Fred Janzen, Zoology and Genetics, (515) 294-4230
Skip Derra, News Service, (515) 294-4917


AMES, Iowa -- A $275,000 National Science Foundation grant to Iowa State University will help faculty attract undergraduate students from under-represented groups into environmental biology.

The four-year grant will allow the ISU faculty members to recruit at least eight undergraduates per year and provide training and intensive mentoring, help them set up and perform research projects and let them experience what environmental biology has to offer as a career choice, said Fred Janzen, an ISU associate professor of zoology and genetics.

"There is a huge need for environmental biologists today," Janzen said. "Many are looking for people who can work on applied issues, such as the impact of agriculture on declining amphibian, reptile and migratory bird populations."

ISU faculty -- Janzen, Eugenia Farrar, Carol Vleck and David Vleck -- will target groups underrepresented in environmental biology -- primarily minorities, the disabled and first-generation college students. The first year of the project will focus on students already at Iowa State, but subsequent years might also target students in junior colleges and high schools.

The grant will essentially pay for a student to perform his/her own research project. The student will be involved in developing the project, carrying it out and reporting results. There also will be money for the student to travel to professional meetings. Mentoring of the students will be a big component, Janzen said.

"What got us excited about environmental biology, was that somebody took an interest in us and what we were doing," Janzen said. "So we believe the mentor component will be critical to the success of this program."

Research projects will focus on native biological species in Iowa. Each project will cover the importance of species conservation and how wild animals live and function in Iowa.

"What we have in Iowa is land that has been heavily modified by humans, but there are a lot of organisms that still live here," Janzen said. "How do they handle this very modified environment? How do spade-foot toads, which only breed in ephemeral pools in Western Iowa, persist when all of their pools have been drained for farmland? What kind of resources do they need to survive? There are a million questions related to wild animals in the Iowa environment."

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