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Au Sable Research Student Wins Best Paper at Oklahoma Academy of Science

Dec 19, 2012

Summer 2012 research student Opeoluwa (Ope) Oyewole has received the award for Best Student Paper in the Environmental Sciences Division at the 2012 meeting of the Oklahoma Academy of Science in Edmond, Oklahoma. Ope, a student at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma, won the award for her paper, “A Comparison of Total Phosphorus levels in Lakes in Kalkaska County, Michigan and Relation to Trophic State Index,” which examined the relationships between phosphorus and a variety of physical, biological, and cultural characteristics of levels in 10 glacial kettle lakes (lakes formed during past glaciations from melting blocks of ice) around the Au Sable Institute. 

Among other investigations, Ope examined the relationship between phosphorus levels and Secchi disc depth (a measure of water clarity), lake depth, chlorophyll abundance, and the degree of human shoreline development and housing density. Her study found that phosphorus levels were negatively correlated with Secchi disk depth, indicating a decline in water clarity with increasing levels of phosphorus. Other variables like lake depth, chlorophyll abundance, and human density and shoreline development were not significantly correlated with phosphorus levels. 

"It is a privilege for Au Sable to work with students like Ope. We get to watch how they change through hands-on research. The research program allows students to fine tune their focus in science and to transition from knowing a little about ecology to being modest experts in their area of study," says Associate Director and faculty menor David Mahan.

Au Sable's research faculty and staff provided Ope with the support she needed to execute her research. Mahan, Dr. Rob Keyes (on right), Associate Professor of Science at Cornerstone University (Michigan), and Dr. Sam Riffel, Associate Professor of Wildlife Ecology and Management at Mississippi State University jointly supervised her research; Dr. Scott Carr, Professor of Chemistry at Anderson University (Indiana), assisted with chemical analyses of lake water samples; and Dr. John Korstad, Professor of Biology at Oral Roberts University, provided insights on physical and structural characteristics of lakes and best means of their investigation. Mahan and Carr were co-authors of the paper with Ope.

Ope and her work are part of Au Sable’s growing Undergraduate Research Program, an effort developed by Mahan that provides undergraduates from participating colleges with direct experience in faculty-supervised primary research in various aspects of environmental and conservation science. In 2012, five students from five participating colleges took part in a variety of research efforts, including examination of the effect of dam removal on stream invertebrate communities in Michigan’s Boardman River, the effectiveness of different methods of controlling invasive plant species along shorelines, and the feasibility of using genetic techniques for differentiating plant species that are physically similar in appearance.

Beyond her recognition by the Oklahoma Academy of Science in her research, students who pass through Au Sable's research program have another thing going for them as well.

Says Mahan, "One other benefit of research for our students has been their acceptance rate for graduate school. Virtually every student that has done a research project and sought to get into graduate school has gotten in with financial support."

Au Sable sends its congratulations to Ope and wishes her all the best in where her studies take her next.

To see a list of past students and their research projects, visit the Au Sable research projects webpage.