|Summer Research Opportunities|
Various research locations within the Northern Plains Area (NPA) typically offer 6-8 research opportunities each summer. These positions are full time for 8 weeks at competitive rates of pay, and provide hands-on learning experiences working on actual research projects with scientists and technicians. Previous November issues of our employee newsletter, VOICES, have featured these research opportunities.
Positions are posted on this site in mid-to late January, so keep this site bookmarked and check it weekly starting in the second week of January.
For more information about these opportunities, contact:
Barbara King - Barbara.King@ars.usda.gov
Pathways Internships in the
The Northern Plains Area (NPA) has nine Area Co-Funded Summer Pathways Internships available for the summer of 2013. Brief descriptions of each of these internships can be found at the bottom of this page. The number of internships, locations, anticipated series, mentoring scientist, research unit, and expected pay grade is noted below (links have been provided for each location’s web site and mentoring scientist’s email address):
Additionally, other Pathways Internships may be available at any of the NPA locations, and all NPA Pathways Internships are posted to the USAJobs.website. The announcement includes details on job series, qualifications (required coursework if any and comparable experience), pay, etc. Specific questions about any of the internships posted above should be directed to the scientist listed; general questions about NPA Pathways Internships can be directed to Barbara King (Barbara.King@ars.usda.gov).
Note that the NPA Pathways Internships opened Monday, January 28, 2013 and close Friday, February 8, 2013 (applications must be received by 11:59 PM (Eastern Time).
Application Instructions: To apply for any of these Internships, follow the instructions found on the gray tab entitled “How to Apply” from the announcement on USAJobs. Applicants must email a separate application package for each location and series they are applying for. The following documents are required:
Clay Center, NE, Dr. Tara McDaneld: The student selected for this project will evaluate regions on Chromosome 5 that have been identified to be associated with reproductive performance in multiple cattle populations. The student will accomplish this by first learning and using laboratory techniques including DNA extraction, polymerase chain reaction (PCR), basic sequencing protocols, and statistical and sequence analysis programs to determine if the DNA marker or gene sequence on Chromosome 5 contains variation associated with high or low reproductive performance. The student will then use these techniques to generate sequence from the identified region of Chromosome 5 and identify additional sequence variation (DNA markers and copy number variation) that demonstrate association with reproductive performance in multiple breeds. From this project, genetic markers will be identified for use in the cattle industry. The intern will have the opportunity to attend weekly discussions of research being done at the Center targeted to undergraduates. Additionally, a final report connecting the intern’s research with the beef industry’s needs will be presented to other interns and interested scientists. The individual selected for this project should have an interest in genetics and molecular biology. Additionally, the intern should have an interest in learning laboratory techniques to evaluate DNA sequence.
Fargo, ND, Dr. Heldur Hakk: Estrogens are known endocrine disrupting compounds (EDCs) that are excreted by production animals, humans, and wildlife. Estrogens can enter the environment via manure or municipal sludges used for fertilizer. In order to accurately track the environmental movement of estrogens, particularly from agricultural sources, it would be desirable to have a uniquely labeled estrogen, which could be analytically tracked after application to the field. Usually such labeling is done with radioactive isotopes, but introduction of radioactivity into the environment is not allowed, nor practical. Therefore, we propose to synthesize an estrogen molecule incorporating the stable carbon-13 isotope (not radioactive). Using mass spectrometry, this carbon-13 marker estrogen is easily distinguished from the native estrogens found in the environment. A multi-step chemical synthesis method has been identified in the literature, which will be followed in order to make C-13 labeled 17β-estradiol for future field studies. The proposed intern will help to synthesize C-13 labeled estradiol using classical synthetic organic chemistry techniques. The project is applicable to an intern program because the synthesis is made up of several discrete steps. Each step is marked with a specific objective, has tangible goals and easily measured outcomes (yields, purities, incorporation of label, etc). The successful candidate will work with the mentor to design and execute each synthetic step and to analyze the success of each step. An oral report to the Research Unit and(or) Center will be appropriate upon completion of the internship. The ideal intern will have a strong interest in organic or medicinal chemistry. The project will include hands-on use of chemicals including weighing, refluxing, recrystallization, distillation, chromatography, and analytical analysis. Opportunity for data interpretation (e.g. mass spectrometry, nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometry) will be afforded depending upon the aptitude of the student intern.
