Geography student wins first place at research symposium

November 20, 2014
Riveredge Nature Center second annual student research symposium

PLATTEVILLE, Wis. — Marty Green, a senior geography major and research assistant in the Tree-Ring, Earth, and Environmental Sciences Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, recently won “Best Undergraduate Oral Presentation” at Riveredge Nature Center’s second annual student research symposium, “Connections in Nature,” held at the Riveredge Nature Center in Saukville, Wis. Green received a $300 cash award.

The symposium is designed to help educate the public about science and conservation. This year, more than 30 undergraduate and graduate students from a variety of universities and colleges in Wisconsin conducted oral and poster presentations on a variety of biological topics, including wildlife conservation, restoration and other ecology related topics.

In Green’s presentation, “Castle Mound Pine Forest SNA: Fire History and Ecology,” she addressed fire history research she has been working on in the Castle Mound Pine Forest, located in the Black River State Forest in Jackson County, Wis. In spring 2014, Green and other students enrolled in a Fire History and Ecology course taught by Dr. Evan Larson, assistant professor of geography at UW-Platteville, conducted a project through the UW-Platteville Pioneer Academic Center for Community Engagement and in partnership with Peter Bakken and Jed Meunier of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The project reconstructed the historical role of fire within the forest on the north-facing slope of Castle Mound to provide an ecological context for management of the site.

Green expanded on the results of the class project through additional independent research, mentored by Larson and made possible through a UW-Platteville Pioneer Undergraduate Research Fellowship grant and support from the TREES Lab.

“Having the opportunity to conduct valuable, meaningful research and then present it to an audience of peers and community members was invaluable,” said Green. “It enriched my educational experience, enabled me to form connections with professionals in the geography field and gave me research experience that will set me apart from others when it is time to pursue graduate school.” Her research will also be presented at the 2015 Midwest Fire Conference, to be held in February in Dubuque, Iowa. Green intends to use her award money to further her pursuit of attending graduate school.

Several others from UW-Platteville also gave presentations at the conference.

Sara Allen, TREES Lab manager and research associate at UW-Platteville, presented her work on the Driftless Oak Project, a two-year project being conducted through the TREES Lab that is developing a network of tree-ring chronologies across Southwest Wisconsin to improve understanding of patterns of drought across the region for the past three centuries. Allen is working closely with Larson on the project.

Jessica Kleckner, a senior biology major at UW-Platteville, presented “Change Over Time Along Rountree Branch.” In her research, she studied changes in vegetation and river depth in the Rountree Branch area throughout summer 2014. In the beginning, she only expected to see some growth and decline in vegetation growth and slight fluctuations in river depth, but when an EF-2 tornado struck the area on June 16, her research turned into an analysis of tornado damage and how the area is regenerating and recovering from the storm. Dr. Kristopher Wright, professor and chair of the biology department at UW-Platteville, was Kleckner’s faculty advisor for this independent study.

Giselle Varrientos, a senior geography major from Kenosha, Wis., presented “Restoring the Colorado Plateau by Selecting Native Winners.” Her presentation highlighted the work she completed as a summer intern at the Chicago Botanic Garden on restoration efforts in the Western United States, more specifically in the Colorado Plateau. Her research explored how species that are introduced into an area for restoration purposes can adapt to become more competitive or can persist in a highly competitive or invaded environment.

Amanda Bollant, a senior biology major from Hortonville, Wis., and Rebecca Homa, a junior biology major from Minooka, Ill., presented “Mapping Lyme Disease in Wisconsin.” Bollant and Homa studied Lyme disease both spatially and temporally across Wisconsin, using GIS technology to create maps and show how the incidence of Lyme disease between 2008-12 correlated with county, urbanization and forest cover. Dr. John Peterson, assistant professor of biology at UW-Platteville, and Dr. Lynnette Dornak, assistant professor of geography at UW-Platteville, both mentored Bollant and Homa.

UW-Platteville biology majors Charles Sickles and Emily Arida also attended the conference.

Symposium sponsors included We Energies Foundation, the American Institute of Professional Geologists, Pheasants Forever: The Habitat Organization, Jaeger Family Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, Trout Unlimited – Southeast Wisconsin Chapter, Southeastern Wisconsin Invasive Species Consortium Inc., Sierra Club – Great Waters Group and Milwaukee Riverkeeper.

UW-Platteville is committed to providing high impact, hands-on educational experiences for its students, including undergraduate research opportunities. These opportunities allow students to gain knowledge and practical experience, develop career goals, make connections with experts in their fields and have a positive impact on the world around them.

Written by: Laurie Hamer, College of Liberal Arts and Education, (608) 342-6191,


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