North Central College - Naperville, IL

How the environment left its mark on Matt. (Instead of the other way around)

How the environment left its mark on Matt. (Instead of the other way around)

Biology major Matt McCary’s summer internship took him to a part of the country he’d never seen before: the scenic Oregon coast. Matt was joined by classmate Shanon Hankin and Christine Weilhoefer, assistant professor of biology, for a seven-week study of salt marsh vegetation at Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, OR. Sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, their study is part of a larger effort to understand the potential effects of urbanization, like fertilizer runoff, on coastal regions.

“A team of us fertilized individual vegetation plots within the salt marsh using nitrogen and phosphorus,” Matt explains. “We wanted to see which nutrient combination had the most impact.” Matt will present his findings from the Oregon project at the National Conferences on Undergraduate Research (NCUR) in Missoula, MT in April.

Matt learned several other important lessons from the project. As much as he loved the Oregon coast, he’s decided that zoology is his favorite area of study because creatures like salamanders and spiders are more lively than plants. “Going to Oregon was a great experience,” he says. “And I also realized that zoology is what I’m going to study in grad school.”

In total, 31 other students in addition to Matt will present their research findings at NCUR. The number of participants from North Central College is among the most of any institution represented at the conference.

NCUR is dedicated to promoting undergraduate research, scholarship and creative activity in all fields of study. This annual gathering welcomes up to 2,600 scholars and their faculty mentors from all institutions of higher learning in the United States.