging and food. Interested applicants should contact the biology department for more information.