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Outside the Classroom: Summer 2012 Student Research

Melissa Braun: Research and Excavation with Burpee Museum of Rockford at Ekalaka, MT

Faculty: Ralph Stearley (GEO)
Funded by: Davis Young Research Scholarship

Says Melissa:

"This summer I have been doing research for the Geology, Geography, and Environmental Sciences department on the Hell Creek Formation, specifically in Ekalaka, Montana. Calvin alum Michelle Heider has made it possible for me to work with the Burpee Museum of Rockford, Illinois this summer and I was able to accompany them to Ekalaka on their annual digs. It was a very exciting trip, I found many things and learned so much. We were able to find various late-Cretaceous species, including Tyrannosaurus, Triceratops, Edmontosaurus, and Thescelosaurus as well as various extinct turtle species. In the field I was able to participate in prospecting for bones, excavation, and removing them from the field. The museum’s lab was a welcoming place as well, and I was able to learn things in the lab including removing fossils from field jackets and reconstruction. I was also able to go to the University of Michigan for a week and study with Bill Sanders learning fossil lab preparation techniques in the paleontology department’s lab. It has been a great summer, and I hope to be able to further this work with the museum again!"


Bethany Van Kooten and Emma DeVries: Researching and Defining the Term "Christian Geography"

Faculty: Jason VanHorn (GEO), with Emma DeVries (Alumnus)
Funded by: Calvin College Science Division


Says Bethany:

"Our summer was spent reading what various Christian geographers have to say about how Christianity provides a distinctive approach to the discipline of geography. We each selected a few articles, read them, wrote detailed annotations for each, and then met a few days later to discuss what each of us had individually read. About halfway through the summer, we discussed our comprehensive discoveries to that point and attempted to define Christian geography before returning to reading and annotating. During the last three weeks, we thought of ideas for our own publishable article, settling on an analytical literature review to inform readers about the history and trajectory of Christian geography. Beyond the exciting result of a possible publication, this research has elevated my critical reading and thinking skills, honed my writing, taught me how to work within a research community, and deepened my knowledge of geography, faith, and where the two intersect."


Owen Selles: The Environmental History of the Knollcrest Campus and Calvin Calvin Ecosystem Preserve

Faculty: Dave Warners (Biology)
Funded by: Calvin College Biology Department


Says Owen:

"This project has initiated an effort to uncover the environmental history of the land that Calvin College currently occupies.  Environmental history is the study of “the role of nature in the human past.”  Its aim is to understand the ways in which humans and the environment have mutually shaped and influenced each other.  The essential principle is that people, cultures, and natural environments are interconnected. This project involves an in-depth assessment of the ecological and human changes made to the campus including: land-use practices, ownership changes, construction projects, and landscape alterations.  To do this, the landscape of the campus is being reconstructed at various points in human history using old maps, land records, census data, photographs, personal interviews, and past student/faculty research.  Once reconstructed, the landscape of each period can be compared to reveal changes."


Taylor Soderling: Studying the Human and Environmental History of the Plaster Creek Watershed

Faculty: Gail Heffner (Community Engagement) and Janel Curry (GEO)
Funding: McGregor Undergraduate Research Program

Says Taylor:

"The project consisted of collecting and organizing historical information on the human and environmental history of the Plaster Creek Watershed. Because we wanted to be able to share the results with a wider audience, the final result - a paper (and possibly a book rough draft by May 2013) - everything has been written in more of a creative, or least commonly-understood, language. Material was found in a number of places, from individuals who have studied the watershed for years to libraries around Kent County. The hope at this point in time is to incorporate more than writing (photography, personal stories, etc.) into a creative work that geography experts and everyday citizens alike would enjoy having, whether for the questions it brings up on watersheds or the information on Plaster Creek it contains."