Engaging Undergraduates in an Ecological Research Community
For the past 24 years, the Cary Institute’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program has provided 8-12 students each summer with an opportunity to conduct quality research in ecology at a world-class institute. Our alumni have gone on to wonderful careers in academic ecology as professors or research scientists, in environmental management or consulting, in ecology education, or in many other fields. In alumni surveys, they report that their Cary REU experience was instrumental in their career success. REU students contribute to the mission of the Institute through their research, with most writing papers for the Undergraduate Ecology Research Reports on-line publication, and many co-authoring peer-reviewed articles based on their work.
Since 2011 the Cary REU program has embraced a new focus – Translational Ecology. We hope to train a new generation of environmental scientists who are both prepared and motivated to translate ecological science to the public. The Cary Translational Ecology REU program weaves together activities in 5 strands:
- Cutting Edge Independent Research Projects - working closely with a mentor scientist, students delineate a research question and hypotheses, develop and implement a project, analyze data, give an oral presentation in a formal symposium and write a paper. Skill building workshops support student learning. The bulk of students’ time is spent in this facet of the program. Click here to see research project descriptions for Summer 2012
- Linkages to Policy and Management – through a Case Study, students explore the science/society interface and the potential and needs for translation of science.
- Linkages to the Public – with mentoring, students write short, lay-friendly summaries of their own and a colleague’s research projects, and participate in a Communication Workshop.
- Linkages to Education – REU students teach younger students in the Sharing Science Program, and they participate in an Education Roundtable with education scholars and practitioners.
- Reflective Practice, Training and Integration – students are supported in reflecting on themselves as scientists and translators of science, receive training in Responsible Conduct of Research and safety, and participate in a Forum on Translational Ecology that showcases examples of translational ecology in action, as well as a diversity of professional role models and careers.
Students in the 2012 program will receive a stipend of $6,000, housing in an Institute dormitory, and a food allowance of $600. Students of diverse backgrounds come from all parts the country to participate in the program. REU students stay in a small dormitory, Bacon Flats, located on our campus, just next door to the Plant Science Building and the Likens Laboratory where students conduct much of their work.