Drs. Malia Fincher and Betsy Dobbins of the Samford University biological and environmental science department have received a $240,000 National Science Foundation-Research Experiences for Undergraduates (NSF-REU) grant for a two-year ecological study at Oak Mountain State Park.The grant will support "interdisciplinary research in a diverse Appalachian ridge and valley ecosystem," according to Dr. Dobbins. It includes funding for 12 undergraduates from around the nation to study hands-on ecology at Oak Mountain during the summers of 2013 and 2014.
The students will be selected through a national search, with applications due in January, according to Dr. Fincher. "Competition for places in these programs is usually quite stiff," she said. One or two may come from Samford, she added.
The students will be paired with faculty research mentors in the spring, and then arrive at Samford in early June to begin their research, said Fincher.
They will explore the ecology, chemistry, zoology and geography of Oak Mountain State Park, working in the field at the park and in laboratories at Samford and its Oak Mountain Interpretive Center.
"The NSF funding should allow us to offer great research opportunities to many more students each summer and will let our faculty work with a diverse group of highly talented and motivated students," said Fincher.
This is the first NSF-REU grant awarded to Samford, noted Dobbins.