About Diana Dalbotten

Diana Dalbotten is the Director of Diversity and Broader Impacts for the National Center for Earth-surface Dynamics and the St. Anthony Falls Laboratory, University of Minnesota; and for the Geoscience Alliance, a national alliance for broadening participation of Native Americans in the Geosciences.

After much preparation we finally took our first


After much preparation we finally took our first core sample yesterday. It took up to 4 people to get core samples through the thick and hard sediment of Gete-niso-bajishkaa-Zaaga’igan (the ancient triangular lake). It was exciting and fascinating to see the samples change from a rich dark reddish brown to a glistening grey from the anaerobic environments. The anticipation for information contained within the samples still lingers.

Today was a more relaxing day after two consecutive days in the field. The REU students were greeted with a problem solving challenge early in the morning by Christa. Later in the afternoon we received lessons on things that can be found in site descriptions by Emi.  A small group of us went to the community center right after to relieve some stress and workout our bodies after using our minds all day. 

Adrienne Warmsley

ImageThe first core we took was an exploratory one.



Today was a great day in the field. It was the first day of coring for the interns and they did a fantastic job. Everyone was doing something, holding the corer, removing plant material, holding something else. I think they all get the idea now and can operate as a well-oiled machine when we core again next week. A few things to think about: don’t lose the Vice Grips Phil, make sure not to wear waders again, and bring more water. All in all, I think we all had a great day out there and I think we’ll all be ready to go again next week. 



Phil WoodsImage


Adrienne, Phil, and Tom prepare to core our first site.


Set off in a faraway land where no one can hear your screams, our heroes set off to understand the southern end of our triangular bog. Today’s goal: map the southern end of the bog and flag it for tomorrow’s core sampling journey as markers. This was done by two teams set off in opposite directions. Moving south to north, we collected numerous plant specimens for pressing and took note of core sample sites. After stopping on a tree island for lunch, we journeyed deeper into the abyss of the cattails looking for soft sediment and less trees. The other team also mapped a cattail quadrilateral on the SE side of the bog before crawling back to the road. To see what our team does tomorrow, tune in next time.


Zachary KisfalusiImage

Today began with a lesson at the Ojibwe Language Camp. Groups were set and sent to stations in which language teachers and elders provided lessons in basic conversational skills, animal names and counting in Ojibwe to all the participants. Overnight campers attended multiple days of this tent while our group arrived just for today’s lessons. The camp was accompanied by a lunch and several different dances to the beat of a drum circle all resided along the beach of Big Lake.
Digital Camera  Digital Camera
Digital Camera
The following part of the day consisted of a trip to the overlook at Carlton point and a trip to Wisconsin Point on Lake Superior. At Wisconsin point we visited an uprooted Chippewa Tribe cemetery (uprooted meaning the bodies of those buried here were moved to a mass grave closer to the current day reservation due to economic interests in the land in which the cemetery stood). This trip ended with a walk among the driftwood on the beaches of Lake Superior, a plunge into the water by brave souls, and a makeshift fire on the beach.
Alec Keiper

National Bison Range

I was able to take some time to go to the National Bison Range  6-11-13 with Tony Berthelot, Kim Davis, and me. This was part of the orientation week to show some of the land mark that are on the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes reservation in northwestern Montana.  Image

Thursday June 13, 2013- Day four of NCED REU

The day started with a 9AM meeting with Rick Gitar at the Fond du Lac Resource Management center. Rick gave his first lecture to students on plant pressing techniques. The key to taking a good sample is taking good notes and those notes should include the location, types of plants around the area where you took the sample, the soil type, and if possible the genus and family. Common items necessary to pressing the plants includes an array of easy to find materials such as zip lock bags, blotter (thick construction type) paper, cardboard, a China marker to label the newspaper with, and label tags. After Rick told us some different ways to prepare the plant samples we moved on to a group discussion about using the University of Minnesota online library and Christa cleared up some questions we had. Afterwards, we adjourned for lunch and moved back to the Forestry Center to have a videoconference with the other intern team out in Montana, Team SPAW. During the meeting all the interns and mentors introduced themselves and each team discussed their first weeks at the internship. Afterwards, we discussed chapters one and two in “The Ecology of Patterned Boreal Peatlands of Northern Minnesota: A Community Profile” by Paul H. Glaser and then we adjourned for the day.

Wayne Greensky


Rick Gitar, a botanist from Fond du Lac Resource Management, teaching the interns about pressing plants for a Herbarium.

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled “– Robert Frost

The research team was up bright and early to explore some bogs and take core samples.   We stuck together and decided to take a break half way to the site. After lunch, excited to get back out into the field and visit our site, a communication breakdown occurred (naturally in a large group) and half of the group ended up going in separate directions.

Although, we went in separate directions we received valuable information about how various this particular bog is.  Birds from robins to cranes were spotted and heard. Plants from ancient Lycopodium to Black Spruce grew dense and rich within the bog. Even some frogs were spotted leaping along. Today tested our physical and mental abilities to work in a group under precarious conditions. We eventually found each other again and reported things each of us observed.

Adrienne Warmsley


Wayne Greensky and Zach Kisfalusi getting their walking sticks before we headed out to the site.

Walking Sticks!

The first two days of the NCED REU on Sustainable Land and Water Resources up in Cloquet, MN and the Fond du Lac Reservation were terrific. The REU interns this year are Adrienne Warmsley, Alec Keiper, Zack Kisfalusi, and Wayne Greensky. The mentors are Christa Drake, Phil Woods, and Amy Myrbo. We’ve already learned quite a bit about one another like, that Zach likes to eat his sweet corn raw, and that Adrienne dreams about being a comedian. We’ve talked about a little of this, and a little of that over the last two days.

The focus of our research this summer will be trying to better understand the history of the wetland-fen Triangular Feature (TF) and how it fits into the larger picture of the Fond Du Lac Reservation watershed. The interns are excited to get into the field tomorrow, we plan to do some site characterization, make some observations about vegetation, and take a core sample or two to get a look at the sediments. Exciting! We have awesome new walking sticks for safety, ironwood courtesy of Cord Timo.