Fargo, ND, Dr. Joe Rinehart: The project involves the development of a computer based system to collect information about environmental conditions and insect activity and to control electrical equipment semi-autonomously. Although our research team strongly believes in tailoring projects to the interests and strengths of the individuals involved, we expect that the intern might be successful in the developing of a field monitoring system for the nesting environment and behavior of the alfalfa leafcutting bee. This alternative pollinator is a cavity nester, and under research conditions, it will nest in blocks of wood containing small drilled holes. Our research team has developed alternative rearing protocols for this insect that we strongly suspect will improve bee quality, but the industry is reluctant to implement our protocols without an assessment of pollination and nesting activity, which currently is a very work intensive endeavor. The intern would assist our research team in the development of an automated system to record these values for nesting blocks in the field. Using small computer boards and basic sensors, the intern would help develop a system to monitor environmental conditions within the nest, record bee visits to the nest, and activate a small cooling device when temperatures rise above optimal conditions. As these processes will be conducted in the field, the system will be solar powered and have the ability to record data to a standard camera memory card. The intern’s specific responsibilities would be grade appropriate, and would include: reviewing system design with ARS scientists, basic wiring, construction, and programming of the system, and troubleshooting the system under field conditions. The intern would present their work at a center seminar at the end of their assignment. At least one year of college experience in electrical and/or computer engineering or related fields is preferred. Previous experience with basic electronics skills, microcontroller programming, physical computing, and/or 3D printing is preferred.
Fargo, ND, Dr. Lili Qi: This project will investigate the linkage relationship of a fertility restoration gene and a downy mildew resistance gene in sunflower. Previous study revealed that the two genes may be located on the same chromosome. The college intern will actively participate in field and laboratory work, data collection, data entry, and data analysis. An F2-derived F3 population with 200 F3 families will be planted in the Fargo field in the summer 2013. The intern will evaluate male fertility of F3 population at the flowering stage in August. The F3 plants will be visually scored for the presence or absence of pollen. The intern will also work in the greenhouse to screen this F3 population for downy mildew resistance. Twenty to thirty seeds of each F3 family, a total of 4,000-6,000 seeds, will be evaluated for downy mildew resistance in greenhouse trials. Seeds will be germinated for 3 days and inoculated by the whole-seedling immersion technique. Evaluations of virulent phenotype will be made at 10-12 d post inoculation. Because these are multiday experiments with extended infection times, the intern will also have the opportunity to participate in field trips to evaluate Sclerotinia disease, another devastative disease in sunflower. The intern will analyze F2 genotype data derived from F3 family tests both for the downy mildew and male fertility. The genetic distance of male fertility restoration gene and downy mildew resistance gene will be estimated using appropriate software. These projects will be completed during the 2013 summer season (July 1-August 23) and the intern will be able to participate in them from initiation to completion. At the end of the internship, the intern will be asked to summarize his or her experience in a PowerPoint presentation. Experience working in field and greenhouse would be preferred; background in Agronomy is desirable along with knowledge of Microsoft Excel or other data entry program.
Lincoln, NE, Dr. Virginia Jin: The proposed project focuses on a laboratory study to evaluate the emission of greenhouse gases during the decomposition of forage radish in the soil. Forage radish is becoming increasingly popular as a winter cover crop throughout the U.S., but little is known about how nutrients are lost from forage radish roots once frozen radish biomass begins to thaw and decompose in the spring. The intern will conduct a laboratory soil study under controlled conditions to measure nutrient leaching and gas losses from contrasting soils amended with frozen radish biomass. Additional training in the field setting will be provided to contrast lab methods with field-scale measurements of soil greenhouse gas emissions. Intern responsibilities will be to assist in setting up and maintaining the laboratory experiment which will last for 30 days. The intern will be trained to collect gas, soil, and leachate samples and prepare the samples for analyses. In addition, the intern will also receive a basic introduction to the analytical instrumentation used to analyze these different sample types. Experimental data will be summarized and evaluated by the intern, including software training for basic statistics. The intern will be required to meet with the mentor weekly for a self-directed meeting regarding the laboratory study or any topic related to the intern’s academic/professional development. A Powerpoint presentation or poster will be required by the end of the internship. Some basic introductory level biology, chemistry, statistics, and/or agricultural or environmental science-related fields are preferred.
