The program also provides a $3,500 stipend for a faculty mentor that can be used for equipment purchases, general expenses, travel or training. Gibson and Villalobos, along with Eric Snyder, associate professor of aquatic biology at Grand Valley, are examining how the aquatic communities are responding to the removal of the dam on the Thornapple River in Barry County.
“We are taking samples of aquatic insects to see how the eco-system has been affected by the removal of the dam on the Thornapple River,” said Gibson, a biology major from Canton, Mich. “We are identifying the types of bugs we’re finding in the river and comparing that to what was found in the river last year. You can tell how healthy water is by what types of bugs are in it.”
Villalobos, an aquatic biology major from Grand Rapids, said there are several dams in Barry County. “Our research is significant because the dams are getting older and it’s important to know how the removal of the dams effects the river community,” she said. “That way, decisions can be made on whether to remove or repair a dam.”
The students will also be working with the Department of Natural Resources and hope to publish their findings.