College of Science

Department of Applied Environmental Science

AES Students and Faculty Present Research at Freshwater Sciences 2023 Conference

Conor pointing to his research poster while talking to a person. Conor's standing to the side with a hand on his hip.

Dr. John Olson, Alexandra “Lexi” Yokomizo, and Connor Quiroz (both current Environmental Science, Technology, and Policy majors) attended and presented their research at the Freshwater Sciences 2023 Conference in Brisbane, Australia (the first time the conference was held outside of North America). Also in attendance was Gretchen Wichman, an ESTP alumni.

Lexi presented her research “Revealing how wildfires can affect river sediments and chemistry during droughts and after precipitation” while Connor presented his research “Causing a Stir in Northern Pitcher Plants (Sarracenia purpurea).” Both of them won awards for their research and were selected to be part of the Emerge Program, which paid their way to the conference and took them on some trips to see Australia before the conference.

We recently touched base with Lexi and Connor to learn more about their experience. Check out the interview with Connor below.

In 3-4 sentences, please summarize your research. What awards did you receive?

In the Watershed Environments and Ecology Lab directed by Dr. John Olson, I am currently modeling a California red-legged frog species distribution in the Carmel River Watershed employing maxent, a machine learning algorithm that uses raster data, to define their habitat suitability. I am currently at a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) studying geology at Macalester University where I am utilizing lithostratigraphy and statistical analyses to define marine paleoenvironments in the Michigan Basin. Last summer in 2022, I used multivariate statistics and PCR to study the microbial communities in Northern Pitcher Plants to determine bacterial resistance to short-term and long-term disturbances at an REU with Central Michigan University. I am currently working on manuscripts for publications for each of these research projects. 

I won the best undergraduate presentation award for my microbial research with pitcher plants at the Freshwater Sciences conference in Brisbane, Australia! 

What did you gain from this experience and does this experience contribute to your career goals?

I learned a bunch about how close collaborations between academia and private organizations can lead to effective watershed management, and it helped me connect with a potential Ph.D. advisor! 

What was your favorite part of the conference?

My favorite part of the Freshwater Sciences Conference was getting exposed to all the different methods, many of which I had never heard of, that were used to measure health in riparian habitats. 

What are your future plans (career, academic, etc.)?

My future goals are to pursue a Ph.D. degree in marine biology utilizing statistical models to predict aquatic habitat sensitivities with respect to climate change. I want to use my expertise gained from a graduate program to partner with community organizations to conduct conservation-oriented research based on their needs.

Any advice for fellow students interested in participating in this kind of research?

To anybody looking to get into research, try it out, have fun, and never discount the awesome skills you already have! Be grateful for every research experience you can get and make the most of it because not liking a topic you encounter will narrow down what you want to do. And try completely new things, even if you have not taken a single class on it; it is a huge learning experience! Just remember you are super cool and have a lot to offer, and regardless of what happens, moving forward in any direction is better than not at all!


Congratulations, Lexi and Connor! We look forward to seeing where your academic and professional endeavors take you!