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MURI Program: Pre-Columbian Climate-Human-Landscape Interactions in the Midwest

DUE is home to IEL and the CRL which is administering the Multidisciplinary Undergraduate Research Institute (MURI) both in the academic year and the summer, which creates and supports multidisciplinary research teams consisting of undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, senior staff and faculty. The primary purpose of these teams is to provide undergraduates a unique opportunity to gain research skills by working with mentors on real world problems.

Overview of department:
The Department of Earth Sciences combines the strengths of biology, chemistry, geography, and physics to investigate our Earth. We teach our students to be aware of how humans interact with the environment and explore the Earth’s history and processes from a global perspective. Earth Sciences is a small department (12 faculty) focused on student learning and research. We value an inclusive learning environment that allows everyone to learn about our interconnected Earth.

Project summary:
The project is structured so that all team members will at some point perform all the tasks required for the research. In general, students will conduct physical and geochemical analysis of lake sediments to test hypotheses about the possible role of Mississippi River flooding in the abandonment of the largest pre-Columbian archaeological site in North America.

Specific tasks that the MURI student will complete: 

Tasks that students will perform include:
  1. Collection of lake sediment cores from Horseshoe Lake, IL.
  2. Preparation of lake sediment samples for a variety of physical and geochemical analyses
  3. Conducting physical and geochemical analyses of these lake sediments.
  4. Synthesizing and analyzing data
  5. Interpreting data to test specific hypotheses.

Specific qualifications (knowledge, skills, class standing, etc) we desire the MURI student to have:

We only require enthusiasm and a desire to learn new skills. Any major of discipline is ok. GPAs above 3.0 preferred, but lower will be considered.

Learning objectives:
By the end of this position assignment, the student will meet the following learning objectives

Students will:
  1. Learn paleoclimatology field techniques, including retrieval of lake sediment archives.
  2. Analytical laboratory methods for physical and geochemical analyses.
  3. Data synthesis, interpretation, and applying the scientific method to geo-archaeological questions.