Research Project Description

Nitrogen Fixers in a Western River Network is a research project that focuses on the controls of nitrogen fixations and documents the topography in a connected network of streams within the Eel River basin in the western United States. The results will help in the development of predictive maps that place the controls and consequences of biological nitrogen fixation into the context of river networks. The study also provides undergraduate students with experience in field ecology and the scientific process.

This study is funded by the National Science Foundation.

Project Title

Nitrogen Fixers in a Western River Network


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When Jessica Cormier first came to St. Kate’s, she had an interest in ecology, but was undecided if she wanted to pursue the subject as her future career path.

In the spring of 2010, Jill Welter, assistant biology professor, invited Cormier to be a part of her on-going research project studying nutrient uptake and nitrogen fixation in streams and rivers on the Heath and Marjorie Angelo Coast Range Reserve in Angelo, California.

Cormier says her attraction to the project stemmed from wanting to apply what she was learning in the classroom to research in a real-life setting. “I wanted to see what it was like to be outside doing field research and collecting data. I can read material from books but it doesn’t apply for me as much if I don’t have that first-hand experience.”

Over a two-month period during the summer of 2010, Cormier conducted research with Welter, Angela Rosendahl ’11, in addition to two students from St. Olaf College. “We worked with one another individually and as a big group. This showed me that within research, a sense of community is developed.”

She says being away from home and not having the stress of academic classes enabled her “to be fully focused and involved [in the research].”

Cormier’s meaningful experience in California helped solidify her career aspirations. “I can now see myself performing ecological research in the future,” she says. “This research project definitely gave me a foundation I can use in the future. From my experience I have a better sense of what research is like – self-driven and self-motivated.”