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Digging Deep

Former Salish Kootenai College student Matthew Weingart receives prestigious NSF Graduate Research Fellowship for work in paleoecology

By Ryan Winn

Matt Weingart in the lab.

The Flathead Indian Reservation of western Montana has been occupied by Native peoples for millennia. Over the years, its wooden mountains and fertile valleys have both shaped and been shaped by this human presence.

For Matthew Weingart, a member of the Klamath Tribe, this relationship between people and the land represents a research opportunity. Fascinated by the impact of climate, fire, and humans on landscapes over time, Weingart is digging into the soil of the reservation’s Camas Prairie where, he said, “there’s a rich cultural history and human presence” dating back at least 13,000 years.

“It is in a type of forest that is typically not well understood,” he said. “Learning more about these systems can provide useful knowledge to forest and land managers, especially in times of changing environmental conditions.”

Now pursing a master’s degree in environmental science from Montana State University, Weingart’s work in the field of paleoecology has earned him a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) award. The prestigious award is the oldest graduate fellowship of its kind and, according to the NSF, “has a long history of selecting recipients who achieve high levels of success in their future academic and professional careers.” Previous recipients include “numerous Nobel Prize winners, U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, Google founder Sergey Brin, and Freakonomics co-author Steven Levitt.”

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Restoring Native Prairie Lands

Students and staff at Sisseton Wahpeton College in South Dakota have re-seeded 100 acres of farmland, restoring a lost prairie.

By Katie Scarlett Brandt

A sea of green grasses swayed across the northern plains 200 years ago. They created a dry, land-locked ocean, filled with bison instead of whales, birds in place of fish.

With European settlement, much of North America’s grasslands were lost by the middle of the twentieth century, largely due to extensive farming. Of the more than 170 million acres of tallgrass prairie that once covered the plains, less than 4 percent remains, according to the National Park Service.

However, Sisseton Wahpeton College in Sisseton, South Dakota is working to bring it back. The tribal college, located in northeastern South Dakota, seeded a 100-acre parcel located behind college’s rural campus in 2009, converting it from farmland after two years of planning. Eight years later, college employees and students work together to eliminate non-native species and restore the prairie grasses, flowers, and shrubs that once occupied the area.

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Student Research

A Comparison of the Antimicrobial Activities of Cultivated Echinacea angustifolia (Purple Coneflower) versus Wild E. angustifolia

Ech2Marlee Finley, Levi Binstock, and Mandy Guinn
Environmental Science Department, United Tribes Technical College, Bismarck, ND 58504

Abstract

Medicinal plants have been have been used for centuries to treat various diseases across the world. While plant extracts have been used to synthesize modern commercial drugs, so far only a small percent of traditionally prescribed plant medicines have been studied for their therapeutic value. In recent years, the American public has become enamored with herbal remedies, yet there continues to be a relative scarcity of scientific research. Echinacea (purple coneflower) has received global attention because of its potential for medicinal value. Extensive laboratory and clinical research on Echinacea angustifolia in the last few years in Germany has confirmed its immunostimulatory, antiviral, and antibacterial benefit to humans. The purpose of this study is to use the agar-well diffusion method to compare antimicrobial activity of cultivated and wild E. angustifolia. We hypothesize that cultivated E. angustifolia will show more antimicrobial activity against five different strains of bacteria (two Gram-negative, three Gram-positive) due to being cultivated under ideal conditions.

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Field Notes: The Native Science Report Blog

Webinar for linguists applying for NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program

The Linguistic Society of America is hosting a webinar for linguistics scholars focused on applying for the National Science Foundation’s  Graduate Research Fellowships.

The webinar will take place on Wednesday, May 10 from 2:30 to 4:30 PM US EDT.

Register for the webinar here.  Participation is limited to 100 attendees, but the webinar will be archived for later viewing.

According to the LSA’s announcement, “students early in their research training – undergraduates, post bacs, first or second year graduate students, those whose graduate training was interrupted, and faculty advisors – are encouraged to attend, especially those from tribal colleges  (TCUs),  historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), and other minority serving institutions.”

New program solicitation announced for NSF’s Faculty Early Career Development Program

The National Science Foundation has issued a new program solicitation for its Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER), which provides support to “early-career” faculty who “have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization,” according to the solicitation synopsis.

“Activities pursued by early-career faculty should build a firm foundation for a lifetime of leadership in integrating education and research,” according to the synopsis. “NSF encourages submission of CAREER proposals from early-career faculty at all CAREER-eligible organizations and especially encourages women, members of underrepresented minority groups, and persons with disabilities to apply.”

The solicitation also includes a description of the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE).

The new CAREER program solicitation (NSF 17-537) can be accessed at https://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2017/nsf17537/nsf17537.htm