Phil Woods – Diatom Mentor

Phil Woods making a walking stick out of Ironwood.

Phil Woods making a walking stick out of Ironwood.

Now Accepting: REU 2013 applications

ImageApplications for the 2013 Research Experience for Undergraduates on Sustainable Land and Water Resources are now being accepted. To learn about the REU, visit our about page, and read intern blog posts from last year. Information about the application procedure can be found here. We hope to hear from you soon. Applications are due February 19th, 2013.

EDIT 1/14/2013: Program date runs from June 10 – August 16.

Week 7 Photos

From Ryan Gustafson, Team SPAW:

14 inch cutthroat trout that I caught at Courville Lake. Photo taken 7/23/2012.

The view after coming over the saddle to Courville Lake in the Mission Mountain Wilderness. Photo taken 7/23/2012.


From Edward Lo, Team STREAM:

Nicholas Hawthorne checking on his project to make sure that everything is running smoothly. Photo taken 7/23/2012.

This photograph shows one of Nick’s streambeds after it has been analyzed by a point gauge, which can be identified as a long rod with a pointed tip at the top of the photograph. Photo taken 7/23/2012.

Here is one of my stem patches with the area of deposition behind it. If you look closely, there is a bee for scale. Photo taken 7/29/2012.


Team STREAM meets with NCED Director and Professor Efi Foufoula-Georgiou

By Jeffrey Kwang:

On Thursday, Team Stream had a pizza lunch meeting to share our research with Professor Efi Foufoula-Georgiou, the Director of the National Center for Earth-surface Dynamics. Personally, I have read a few papers that she had co-authored and used a program her research group was responsible for, GeoNet. Arguably, she is the top environmental modeler in the world. Honestly, I have only been introduced to mathematical modeling in the past few years of my life; I felt very intimidated. I was also excited for the Mac n’ Cheese pizza from Mesa Pizza, but I digress. When she entered our small, cramped meeting room, we introduced ourselves. We all came from different backgrounds and she was interested in all of us and objectively asked meaningful questions. During my introduction, I mentioned that I had read a paper she coauthored. I was pleased that one of the first things she mentioned was that the research took a whole year to develop. Also, her explanation was very easy to understand, and at any time I could ask a question. Even if the questions were simple, I felt very comfortable asking them. Some professors can be intimidating and sometimes scary. Professor Foufoula not only answered questions, but welcomed them. According to Diana, you just have to get in line, she’s a very busy person and many people want to ask her their own questions. Professor Foufoula told us that she is willing to offer all of her time to help younger people in the field of science. I think from the hour and a half she met with us, that her advice really helped us realize what this summer program was all about.

After eating more pizza than I should have, we all introduced our research projects. She was very impressed and offered great advice. We have really been caught up in each of our research projects and lost perspective on the actual amount of work we’ve achieved during the summer. She reinforced that we have all completed great work. We also emphasized what future studies we would work on if we had extra time to work to prove that we were all thinking about our projects at a larger scale. She told us that it is great to feel like there is much more work to complete. After leaving the meeting, I felt that I have accomplished many things during this summer, and I feel ready to pursue graduate studies after I graduate next year.

Week 7 Highlights: Featuring Team SPAW’s Cheyenne Moore and Jacob Feistner

By Cheyenne Moore, Team SPAW:

Week seven was one of the most productive weeks yet! On Tuesday, Libby and I extracted more DNA from the snails we had collected from Fennon Slough a couple weeks ago. Last week, Ryan and Libby had pulled the remaining snails from their shells and froze them all together in one container. This frozen blob of snails is what Libby and I started with on Tuesday. Opening the container was probably the worst part of the whole process because the snails stunk so badly! Once we got the frozen chunk out of the tube, we had to break it into smaller chunks and put it on ice so it wouldn’t melt. We used a mortar and pestle to grind the snails up with dry ice and placed the ground up snails into a container. We put all of the ground up snail into one container, hoping that it would be homogenized enough that we could detect the cercariae using PCR if there were any in any of the snails.

The next step was using the DNeasy Plant Kit to extract the DNA. Libby and I each did five samples each using roughly 100 mg of snail, for a total of ten samples. We thought that ten samples was a pretty good amount of samples to test, and that’s all we had enough tubes from the plant kit to do. Adding different reagents, centrifuging, and repeating is how the rest of the DNA extraction went. The smell from two week old, rotten snails is definitely not very pleasant. Amy, one of the girls who works in the lab, said she was going to move a table outside and make us work outside because of the smell.

On Wednesday, Ryan and I ran gels of the snail DNA that Libby and I extracted the day before. The reason we ran a gel was to make sure that DNA had been extracted. With the many practice runs Libby had us do with other DNA, Ryan and I figured out how to set up our samples for our gel on our own with success. It may not seem like much, but when you can do something on your own in the lab with success it’s like a small victory. From our gels, we could see that the DNA had been degraded because the snails sat for a few days rotting before they were frozen; nonetheless, we had DNA.

The next step with the snail DNA was running PCR with the primers we had chosen. Ryan and I chose three samples total, two from the first snail DNA extraction and one from the snail DNA extracted the day before. We chose our samples based on the concentration of DNA in the sample; the higher the amount of DNA, the better is what we thought. Using previous knowledge, we set up our samples with the primers we designed and primers for a repeat sequence in T. Ocellata. We also used Lambda DNA spiked with snail DNA as a positive control and each set up a no DNA tube. We programmed the computer to use the same two step cycling we have been using and let it work its magic. We had three samples total amplify, two we had picked and the one spiked Lambda DNA. In order for them to amplify, the DNA has to bond with the primers, so we thought that we had managed to get cercariae DNA along with the snail DNA.

