By studying some of the tiniest organisms, geology major Allison Bryan is helping piece together the bigger picture of Arctic climate change over the millennia. The junior from Leipsic, Ohio, is part of an international, multi-institutional project looking for clues in a Siberian lake. She is pursuing the study in Germany this summer through an internship and scholarship.
“We’re trying to reconstruct the paleoclimate,” Bryan explained. At BGSU, she has been a lab assistant for Dr. Jeffrey Snyder, geology. Snyder is a partner in the project and is examining diatoms—single-celled, silica-covered algae—retrieved from sediment cores taken from Lake El’gygytgyn, a polar lake in northeastern Siberia formed when a meteorite hit about 3.6 million years ago. By analyzing the abundance and types of species found at different depths, the geologist hopes to learn how climate changed over time (See www.bgsu.edu/offices/mc/monitor/02-12-07/page26650.html.)
Now Bryan will work on a different aspect of the climate study. She has received an internship to spend the summer assisting doctoral student Bernhard Chapligin at the Alfred Wegener Institute in Potsdam, outside Berlin. Chapligin’s research focuses on oxygen isotopes in diatoms from the lake. “The diatoms are photosynthetic algae,” Bryan said. “They are key to monitoring environmental conditions.” The oxygen isotopes of diatom silica are especially valuable in the study of the paleoclimate because diatoms can be found in lakes in cold regions where other bioindicators are not present, she added.
Her internship was provided by the German Academic Exchange Service (Deutscher Akademischer Austraucsch Dienst, or DAAD), which brings U.S. and Canadian college students to Germany through the Research Internships in Science and Engineering (RISE) program. There are about 700 RISE students this year, in various fields.
The group will unite in Heidelberg in mid-July. “I’ll get to meet other people involved in the program and share experiences,” she said.
“DAAD pays for the internship, but not for other expenses,” Bryan said. Luckily, she was one of only 20 students chosen by the American Chemical Society (ACS) to receive an International Research Experiences for Undergraduates (IREU) scholarship that will provide her travel expenses, a stipend while she is in Germany and the cost of the internship’s required, two-week German language course. It also paid for her to visit Washington, D.C., in April for an orientation session with other scholarship recipients. “We gained the opportunity to meet with ACS executives and officials from the National Science Foundation,” she said. “It was a great chance to network and make connections with other ACS-RISE-IREU scholars.”
As part of the ACS scholarship program, she will complete a research project in correlation with her work with Chapligin. “ACS requires that we complete a research project from start to finish,” she said. Participants must each create a poster explaining their research, which they will present at the society’s national conference in Washington this August. “It will be a great opportunity to present a poster on the research that I will be completing in Germany at a national conference,” she said.
As an Honors Program student, she hopes to make use of her research for her Honors project, she added.
Though she was only a sophomore this year, Bryan has already had her share of hands-on experience with geology. As a freshman, she had an internship with the Student Conservation Association at Fossil Butte National Monument in Wyoming, and last year traveled the U.S. with GeoJourney, BGSU’s field-based geology program. A member of the President’s Leadership Academy, she is vice president of the Honors Student Association and the incoming president of BGSU’s Geology Club.