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Biology professor awarded $135,000 from National Science Foundation

Biology Professor Jill Welter, Ph.D., shares details of a project on nitrogen fixation with faculty and staff from St. Kates and the College of Saint Benedict during a luncheon.
Biology Professor Jill Welter, Ph.D., shares details of a project on nitrogen fixation with faculty and staff from St. Kates and the College of Saint Benedict during a luncheon.
Melissa Kaelin

Assistant Professor of Biology Jill Welter, Ph.D., has been awarded $135,000 to date from the National Science Foundation for her collaborative research project entitled Nitrogen Fixers in a Western River Network: Constraints and Consequences. Welter was the Principal investigator for the award.

Nitrogen fixation is the process through which organisms convert nitrogen gas in the atmosphere to a form that can be used in other biological processes. Because biologically available nitrogen often limits plant growth, nitrogen fixation is a critical process that can influence ecosystem productivity, species composition, and food web interactions. Though the importance of nitrogen fixation has been studied in many terrestrial ecosystems, the process has been studied less in streams, which have been thought to be limited by the availability of phosphorus rather than the availability of nitrogen.

Undergraduate research opportunities
Each summer, Welter has traveled with biology students to the Heath and Marjorie Angelo Coast Range Reserve in northern California to study nitrogen fixation in the streams. The collaborative stream ecology research project between St. Kate’s faculty and students and other experts in the field has been ongoing for the past five years.

With support from the National Science Foundation, Welter will continue to provide research opportunities and training to undergraduate science and science education students at St. Catherine University. The grant will also provide students with the opportunity to work with an interdisciplinary team of scientists, giving them first-hand experience in field ecology and the scientific process.

Welter was honored by faculty and staff from St. Catherine University and the College of Saint Benedict during the $100k Klub Luncheon on March 30. There, Welter presented the details of her research project and shared video footage of the Heath and Marjorie Angelo Coast Range Reserve. The $100k Klub was established in 2008-2009 to recognize the achievement of a successful government grant submission, resulting in an award in excess of $100,000.

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March 31, 2011 by Melissa Kaelin

See also: Faculty, STEM, Students