On Thursday, using the same DNA as the two samples that amplified in the earlier PCR, we set up another PCR reaction. This time, we doubled the amount of everything we used to double the reaction size. We did everything exactly the same using the same primers, only doubled the amounts. The PCR had completely different results though. Only one of the samples amplified and it had a goofy looking curve compared to the curve shown on the last PCR. Libby suggested that we should purify the DNA and send it to the University of Montana for sequencing so we can look at the sequence and see if the primers actually could bond to the sequence or if it was a fluke. We used a PCR purification kit and purified only the sample that had amplified in both PCR runs.

 As of right now, we don’t have the results we would like to have for our project, but that’s all a part of research. We have lots of stuff that we can use for our paper and poster about our tried and failed attempts, but hopefully next week we can get more snails and get some positive results. After spending so much time working on this, I am really anxious to see if what we have been doing will be successful.


By Jacob Feistner, Team SPAW:

Measuring change in water level of Mud Lake. Photo taken by Jacob Feistner, Team SPAW, 7/23/2012.

Testing water quality in the field, at Lucifer Lake. Photo taken 7/25/2012. Jacob Feistner, Team SPAW pictured here.

Week 7 was an action packed week. With time running out on the field work phase of this project, I needed to get to two more lakes. Getting to and sampling Courville and Lucifer Lakes would take some planning, a lot of work, and I would need some help from others. We would also need the cooperation of the weather, our gear, and our instruments.

On Monday morning we had our usual team meeting. This week ours was at the Berthelote home since the school was closed. We had pancakes and bacon, Shawna did a primo job on the breakfast. After our meeting and discussion Ryan Gustafson, Sam Wall, and myself packed up and were ready to head for the mountains. As usual we were in for some hot weather and bugs. This trip is long enough and far enough from home that it would require us to stay the night at Courville Lake. To get to Courville Lake we take the same trail that gets us to Mud Lake 1, 2 and 3. This is a pretty good trek in itself, just getting to the third Mud Lake. Once at this lake I needed to retrieve my raft which I had cached in a tree two weeks earlier. After retrieving my raft and taking a short break we changed our direction from hiking due east to hiking due south. This took us off trail and over a pass that would drop us into another sub watershed where we find Courville Lake. We arrived at Courville Lake at about 5:30 in the evening, tired, hungry, and bug bitten.

Sam Wall the pack mule bringing up the rear on the way to Courville Lake. Photo by Jacob Feistner, Team SPAW 7/23/2012.

At Courville Lake I wanted to accomplish everything that I had accomplished at the other lakes, such as a physical profile, several different on-site titrations, and testing different parameters and different depths. I also wanted to collect water samples to be filtered and then brought back with us to the lab, and I wanted to catch fish that I could fillet and bring back to check for mercury content. This would be too much to try and do the next day so I would need to get some of it done the evening that we arrived. So while Sam and Ryan are getting some of their things out and organized I started pumping up the raft and getting gear ready to take out on the water. When I pumped up the raft I noticed that a hole I had patched the last time I used the raft looked like it was leaking again, and I noticed another hole that I had not seen before. I attempted to patch these holes and we headed out onto the lake.  Ryan and I paddled out to the middle of the lake and collected 1800 mL of water .5 m below the surface. We also completed an alkalinity test, cl test, and turbidity. Then we returned to the shore, I moved on to filtering the water while Ryan grabbed his fishing pole and went to work trying to catch fish. I was successful in filtering the water and I got it on ice to keep it cool until our return home the next day. Ryan returned to camp with several fine looking cutthroat trout. We were hungry, so I looked in my pack for the butter and spices that I had brought specifically for this occasion. By the time we were done eating fish it was dark and time to hit the sack. We hoped the fishing would be just as good the next day so that we would have some good samples to bring back to the lab and test for mercury.

On Tuesday we woke up at the lake and were ready to get some work done. Ryan and I would head out on the water and Sam was going to catch the fish that we needed. Ryan and I paddled out onto the water, but as we neared the opposite end of the lake the patch that I had fixed on the raft came loose. When the patch came loose the air in the main chamber didn’t waste any time getting out of the raft. This gave us the opportunity to show anybody watching how fast we could paddle this raft to the nearest shore. Our rafting on Courville Lake had come to an end for this trip. I called to Sam to bring Ryan’s boots and I started walking the deflated raft around the perimeter of the lake back to our camp. Along the way I found a good rock to work off of and obtained some more readings with the hydrolab, and DO kit. It took all three of us the rest of the morning to catch the three fish that we would take back to the lab. After catching them I filleted them, and packaged them to get them back to the lab. Next, we packed up camp and hit the trail for home. I would need to get home at a decent hour so that I could get rested up to hit the trail again on Wednesday.

Courville Lake, getting ready to collect water samples. Photo taken by Jacob Feistner, Team SPAW, 7/24/2012.

Wednesday morning I met Shandin in St. Ignatius and we hit the trail on our way to Lucifer Lake. Lucifer Lake is a beautiful lake, but the trail is a real grunt to get up. This lake is of special interest because of its location and the geology that surrounds it. This lake is set in a limestone geology which we assume will affect the alkalinity, pH, and the lake’s overall ability to buffer against atmospheric pollution. This was a very nice and enjoyable day. Along the way I was able to talk to Shandin about my project, the report that I am working on, and also some of the cultural significance of the plants, flowers, and rocks that we passed by on the way to the lake. Here again at Lucifer Lake I obtained the filtered water samples and the fish samples that I needed to take back with me to the lab. Fortunately the fishing was a lot better at this lake than at some of the previous lakes. I was able to get the fish I needed in just a few minutes. My raft is out of commission so I left it at home this trip. I collected my water samples from the center of the lake using an inflatable mattress, and the rest of the tests that I carried out were done off of a rock along the shore of the lake. We were able to accomplish everything that we had set out to do and we returned home happy to have been able to include Lucifer Lake in our study.

Shandin Pete at Mission Falls, on the way to Lucifer Lake. Photo taken by Jacob Feistner, Team SPAW, 7/25/2012.

