UTTC students present research findingsFeb 21st, 2013 | By jguinn | Category: 24-3: The Science of Place, Tribal College News
Three United Tribes Technical College (UTTC, Bismarck, ND) students presented the results of their work over the summer as undergraduate researchers looking into aspects of ecology on Native homelands.
Nick Houston (Cheyenne River), Sicangu “Stimmy” Lee (Cheyenne River), and Macaulay Brown (Standing Rock) described their projects using photo illustrations, graphs, and charts, as well as citing sources to explain their work to an audience assembled in the UTTC Wellness Center Healing Room. Each student had been immersed in a 10-week research program, dedicating their summer to learning scientific research methods.
The work was funded by the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Research Experience for Undergraduates in Biology (REU-BIO) program. The current REU program involving Native students at North Dakota’s tribal colleges and universities has been underway for three years.
Nick Houston (Eagle Butte, SD) is a sophomore in the UTTC Tribal Environmental Science (TES) program. His research is titled “Comparing Diets of North Dakota Bat Species Using Guano Analysis.” Houston described his experience in trapping bats in order to determine their prey.
Stimmy Lee, also from Eagle Butte, is a sophomore in the UTTC TES Program. He is a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and is pursuing his interest in reptiles with the idea of becoming a herpetologist. His project is titled “Soil Characteristics at Rattlesnake Hibernacula, East VS West River.” His analysis included soil and vegetation identification and testing near rattlesnake dens on the east and west side of the Missouri River in North Dakota.
Macaulay Brown (Wakpala, SD) is also a sophomore in the TES Program and a member of the United Tribes Thunderbirds Basketball Team. He presented his investigation, “Spider Defense of Plants with Extrafloral Nectaries.” His work included the capture of spiders and lab experiments concerning spiders’ defense of sunflowers against grasshoppers.
Since 2009, the North Dakota Tribal College REU Site program has provided intensive 10-week research immersion programs for 27 Native American students attending tribal colleges. A $300-thousand grant over more than three years provides students with a research stipend; allowances for meals, travel, and lodging; and supplies for their project.
Colleges and their number of participating students are as follows: Sitting Bull College (SBC, Fort Yates, ND) (10), United Tribes Technical College (9), Turtle Mountain Community College (TMCC, Belcourt, ND) (6), and Fort Berthold Community College (FBCC, New Town, ND) (1). Additionally, a high school student from Standing Rock participated and then enrolled at the University of Minnesota. Participants have represented seven different tribal affiliations: Standing Rock Lakota (9), Three Affiliated Tribes (2), Turtle Mountain Chippewa (8), Spirit Lake Lakota (1), Oneida (2), Cheyenne River Lakota (4), and Standing Rock Dakota (1).
There seem to be clear advantages to providing this training early in a student’s career. More than 81% of the students trained during this program had not yet started their junior year in college. There have been 14 first-year students and seven second-year students. The nature of the program – conducting research in ecology on homelands – appears to appeal to male students in particular. More than 55% of participants have been male. This is significant considering the traditional underrepresentation of males among Native Americans in higher education.
Of the 27 participants, five have been nontraditional (over 30-years old) and five have been U.S. military veterans.
The Tribal College REU Site program provides high-level research training and has enhanced the research capacity at participating TCUs by requiring authentic collaborations with agencies and university researchers.
The foundation of the REU model is: (1) participants are able to stay close to home and conduct research important to their reservation, (2) research hypotheses are developed based on the observations and interests of each participant, (3) resources are available to fuse indigenous culture into research projects, and (4) emphasis is placed on the final research presentations.
REU student projects have included analyses of soil and water contaminants; studies of bird, reptile, and amphibian ecology; and investigations of the medicinal uses of native plants. Participating students have shown increased retention and completion of degrees while obtaining a solid foundation to be successful in careers and graduate programs beyond the tribal colleges.
Jeremy E. Guinn directs the Field Technician Program of the North Dakota Tribal College Research Experience for Undergraduates Program through the UTTC’s Tribal Environmental Science Department. For more information: (701) 255-3285 x 1458, jguinn@ uttc.edu.