“I hope to teach high school science. This project will help me relate what I did in college in Nebraska to students in Nebraska.”
Wearing bulging brown overalls, Alyssa Dillon carefully steps into the navy water to trawl for plankton. The Fremont native is wading into the remote lakes of Nebraska’s windswept Sandhills and, like a doctor with a new patient, begins taking down vital signs. Under Daugherty Water for Food Institute Faculty Affiliate and University of Nebraska at Kearney biology professor Julie Shaffer’s guidance, Dillon’s project will, for the first time, establish baselines for health, biodiversity, invasive species and restoration of eight lakes in Brown County. The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission is considering some of these lakes for fish farming and angling and as experimental sites for controlling invasive species, which led them to Shaffer.
In August 2014, the Water for Food Institute awarded its inaugural round of student support grants to faculty fellows. The grants provide stipends to students like Dillon who are working on projects that contribute to a more water and food secure world. To Dillon, who graduates in May 2015 with degrees in secondary education and biology, this means carrying out a relevant project with substance over the course of an academic year. “I’ll be presenting this (project) for a class in the spring. So it’s nice to have all of this information that I’ll do something with and not just a project where I’m going through the motions.”
Dillon says she appreciates Shaffer’s expertise and whole-hearted support of her biology studies. “She works on the project with me and checks my proposal and makes sure we have everything that goes along with the research. With her, I am way more involved in this than a typical project.”
“It’s more than just research in a class. It’s learning the ecosystem in Nebraska, the health of these lakes and helping the ranchers to manage their properties. I think it’s a great opportunity that they (students) have due to the Water for Food Institute in being able to be part of a bigger process and understanding of what’s happening in Nebraska.”
– DWFI Faculty Fellow Julie Shaffer, on her students’ research