On Thursday I was able to get down to the University of Montana and take all of my water samples from the three lakes to the chemistry lab there. Heiko Langer and Matt Young had agreed to run an ion balance, and a metals test on the water samples I collected. I got a brief tour of their lab and then I headed for home to get to work on other things. On Friday I had planned on getting into the lab and cleaning all the equipment that I had been using. The lab was closed and there was nobody around to open it up. I was able to get the fish samples into the freezer but it looks like the sampling will have to wait until next week.

Week 6 Photos

Experiment in progress. Photo taken by Nick Hawthorne, Team STREAM

The colors of sunset on the shore of Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park. Photo taken by Ryan Gustafson, Team SPAW, July 15, 2012.

Professor Kimberly Hill and Laura are giving Ed expert advice on his project. Photo taken by Jeffrey Kwang, Team STREAM, 7/19/2012. Pictured here: Kimberly Hill, Edward Lo, Laura Maki.

Jeffrey Kwang thoroughly enjoyed using the band saw to cut some plastic tubes. Photo taken by Edward Lo, Team STREAM, 7/16/2012. Pictured here: Jeffrey Kwang.




Week 6 Highlight: Featuring Team STREAM’s Adam Eldeeb

By Adam Eldeeb, Team STREAM:

This week was once again a very eventful week.  I finished helping the visitors from the Naval Research Crew and went on to help them move their cart as well as take down the four cameras that were set up around the stream.  In regards to my actual research project, I made some progress as well.  This progress included collecting more macro invertebrate samples from the stream, however not collecting the samples in my usual way of collecting them.  This was directly hands on rather than using an actual net to capture the small water insects.  A rock vein was implemented into the outdoor stream lab last Friday when I left for Duluth and Lake Superior.  When I returned, early on in this week, I collected the samples from this rock vein directly following the turn up of the flow to 199 ml per min all the way to when we had turned the flow all the way down to 15 ml per min.  When doing this I received a few good samples.  I collected tons of samples and later brought them to the lab for analysis and observations.  All in all I was very productive this week and I am very excited to begin another amazing week in the Outdoor Stream Lab!!!

Nothing went wrong this week, however I am disappointed on my progress of my report as well as my progress on my poster.  Although I might not have to complete these two aspects by this week, I would still prefer that I get a better grasp on my project next week.  Another aspect regarding my research project that did not make me that happy was that the samples that I brought back to the lab after collecting from the rock vein were pretty much all dead and deteriorated when I went in to observe and take notes on them in the lab.  This might have been caused by the lack of alcohol (for preservation) that was in the container that I had put them in.

Next week I am planning to go to Eagle Creek Stream and help out with an enormous project with graduate students Mark and Amy. A professor from the Evolution, Ecology, and Behavior department might be showing up with his graduate and undergraduate students that are working with him on a stream restoration project!  This should be a very exciting opportunity!  Also, I plan on getting a much better grasp on both my report and my project in general.  My mentor will be helping me along in this process, and she has already given me access to a few great articles on sediment, stream restoration, and stream capability in the United States, which are all along the lines of what I am focusing on already!  I am very excited to start the upcoming week, as well as getting a better grasp on my project!!

Students reflect on Week 5 field trip

by Carla Miller, Team ZAAGA’IGAN:

On Friday, July 13, 2012, I attended the Fond du Lac Elder Picnic with Holly Pellerin.  There we had good food, good music, and most importantly great friends.  Elders are some of my favorite people, so I really enjoyed the wonderful visit.  My intent for the meeting was to interview approximately 10 – 15 people and get their history and opinion on their wild rice knowledge.  The elders were extremely helpful and courteous and agreed to answer some questions, but since this was their day, I just took their phone numbers and arranged one-on-one meetings at their convenience.  At the picnic I mingled and sat at the table with the honor guards as the announcer called the names of winners of some cool prizes. I realized how privileged I was to be sitting with these awesome, good natured, humorous individuals; I am looking forward to seeing them again real soon.

Fond du Lac’s The Veterans’ Annual Powwow at the Mash Ka Wisen Powwow Grounds in Sawyer, MN. Photo by Edward Lo, Team STREAM.

by Edward Lo, Team STREAM:

A gorgeous evening followed the refreshing rain and the cool breeze. As the sun set and flooded the powwow grounds with a crisp golden light, Team Zaaga’igan and Team Stream participants sat together on the bleachers after a short drive from the Cloquet Forestry Center. Just before 7pm, a drum group began chanting native songs. The grand entry (“the ceremony”) soon began, with people of all ages dressed in colorful traditional costumes and dancing rhythmically with the ensuing native songs. The coolest aspect of the whole grand entry was the jingling of the bells around each dancer’s ankles! In fact, Guelord loved the procession so much that he joined the dancing (with some guidance from Holly). Between songs, an announcer over the loudspeaker would narrate and explain the different parts of this ceremony, which honored several, if not all, branches of the U.S. armed forces.  Before we had left for the powwow, Holly had outlined the procession and explained that personally, she treated the event as a way to pray or express her prayers. The immersion in this year’s annual Fond du Lac Veterans’ Powwow has certainly increased my appreciation of Native American culture and sparked interest in meeting local tribes in other parts of the country.

Seven of our team members topped off the evening with a tug of war. They branded themselves team “U of M” and participated in the first match against team “Bernstein Bears.” Bracing themselves as the referee counted down, they struggled for a brief moment before the opponents swiftly overwhelmed them. Still, it was a pretty awesome event accompanied by some fantastic photos of them in action!

Dinner at Cloquet Forestry Center on Friday, July 13. Notice the mound of genuine wild rice in the foreground. Photo by Edward Lo, Team STREAM. DeShawn Benn, Carlos Rivera, Margo Regier, Jovanny Velez pictured here.

Photos from Saturday, July 14, by Nick Hawthorne, Team STREAM:

Adam, Carlos, Ann and Deshawn examining a core from the largest freshwater lake on the continent. Photo by Nick Hawthorne, Team STREAM.

