The FYRES Research Mentor program provides upper-level students with 1) a substantive undergraduate research experience focused on Michigan coastal dunes, and 2) a mentoring/leadership experience as the students work closely with the FYRES course (Geog 181). Training in research and mentoring is provided in a two-day orientation session and throughout the experience. The Research Mentor experience can be divided into three phases.
In the first half of the fall semester, the FYRES Research Mentors have well-defined roles in guiding lab activities in Geog 181 (similar to a 'teaching assistant' position). Information and training are provided to the Mentors prior to each lab period. The Mentors (and FYRES students) are building their knowledge and skills in research practices and equipment during this time. The Research Mentors also begin research by doing background reading and thinking on a coastal dune research topic chosen in consultation with Dr. Deanna van Dijk. At the end of this phase of research, each Research Mentor presents his/her research topic to the Geog 181 class.
For the second half of the fall semester, the FYRES Research Mentors and first-year students work in research teams (typically 1 Mentor and 4 students) to investigate the coastal dune research topics. Together each team designs the research activities, collects data and analyzes the results. The Research Mentors have greater responsibilities for logistics (transportation and equipment), facilitating the teamwork, and guiding the research direction. With the guidance of the Mentors, each team of first-year students prepares and presents a research poster and oral presentation at the end of the fall semester.
During the spring semester, Research Mentors have the opportunity to present their team's research results at a professional conference such as the Michigan Academy of Science, Arts and Letters. The FYRES Research Mentors also complete each research project by writing a technical report describing the research project and its results. (The research team members are coauthors on the presentation and report.)
The FYRES Student Research Mentor program is open to geography and geology majors in their last two years at Calvin College (or outstanding sophomores/majors in related disciplines). Interested students must apply (available in March, 2014) to participate in the spring semester prior to the fall course. Six paid semester-long positions are available to provide appropriate research team sizes in the FYRES course (Geog 181). FYRES Research Mentors will be expected to participate in the lab period, weekly training meetings, and key lectures on coastal dune topics. (Mentors are welcome to attend all Geog 181 classes and receive "audit" credit for the course.) The combination of required activities, preparation, and research constitutes a position that averages 10 hours per week during the fall semester. The FYRES Research Mentor activities in the spring semester constitute a 5-hour/week position.