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Sources: Rachel Wieme,;
and David Rintoul, 785-532-6615,
News release prepared by: Rosie Hoefling, 785-532-2535,

Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2010


MANHATTAN -- Kansas State University has provided one college student with a research project this summer where the buffalo roam and the deer and the antelope play.

Rachel Wieme, a junior at St. Olaf College in Minnesota, is conducting research at the Konza Prairie Biological Station as part of K-State's "Ecology, Evolution and Genomics of Grassland Organisms" research experiences for undergraduates program. Wieme's project examines how various aspects of a tallgrass prairie ecosystem can affect a plant's overall root growth.

"The objective of it is mainly just for better understanding," said Wieme, who is from Sartell, Minn. "Not nearly as much is known about below-ground processes of plants as there is about above ground because it's so difficult to study."

Wieme has spent the past several weeks collecting underground soil cores from Konza Prairie and analyzing the samples in the lab. The specific environmental factors she is investigating include how the presence of grazing animals and varying soil depths correlate with the thickness yield of plant roots and the conductive abilities of those root classes.

Wieme is one of 15 undergraduate students currently participating in the biology research experience program at K-State this summer. Each student was assigned a 10-week research project and a K-State biology mentor.

For the past 15 years the National Science Foundation has funded various fields of study at K-State that support undergraduates in obtaining summer research experiences and stimulate the students' interest in graduate education and research careers. K-State also currently has ongoing summer research experiences for undergraduates programs in sustainable energy, physics, biology and mathematics.

The program is important to K-State, according to David Rintoul, interim director of the university's Division of Biology.

"We've had several of these Konza research undergraduatestudents end up at the K-State Graduate School, which is good because the program is highly selective -- they have the brightest and the best," he said. "Even if they don't end up here, they leave with a positive impression of K-State."