Some of the Reu members aboard the Blue Heron. Photo by Nick Hawthorne, Team STREAM. Pictured here: Carla, Ann, DeShawn (lower middle), Adam (far right).

Week 5 Highlights: Featuring Team SPAW’s Ryan Gustafson

Gustafson_Picture25 by REU SLAWR
Gustafson_Picture25, a photo by REU SLAWR on Flickr. Setting up DNA Testing Samples.

By Ryan Gustafson:

The main goal for the week was to obtain snails for the DNA test.  We are half way through the program at this point and still hadn’t had the chance to do any tests on the thing that we are actually studying.  Considering this, Tony put extra pressure on Libby to contact the person that agreed to provide us with snail samples.  Libby and Tony both called and texted the person and eventually he got back to them but didn’t seem to be very happy about the situation, so we began to more seriously consider our alternative.  The alternative was to collect snails on the north side of the lake, something that still required permission from the Fish and Wildlife Service.  Libby had been calling the Fish and Wildlife Service for a couple of weeks and finally heard back from them on Monday.  The response was not exactly what we wanted because the person just said that they think it should be fine, but he was not 100% sure and said that he would have to ask another person who was out of the office for the day.  Later on Monday we ended up getting a sample consisting of one snail from the person sampling on the reservation, which indicated to us that we really needed to find them elsewhere or we would only end up with a very small sample.  By Wednesday at noon we had not heard back from the Fish and Wildlife Service and with time running out we decided to sample on the north side of the lake anyway.   The impression that we got from the person that we had talked to from the Fish and Wildlife Service on Monday was that there would most likely be no problem with us sampling small invertebrates, so we decided to go through with it.

Snail sampling began at the north side of the lake in the town of Lakeside.  Libby, Cheyenne, and I began by looking at the shallows of some of the docks and public swimming areas.  The water at the docks was a little deeper than would be ideal for snail sampling and from above we couldn’t see anything that looked like snails.  The docks also did not have much aquatic plants and so they didn’t seem like a prime habitat for snails.  The public swimming areas were dominated by coarse sand and gravel and so while the water was shallower, it did not allow for the growth of the aquatic plants that provide snails with habitat.  One of the swimming areas that we investigated was near an area that had thick aquatic vegetation, but it was mostly cattails rather than the flowering rush.  Even though there was no flowering rush, we decided to suit-up and investigate more closely.  I put on the chest-high waders and a pair of boots, while the girls put on thigh-high wader boots.  Cheyenne went in first but it turns out that the mud at the bottom was pretty thick and so her boots were not tall enough to allow her to be in the water.  After Cheyenne got out, I got in with no problems, using my chest-high waders, and began my hunt for snails.  Each step that I took kicked up significant amounts of mud that would dirty the water before I could get a good look for snails.  I tried looking on the bottoms of logs and on the various aquatic plant stems but could not find a single snail.  After about forty minutes, we decided to give up on this location and to drive to Wayfarer State Park where we heard we might be more likely to find snails.

On the drive to Wayfarer State Park, we decided to pull off at Fennen Slough fishing area, which turned out to be just what we were looking for.  After looking around a couple of different areas at Fennen, I found a spot that offered up a few snails in just a few minutes.  I eventually let Cheyenne and Libby know about my findings so they put on their boots and joined me.  They brought jars with them for me to put the snails in and as I began stepping around in front of them they noticed that more snails came up whenever I took a step.  This finding allowed us to collect roughly 150 snails in about twenty or thirty minutes.  We each put about fifty snails in our jars, which we filled with water and sealed up for the ride home.  On the way back we grabbed some huckleberry shakes and buffalo burgers to reward ourselves for a hard and hot day’s work.  Once we got back to the lab, we placed two of the jars in front of a lamp to coax the parasites out of the snails and into the water, and the third jar out of the light.

On Thursday morning we arrived back at the lab to try to get some DNA from the snails, which would hopefully contain some parasite DNA.  The first thing that we discovered when we got to the lab was that all of the snails had died overnight.  Our suspicion was that we did not give them enough air, maybe that they were too crowded or did not have enough food.  Even though the snails and perhaps the parasites were dead, we still tried to get DNA from them.  We used the DNeasy Plant Kit for getting DNA from plants but just applied it to our snail samples with a few modifications.  The DNA extraction process was a very long one that started around 11:00 AM and didn’t finish until 5:00 PM.  The DNA extraction process allowed us to learn new techniques and improve the standard techniques that we had already learned.  Libby also explained to us the purpose of each chemical or step in the process, which was extremely helpful and I am extremely grateful to have had someone to facilitate our learning while we were using the kit.  After the many hours of work put into the process, the results were not what were expected.  The machine and computer program that we used to determine the presence of DNA did not provide results that indicated any significant amount of DNA in the samples.  We plan to check our samples by doing DNA gel electrophoresis next week, which should indicate whether any DNA is present in the samples.  If there is no DNA in the samples then it could be that we should have used the DNeasy Blood and Tissue Kit instead of the Plant Kit.  Libby assumed that they would not be much different, but perhaps they are more different than she expected, so we will also try the Blood and Tissue Kit next week.

During the fifth week of the REU, significant progress was made on my project by finally collecting snails and attempting to extract DNA from them.  While the process did not go as expected, we are going to check our results on a gel next week and possibly use the Blood and Tissue Kit.  We may also sample more snails next week, being sure to give them enough air, food, and space.  I will also complete the finishing touches on the introduction which I have also improved and added to over the last week.

Week 4 Highlights: Featuring Dawit Tobiaw and Carla Miller from Team ZAAGA’IGAN

Dawit Tobiaw photo 5 by REU SLAWR
Dawit Tobiaw photo 5, a photo by REU SLAWR on Flickr.