Logan, UT, Dr. Kevin Welch: Many plants contain toxins that are known to cause birth defects in many livestock species. Previous research in our laboratory, as well as other laboratories, has demonstrated that a rat is a good small animal model to evaluate the teratogenic (birth defect causing) potential of several different plant toxins. Consequently we plan to expand our evaluation of the teratogenic potential of several plant toxins, including anabasine, the toxin in wild tobacco (Nicotiana glauca). We will test anabasine as it is well documented to cause birth defects in a number of other species. The use of a small animal model, such as a rat, is vital to analyze purified compounds as it is difficult and expensive to obtain enough compounds to treat the much larger livestock species. For this study, pregnant rats will be treated by feeding rat chow (containing anabasine) from gestational day (GD) 6-21. Breeding groups of 1 male and 2 females will be used. The pregnant rats will be housed individually and dosed with anabasine-containing rat chow beginning on GD 6. Anabasine-containing rat chow will be prepared by mixing ground up normal rat chow with 10% corn starch, water, and the appropriate amount of anabasine. The mixture will then be formed into pellets and allowed to dry. Food consumption will be monitored daily to determine the exact dose each rat receives. Body weight will also be monitored every other day. At the end of the study, rat pups will be evaluated for any birth defects. High school classes in biology, physiology, and chemistry will be helpful but are not requisite.
Mandan, ND, Dr. John Hendrickson: Invasion of native rangeland by non-native Kentucky bluegrass reduces rangeland productivity and plant diversity. Even in pastures dominated by Kentucky bluegrass, however, there are small areas or patches where the Kentucky bluegrass is less abundant. This project would focus on these patches and compare their species composition, soil characteristics and forage production with more heavily invaded areas. Kentucky bluegrass does not invade uniformly but rather it occurs through a mosaic of invaded and non-invaded patches. This project would focus on understanding the soil and vegetation characteristics of these patches to aid in developing management practices to reduce non-native grass invasion. This project will be conducted at two sites 1) heavily invaded rangelands on the Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory (NGPRL) and 2) less invaded rangelands on an AFRI-funded research project on the Standing Rock Reservation near McLaughlin, South Dakota.
This project would be divided into three distinct but connected foci. The first focus would be to geolocate the sites (via GPS) and collect rangeland plant species information from small patches with less Kentucky bluegrass within two long-term grazing treatments at the Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory and at an experimental rangeland restoration site on the Standing Rock Reservation. The second focus area would be to quantify soil attributes within these patches and adjacent areas. The third focus area would be to evaluate the livestock forage quality and quantity from the patches and adjacent areas. The soil and forage quality focus areas will provide laboratory as well as field experience. Because the project requires different expertise for each focus area, the intern would interact with team of rangeland, soil, and animal scientists. The intern would be expected to develop a scientific presentation for location staff and others and compile the information in tables and graphs for use in scientific publications and grant proposals. Coursework in botany, soils, ecology or animal science would be preferred. Previous experience in laboratory or field environments is preferred. Experience with Excel, PowerPoint, and Word is preferred.
Manhattan, KS, Dr. Guy Hallman: Heat (50°C for 16 h) is used as an ‘organic’ methyl bromide replacement for disinfesting flour mills and other structures of stored product pests. Heat with low oxygen/increased carbon dioxide reduces the amount of time required to kill stored product pests to a fraction of the time required in normal atmospheres (Navarro 2012; J. Pest. Sci. 85: 301-322). The studies cited in Navarro (2012) were done at lower temperatures than those used for structural disinfestation. Propane gas is used to fire heat disinfestation equipment and the burners could be used to reduce oxygen and increase carbon dioxide inside the structures being disinfested as they are heated. The objective of this research is to evaluate thermotolerance of key stored product pests at reduced oxygen/increased carbon dioxide levels expected inside structures if the heaters were used to burn the oxygen therein. A laboratory-scale electrical heating system that has been used to develop heat disinfestation treatments for insects will be used. The system is capable of heating in atmospheres simulating those expected to occur in structures where heating equipment is used to reduce the oxygen. The end product would be a scientific educational poster that would be displayed in the hall at the CGAHR as well as copies for the student and their school. No prior experience is required. Basic biology at the high school or college level is preferred, as is coursework covering insect biology.
Sidney, MT, Dr. Stefan Jaronski: The insect pathology laboratory within the PMRU is currently evaluating a series of insect pathogenic fungi for possible use against grasshoppers. Several fungi have been identified as good candidates but field data is lacking. The Summer research opportunity will involve conducting spray tests of these fungi onto pots of rangeland grasses using our track sprayer and assessing efficacy by confining grasshoppers to the treated pots and recording mortality during the subsequent 14-day observation period. A subset of treated pots will be weathered outdoors and similarly bioassayed to determine persistence of the fungi. These experiments are in parallel with regular field trials of the fungi, to provide better understanding of factors affecting field efficacy. Assigned duties will include preparation of the fungal sprays, their application, conduct of the bioassays, and statistical analysis of the data (with guidance of the scientist). In addition, the student will assist in grasshopper rearing and tasks in support of scheduled ARS/APHIS grasshopper field trials in the Sidney area. Ideally, basic, undergraduate coursework in entomology or related science is desired.
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