Summer heat draws research in drought science

As everyone prepares for the wrath of another Texas summer, five lucky students will get the chance to dive into the world of drought research.  For students interested in undergraduate research, this is a unique opportunity to become fully immersed in a research project on campus this summer.  To help foster the development of innovative summer research experiences for undergraduates, Honors and Undergraduate Research introduces the Summer Program for Undergraduate Research (SPUR).  As a part of the drought science program, students will get the chance to work with Dr. Steven Quiring, Associate Professor in the Department of Geography, studying drought predictability.

From 1980-2005 droughts caused roughly $145 billion in damage throughout the United States, as reported by the National Climate Data Center. Droughts have had a huge impact on Texas, with the worst drought in its history from 2010-2011. “Drought and water resource issues are one of the grand challenges facing society,” wrote Quiring in his proposal for the drought science program.

The recent formation of the Drought Science Learning Community brings students who share a passion for climate science together to learn about climate regions, hydrology, monitoring and prediction through weekly discussions and selected courses in geography.

Two students who were already a part of the Drought Science Learning Community will receive full-time student research positions with Quiring for the summer of 2012, thanks to the support of the SPUR award.  Student researchers will join three additional students supported by Quiring’s National Science Foundation (NSF) research grant in participation in every aspect of the scientific process this summer, from collecting data to model development to preparation of research papers and presentations. With the SPUR award, students will participate not only in information gathering and processing, but also have the chance to attend the annual meeting of the American Meteorological Society in Austin, Texas.

Students who participate in the research program will be encouraged to complete their own undergraduate thesis, have the opportunity to present their findings at Student Research Week and could be published in Explorations; the Texas A&M undergraduate journal

Students participating in this program will also have the opportunity to interact with students who participate in the NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program in Geography, Ecohydrology of a Tropical Montane Cloud Forest, in Costa Rica.  SPUR student researchers will be able to discuss their methods, discoveries and trouble-shooting with those participating in the REU program.

“The best way for undergraduates to apply the knowledge they learn in class is through research.  It helps them to understand the theories they hear in class.  These programs also set them up for their futures through opportunities like speaking to professionals in their field,” said Quiring.

Contact : Chrystina Rago, chrysrago@honors.tamu.edu

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