Measuring the speed of the flow of the stream


By Dawit Tobiaw, Team ZAAGA’IGAN:

July 2nd

Kari and I went to Stony brook stream which is located at Pine Drive to see the water level change after the flooding and to download the water pressure data from the gage. This is usually done in fall. However, due to the massive flooding we had about two weeks ago, we had to go out and download the water pressure from all the gages we have in the streams and measure the speed of the flow water. The staff gage reading was 6.6 feet. As Kari told me, it is the highest she has ever seen it. After we downloaded the data, we looked at the graph that shows the water level. At the day of the rain event, the water level had increased like never before, and it was flowing at an amazingly fast rate.  After Stony brook stream, we went to Fond du Lac creek. We were able to jump in to the stream and measure the speed of the flow of water, and record the staff gage reading.

July 3rd

We went to Martin branch stream and recorded staff gage reading and downloaded the water pressure. In the afternoon, Kari and I went to Perch lake. This time instead of canoeing to get to our sampling stations we took the air boat. This was my first time riding on an air boat.

July 5th

We went to Stony brook stream and Simian stream and downloaded the water pressure graph and measured the water flow from the gage.

JULY 6th

All of us from Team Zaaga went out and visited an island located in St. Louis River. It was recently bought by Fond du Lac. We took an air boat and a boat with us to get to the island. We also went to Lake Superior, the largest fresh water lake in the world. This was my first time visiting Lake Superior!

Plans for next week

  1. To learn how to hook up the trailer to the truck because when Nancy go on vacation, I will be the one in charge of doing water quality testing.
  2. Learn how to perform titrations
  3. To learn how to use varieties of instruments we have in the lab
  4. To learn how to canoe
  5. To learn how to count zooplankton
  6. To finish up my assigned readings

Carla counting charcoal. Photo by Carla Miller, Team ZAAGA’IGAN.

By Carla Miller, Team ZAAGA’IGAN:

Last week’s goals were:

  • Visit Fond du Lac Culture Center and Museum – visit with elders

I had the chance to visit the Fond du Lac Culture Center and Museum one day last week.  There I meet a gentleman named Jeff Savage, who is the Director.  He told me about the center, gave me a book and video on the Birch Bark Canoe Building Project which began in 2007. This project promotes traditional craftsmanship and language preservation. Met the woman that supervises the elder center in Sawyer, and plan to go there, hang out, and mingle.

  • Sign-up for beading classes at the Center

Was told that this was a misprint in the local paper, and there are no beading classes, this was a disappointment to me.

  • More research on Cranberry Lake

On Friday team Zaaga’igan went to visit Spirit Island, a sacred Ojibwe Island on the St. Louis River, which is in Duluth, MN. The team was accompanied by Tom Howes and Nancy Schuldt from the Fond du Lac Resource Management Center.  Spirit Island was the 6th stopping place of the Anishinabe people during the migration period.  The seven prophecies led them on this journey, to where food grows on water was located. Back then, the headwaters of the St. Louis River was abundant with wild rice; but it has now been disturbed by irrigation, mining and development. Fond du Lac reservation bought back this nearly 6-acre island from a Duluth resident approximately one year ago to begin assessment on the St. Louis River.  Contaminants such as carp, which are bottom feeders, rip out the wild rice plants and eat the sediments that provide nutrients for the plants.

The surrounding development, including mining upstream, also contaminates the ground water and affects the wild rice.  The Great Lakes Legacy Act and EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) are working collaboratively on these issues and recognize the heavy contamination. US Steel plants have been in operation for 80 – 90 years and prove to have a negative impact on the growth of wild rice.

We had the FdL Resource Center’s air boat and a regular boat and cruised across to Spirit Island.  We split up in two groups – the larger group headed into woods and crossed the island, while myself, Carlos and Christa walked along the shore of the Island.  As we walked, I took notes, documenting things that I found out of the ordinary; such as the orientation of the smaller vegetation, logs in the water, washed up large logs with bark peeled off probably from the force of the water, logs that came from a company or industry that had the ends cut by a saw. Two huge poles; perhaps old telephone poles connected together by two large screws and washed up garbage and debris.  Carlos asked me why I was taking notes, and I told him that I keep a journal for my grandchildren; this is something that my grandfather had done, but we no longer know where his journal is.  I believe Carlos thinks this is a tedious task, but I think this is important for our future generations.  We laughed about it and I told him “what you may think is silly, I think is important”.

We also went to Wisconsin Point which is the largest freshwater sandbar in the world. This has the Ojibwe Sacred burial ground, 2 ¾ miles of beach, a place to go if your interests include bird watching and wildlife; it also has a functioning lighthouse at the end of a pier.

My main goals for this week are:

  • Work on research paper
  • Create Power Point
  • Work on Background
  • More Research on Cranberry Lake

The week flew by once again, counting charcoal seems mundane, but when you find something other than just the average miscellaneous piece, it gets a little exciting. This week I found three pieces of Branched Charcoal. Now that I know the lake that I am studying is located in a mining district, I find myself looking for peculiar pieces of anything that may be out of the ordinary. I am pretty confident working in the lab doing the procedure of preparation before baking and placing in the petri dishes. This is a skill that I have picked up quickly, with ease and accuracy.

Week 3 Highlights: Featuring Team SPAW’s Sashay Camel and Isadore Mitchell

By Isadore Mitchell, Team SPAW:

This week we came up with our research topics.  I chose to make my paper about the historical aspect of common camas.  The camas is a culturally significant plant to so many different tribes.  I look forward to finding information on how other tribes use it.  After the meeting, I contacted the People’s Center to double check what time the annual camas bake begins.  The Salish way is to keep the men away from helping with the bake.  It is said the camas will not turn out.  So I helped by providing firewood and my truck.  We went to several different places around the reservation to collect the supplies for the pit.  The alder branches and other greens provide the flavor for the camas.  Some of the layers are just to protect the bulbs from being burned.  While we waited for the fire to be ready I talked with tribal elders.  They each had contributing pieces of advice that will help with my paper. After the final fire was built, I helped clean up and I asked questions about the baking.

