Honors Summer Snapshots: Brady

Ever wonder what Honors students do during the summer? Honors Ambassadors and students will be taking you into their 2017 summer routines via photos. Brady Nahkala spent the summer in Michigan (similar to his FHP co-leader Jessica) honing his research skills and his passion for sand dunes:

Hello hello! My name is Brady Nahkala and I will be a junior this fall in Biological Systems Engineering with a minor in GIS (Geographic Information Systems). This summer I was blessed to be selected as part of a 10-person cohort in the NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates program entitled “Quantitative Science and Technology.” This REU is hosted in Muskegon, MI at the Annis Water Resources Institute. For those of you considering research careers, an REU is a great experience that helps you understand if it’s the fit for you. You are able to see the “ins and outs” of research life and often you have the potential to publish as an undergraduate!

Figure 1: Here are a few pictures of the Annis Water Resources Institute. It was a beautiful place to work, located on its own pier along the shore of Muskegon Lake and only a short drive from Lake Michigan.

My project is focusing on improving standard methods for monitoring and modeling whole-stream metabolism (think in-stream photosynthesis and respiration). This has involved about 10% field work and 90% working with statistical and calculus-based models that represent the processes.

Figure 2: Here are a few photos from our fieldwork. Dr. McNair is setting up the sonde for a short-term monitoring run (left). In the top right, Dr. McNair’s grad student Jay and I are looking through some stream maps. The bottom right features our monitoring equipment…the sondes look very boring but are crazy expensive.

As a part of this program in particular, we had classroom sessions covering statistical methods and the R software platform, which is very relevant for a variety of applications. Through this program, I have met students from all over the country and they have been an integral part of the awesomeness that has transpired this summer.

Figure 3: The REU Interns. Left to right: Me!, Ellen (MI), Marisa (CA), Rebekah (LA), Tom (NH), Jen (PA), Bethany (PA), Brittany (NC), Meera (CA), Brooke (MA).

Michigan itself reminds me of Minnesota (home, for those of you that don’t know me), other than the alien dune ecosystem that covers the entire Lake Michigan shoreline. So. Much. Sand. It’s really annoying if you want a clean apartment, but absolutely beautiful for hiking and sunsets. Many of Michigan’s state parks lie along the shore, including Muskegon, P.J. Hoffmaster, and Silver Lake. Both Muskegon and Hoffmaster State Parks were my go-to for trail running and hiking.

Figure 4: Top Left: The highest point in Muskegon State Park…perfect for bombing the sandy hill straight into Lake Michigan. Top Right: The lighthouse at Silver Lake State Park. Bottom: Lost Lake in Muskegon State Park…a great place to run in solitude.

Five of us utilized our long 4th of July weekend to travel to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Sleeping Bear is similar to other state parks, except the dunes take major steroids and threaten to drop you 400’ straight down into Lake Michigan. On our way to the UP we had to stop in Mackinaw City and gorge on fudge while driving across the eternally-long Mackinaw Bridge.

Figure 5: Top Left: Lower falls of Tahquamenon Falls State Park in the UP. Top Right: Mackinaw Bridge. Bottom Left: Sleeping Bear Dunes Loop. Bottom Right: Upper falls of Tahquamenon Falls State Park.

We hiked in Tahquamenon Falls State Park and spent the night on the shore of Lake Superior (Muskallonge State Park) where we viciously fought off black bears and ferocious, hungry chipmunks. Luckily we survived and I’m geared up for the fall semester! You’ll have to ask me about the rest of my Michigan shenanigans when I see you there.

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