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Ecology and evolution in changing environments: Mechanisms to Responses


Research output. Research projects of REU students have spanned a wide range of topics in ecology, evolutionary biology and ecological genomics. Since 1995, the Biology REU Site funding has resulted over 55 articles published in peer-reviewed journals, 9 undergraduate theses, and more than 40 oral presentations or posters at scientific meetings based on research from summer projects. REU participants have also disseminated research results by publishing in science newsletters and popular articles and by giving informal talks to natural history groups. Career choices of REU participants demonstrates that undergraduate research training at K-State has long-lasting benefits, and the strong publication record of our REU participants indicates that undergraduate projects can also result in important contributions for understanding the ecology and evolution of grassland ecosystems.

The REU Site Program in the Division of Biology at K-State is one of the longest running REU Site Programs funded by NSF (16 summers in a 17-year period since 1995). There are many ways to measure the success of this type of program and we track publications, presentations at professional meetings, undergraduate theses, and career choices for all of our participants. As of 2011, past K-State Biology REU participants have included six students who received NSF Graduate Research Fellowships, two Goldwater Scholars, two Udall Scholars, and one Fulbright Scholar. The highest degree received by former REU participants varies as a function of time since participation in the program: at least 34 (20%) REU students have completed doctoral degrees, 43 (25%) have completed master’s degrees, and 78 (45%) have completed only bachelor's degrees thus far.


Division of Biology

Academic success of the K-State Biology REU Site Participants. Number of students is graphed versus year of program. Shading denotes the highest degree received (n = 174). Asterisk denotes a year when participants were funded by REU supplements.

Research Productivity of REU Site1995-2011. REU student publications include peer-reviewed articles & undergraduate theses. Dashed line is the trend between number of publications per year and year.

Career Choices. Career choices of REU participants have been equally divided between nonacademic and academic careers. Of 174 REU Site participants, 88 (51%) have entered careers in other professions whereas 86 (49%) are still studying or working at academic institutions. Among students in nonacademic professions, 18 (10%) are employed by federal or state government agencies (e.g., USDA, USFWS, USGS, state natural resources), 10 (6%) are teaching in secondary education, 14 (8%) are employed by nonprofit or nongovernmental organizations (e.g., The Nature Conservancy, Wildlife Conservation Society), 6 (3%) have entered medicine or veterinary science, and 14 (8%) are working in other professions (e.g., law, environmental consulting, agriculture, information technology, professional photography), or are not employed. Of 86 former REU students affiliated with academic institutions, 13 (15%) are now college-level faculty, 5 (6%) are postdoctoral fellows, 4 (5%) are research associates, 44 (51%) are currently enrolled in graduate programs, and the remaining 20 (23%) are working to complete undergraduate degrees. Many of the career choices of our former students required a foundation of ecological and evolutionary knowledge that was first developed during research experiences as an undergraduate REU student. In our contacts with past REU students, they were grateful for the research opportunities provided by the financial support of the National Science Foundation, and many credited the REU Site Program as a major factor contributing to their career choices, research development, and professional success.

Career choices of the K-State Biology REU Site Participants from 1995-2011. The graph is a clustered and stacked bar frequency plot versus time. For each year the black and white (i.e., left bar) stacked frequency plots contain data on all individuals within each REU cohort (n = 174), while the colored (i.e., right bar) stacked frequency plots contain data on the academic proportion of each REU cohort (n = 86). Individuals were included in the academic proportion if they are continuing progress toward an academic degree or working in a fulltime position at a college or university. Overall career choices for all individuals in each REU cohort were categorized into six general groups (see text for details). Academic career choices for each REU cohort were categorized into five common academic groupings. Asterisk denotes the year participants were funded only by REU supplements.