After the camas bulbs are cleaned and placed in a layer inside the canvas bag they are white to translucent.  After they bake for several days the color should be brown to dark-brown.  The moss is also placed in bags separate from the camas.  When they are done the bulbs should be eaten immediately or dried for later use.

A section of my paper will be on the local CSKT ways of using camas, but I will also look at how all the tribes used it.  The beginning will introduce camas and then I will begin talking about the importance of culturally vital plants.  At the bake, it was easy to see why the other plants were just as important as the camas.

I have been reviewing literature about medicinal and food plants of the Rockies.  The areas that people historically gathered at will be looked at.  My summer research will summarize the CSKT gathering sites and also some other important locations.

Next week I will start organizing the papers I have already reviewed and get the good info from them.  I will also be checking the archives at Salish Kootenai College. There has already been research done on the gathering sites and it is stored there.  My paper is my priority now and I have already got a good start on the history of camas use.

Camas growing in moist field in Camas Prairie on the Flathead Reservation. Photo by Isadore Mitchell, Team SPAW.

Camas fruit. Photo by Sashay S. Camel, Team SPAW.

Isadore is looking at camas bulbs in Camas Prairie on the Flathead Reservation. Photo by Sashay S. Camel, Team SPAW.

By Sashay Camel, Team SPAW

This week we began by meeting with our advisor, Rick Everett, to discuss our research papers.  I have my thesis statement started and I worked on refining it to cover my topic.  As you know both Isadore and I have been working on the “Camas Project,” but we will have a different product in the end.  My paper will be on the biology of the camas plant.  I consider myself an avid lover of botany and doing this research is like second nature to me.  The best part about learning about native and non-native plants is I can help teach other people.  This is a tool that every natural resource manager needs.  I want to describe camas beginning with the very first observations and fill in the research that is added each year.  There are plenty of resources available at Salish Kootenai College.

The research paper will go over the habitat requirements optimal for camas.  I have many questions about soil moisture and plant associations because we found camas in several differing sites.  We found it at many different elevations, displaying many different colors and heights.  I hope to find more answers in the background research so that I can link what data we collected to my results.  As of right now, we are just compiling the resources and looking at peer reviewed camas related work.  That is what I did at the start of this week, but this week is also the start of the annual CSKT People’s Center Camas Bake.

The collection of the camas bulbs happened the previous week.  They chose to dig camas bulbs in the Camas Prairie area, on tribally leased land.  The participants were the Montana Youth Conservation Corps.  When we spoke with Lucy Vanderburg the week before we told her we would bring some camas as well.

On Monday the kids went into the mountains to collect the “greens” needed for layering in the camas pit.  We were unable to help on that day, but Tuesday morning we went to the Saint Ignatius Culture Committee Longhouse to help out.  Before that, we drove to a place called Magpie Creek to collect the sweat rocks needed for the pit. They didn’t collect enough supplies so we volunteered to go get more.  We drove back into the mountains and collected more red alder and we also found some fern fronds. Once we got back to the longhouse the pit was dug and the fire was started at the bottom.  The tradition is that only women can help with the bake.  The rocks go in the fire and it burns until the wood is gone.  Then come the layers of alder wood, skunk-cabbage leaves, alder leaves, fern fronds, camas in canvas bags, black tree moss in bags, and repeat.  Then the whole thing is covered with bark and more soil.  A final fire is built on top of the pit.  Throughout the whole gathering we talked with many different tribal elders and I learned so much about the details that go into making it happen.

Someone was assigned to keeping a fire, twice a day, from Tuesday afternoon until Friday morning, which is when the last fire was built.  Then the layers come out and the camas is removed.  The pit is filled back in.  The camas is done when the bulbs turn a dark-brown to almost black color.  They taste sweet and bland like a yam.

Next week will be spent beginning the writing of the research paper.  I have plenty of good reading behind me and in front of me.

Flooding in Cloquet–Week 2 Photos

This creek flows right by the Cloquet Forestry Center, seen in the distance. “After the big flood the road was topped with 2-3 feet of water for over a day. This same road was topped with a lesser amount of water further down – which is why we ended up getting moved to the casino for a night.” -Margo Regier, Team ZAAGA’IGAN

Carla Miller standing on the bridge after the flood. Photo by Philip Defoe, Team ZAAGA’IGAN.

During AMQUA conference Ann Solano was near the flooded river. Photo by Philip Defoe, Team ZAAGA’IGAN.


Week 2 Highlights: Featuring Team STREAM’s Edward Lo and Jovanny Velez

By Edward Lo, Team STREAM

Last week, Team Stream and I focused on reading articles for a combined literature review, the final copy of which would go straight into the background of the team research paper. I reviewed papers concerning flow in aquatic vegetation, scour around fixed cylinders, and sediment deposition in sensitive fish habitat. Ideas were juggled around with Nick, Jeff, and Laura Maki, Team Stream’s graduate student mentor. Sometimes, we argued about different ideas, in particular the exact definition of “dimensional analysis.” I learned this concept in high school physics as conversion of one unit to another. However, Jeff explained it as a technique for researchers to ensure that all dependent variables agree with the expected relationship among them. In our broad research area of fluid mechanics, the Reynolds number was kept constant while all other variables in an experiment were checked for adherence to specified values. I was also glad to finally learn the definitions of other terms in the context of environmental engineering such as “empirical” and “shear velocity.” The mathematical nature of some papers was a particular challenge for me, which I was able to overcome with the help of Laura and my two colleagues on the team. Some graphs were also difficult to interpret, so someone would often step in without hesitation and clarify, for example, the ratio of scour time to final scour time (t/tf) and what that meant. At the end of the week, I was satisfied and appreciative of the opportunity to speak openly without feeling embarrassed about not knowing something as simple as an empirical equation.

