Friday, July 10, 2009

Intern samples science

Kelsie Maslen works in the AFES greenhouse

A rural high school student got to try her hand at being a budding scientist, thanks to the High School Summer Research Internship Program funded by the National Science Foundation's Long Term Ecological Research program and co-sponsored by SNRAS, EPSCoR, and IARC.

Kelsie Maslen, a high school senior from Kotzebue, worked with Professor Stephen Sparrow June 4-July 8. Maslen tackled a project to determine if treatment with a root substance would improve the rooting of poplar and willow cuttings. She selected the topic because it complemented the work being done by Dr. Sparrow and research associate darleen masiak, who are evaluating the storage effects of cuttings. Sparrow is also studying the potential of willows as a biofuel crop.

The cuttings in Maslen’s study were collected while the trees were dormant in the winter, and were stored at 5 degrees Celsius until they were moved to a greenhouse. Maslen wanted to compare three treatments: no treatment, dry hormodin (rooting inducing substance), and soaking in water for forty-eight hours. Her methods included a 1:1 mixture of perlite and vermiculite, placement in a misting bed in a greenhouse, evaluating weekly for presence of leaves, checking for root growth after four weeks.

Maslen concluded that for the balsam poplar, no treatments affected the leafing and that treating with dry hormodin improved the rooting. For the willow, dry hormodin reduced leafing by the first sample date and also reduced rooting.

Maslen aims for a career in marine science, but said working with plants was a lot of fun. Dr. Sparrow said the internship is a good opportunity for bright rural high school students to learn about science by working with scientists and doing hands-on work. “Kelsie is a good worker and good to be around,” he said.

Maslen was recognized at UAF’s Rural Alaska Honors Institute graduation ceremony July 8. The students, who came from forty-three communities across Alaska, spent six weeks living in UAF residence halls, building their academic skills, and learning firsthand about college life. Following graduation, three of the students flew to New Hampshire to participate in three weeks of academic study with the Science & Mathematics through Research Training Project. Another ten students flew to Barrow to work with scientists from the Barrow Arctic Science Consortium and seven others took video cameras home to their communities to complete a film project for possible premiere at the Alaska House in New York. Maslen participated in the Barrow adventure.

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