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Jessy Carlson is interested in things that disturb ecosystems and ways to remedy those disturbances. So for her, a research internship at the Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve is the perfect addition to her biology major at the University of Wisconsin-Superior.
Carlson is a biology major who's originally from Sheboygan, Wis. In September 2011 she began an internship at the Lake Superior NERR that will help her learn research skills and fulfill the capstone requirement for her major.
"I'm interested in disturbance regimens in ecosystems. That means things that happen in an ecosystem that throw the balance off," she said. "I'm also interested in conservation strategies to remedy the disturbance."
One way ecosystems are disturbed is through introduction of invasive plant species. For her internship, Carlson is examining how fluctuating water levels in the St. Louis River estuary affect beetles that feed on purple loosestrife, an invasive plant species.
Her field work included collecting purple loosestrife plants, beetles and sediment from the estuary. Now she's using UW-Superior's greenhouse as a site to observe how the beetles feed on plant leaves that are clean and those that are covered with sediment.
Her goal is to determine whether hungry beetles - which were introduced to destroy purple loosestrife - avoid plants that have been covered with sediment during periods of high water.
Along with her internship, Carlson also has worked for the reserve. Both experiences have proven valuable in providing her with experience, she said.
"It's a functioning scientific organization. It's not just practice," she said. "The things I'm doing are real-world. It's not just for a grade. And the people I'm working with are incredibly supportive."
Carlson plans to attend graduate school to study conservation strategy. She said the graduate programs she's contacted have been interested in her internship.
"The faculty members I've spoken to are very curious about my research. They say that's why they got back to me about my application," she said.
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