On Tuesday, the three of us on Team Stream helped out Katie, another graduate student who was setting up a 3° slope along a 27-foot-long flume. To accomplish this, the gravel needed to be poured and compacted along the flume so that large aluminum sheets with sediments of a particular size glued onto one side could be laid down on the gravel. That same day, we also attended a mini course on how to use the machines in the shop of SAFL.

Aside from research and the program, I explored some more of the Twin Cities on that Tuesday evening as I rented another Nice Ride bicycle to reach some the shopping areas around the Walmart in St. Paul near University Avenue. This trip turned out to be a huge adventure, particularly when I encountered three malfunctioning docking stations for the bike. Of course, I had to run around several blocks to find the station that worked on Fairview Avenue! I am glad that the folding bike I purchased on Amazon.com finally arrived, which freed me from the time (and distance) limitations of the Nice Ride system (still a great program overall).

Team Stream working hard to pull out invasive plants and prepare the piezometers for research in the Outdoor Stream Lab at SAFL.

Team Stream helping prepare a 3° slope in one of SAFL’s flumes for Katie Meehan, soon-to-be graduate student at UMN.

By Jovanny Velez, Team STREAM

This past week at the Saint Anthony Falls Laboratory, we (G, Adam and I) got more familiar with the Outdoor Stream Lab. Most of our time was spent out in the OSL taking care of the invasive vegetation. By taking care, I mean that we had to pull out the plants from the ground and move them down stream. We got a better understanding on how to operate and take care of the outdoor stream. In the OSL, there is a sediment tank and water flow valve that we learned to operate. For example, when the Mississippi river was rising due to all the rain up north, we had to change the water source and make the stream flow 25 LPS (Liters per Seconds). G and I were also trained in on using the Total System. We practiced using it on our own a little bit by taking data points around the OSL. We realized that when someone explains something it appears easy but once you are on your own it becomes more challenging.  Working on your own is the best and most effective way to learn. When we were not pulling out the plants we were doing literature reviews about macro invertebrates, sediment transportation, and flow topography. At the beginning of the week, we all did research on all the topics and towards the end of the week we began to pick a topic. We would then meet with Jess as a group and discuss what we read and could also ask her any questions. The topic that I chose was sediment transport and began to do more independent research on it.

Overall, things went well last week in the lab. I was able to get myself into a daily routine and give myself goals for the day. Having these goals set in the morning allowed me to check myself throughout the day.  I have also enjoyed working with the other OSL interns and have bonded more over the past week. This is great because we will be working together a lot for the rest of the summer. I am not able to recall many things that did not go well last week. There were a lot of computer problems but they eventually got resolved. For this upcoming week I am excited to finally go out into the field to begin to collect data. I am also looking forward to finalizing what exactly I will be researching for the rest of the summer.

Week 1: June 11-15, 2012

By Ann Solano, Team ZAAGA’IGAN

On the 11th of June 2012, I arrived on the Amtrack at 7:00 am. I don’t really know what I was thinking because I didn’t print a street address for Middlebrook. I read the email and printed where we had to meet at the Loring Pasta Bar. There were directions on the email from Middlebrook to the Pasta Bar. I asked 3 taxi drivers if they knew where Middlebrook was and all three replied no.

I jumped in with the first and knew I would have to figure it out. As we were driving and talking he told me all of this was the U of M. The campus was huge with no end in sight. So I told him to drop me off at the 10th Avenue bridge because I will have to work backwards from the directions but knew I could figure it out. Three different people gave me three different instructions and I went three different ways. I had my luggage, a bag, and a blanket so it was getting a little annoying. I finally parked it under a tree in the shade. I broke down and searched for Diana’s number. I was so relieved I didn’t drive like I first intended to. There was so much construction and one ways, I would have been overwhelmed. The price seemed to be expensive also.

Diana saved me and picked me up. I asked her about a Staple’s because my laptop cord wasn’t working. She dropped me off at Middlebrook and later took me to get a cord. I didn’t ever think I would become so dependent on a computer. I think back to the days I couldn’t use a computer and I have come a long way from before I started school. Now I am hooked on my laptop.

We ate dinner at the pasta bar. There were two tables of us and I was informed that there were to be more students coming. The pasta bar was very interesting. It almost seemed to be like a museum. The architecture was very unique. Each place I looked I could spend at least a good 10 minutes in awe. It was an old building restored. It had very beautiful masonry work done in it. There were a lot of people inside so the background noise for me was a bit difficult to hear. But I manage.

The first day Diana went through a run-through of all that was expected from us. We were told of a schedule of where we will be and what is expected of us. As time went on we went through the St. Anthony Falls Laboratory and the LacCore Facility also. We met with our mentors and talked about our projects and where and with whom we’d be working. The St. Anthony Falls Lab was very nice and right on the Mississippi. They had a stream lab, did some work with wind tunnels, and also with Deltas by Exxon. One guy showed some work he was doing for the transportation department. All looked to be very good for experimenting on river or stream bottom, making me anxious to get to work and get going.

I am relieved that Friday we are finally heading to Fond du Lac. I want to get to work and stay busy. I like doing something all the time. I have done so much walking to keep myself busy. I am hoping to build up to running by the end of the summer. On all the walking I have done I saw a lot of beautiful wildflowers. While driving, a person really misses all the scenery and beauty of the land. Just have to be prepared for the rain or I’ll be drowned out like a little rat like on Saturday. June is obviously rain season and we are right in the middle of the season.

Nice reservation, it reminds me of Turtle Mountain Reservation and is from the same tribe. The area is filled with lots of little lakes and ponds. It seems to be very high in precipitation and vegetation. I heard a lot of different animal calls as I was walking and was told of a variety of different wildlife. I can’t wait to be out to get to work.

There are a lot of different reservations and I am sure this will be an eventful summer. I think we will be going to AMQUA conference next weekend. I prefer having things planned so we are occupied. When I am not busy I head out to go walking. Seems to me it will be an eventful summer and can’t wait to get to work. We have three teams and it appears I’ll be working on Phytoliths or Charcoal.