Northern Michigan University senior biology major Tyler Penrod received a $5,000 Honors Program Summer Research Fellowship to study native and invasive plant species near Marquette's Lakeshore Boulevard relocation project site. His faculty mentor is biology professor Diana Lafferty.
Penrod's project is titled “Lake Superior Coastal Restoration and Resiliency: Relocation of Lakeshore Boulevard.” He is collecting water samples to test for E. coli bacterial levels and creating an index for all the plant species present in the project site.
"I'm also collaborating with the Superior Watershed Partnership (SWP), which has allowed me temporary use of its drone for a portion of the project," said Penrod, a native of Belmont, Mich. "The road will be pushed back 100 yards from the lake. I'll be flying the drone to take photos and videos to survey the road before construction starts."
Lafferty said there is a growing grassroots movement in the United States and around the world to conserve and restore healthy ecosystems. This is particularly true in coastal communities, where increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events due to human-caused climate change is increasing the risk of coastal flooding and threatening human livelihoods.
“Tyler's restoration and research activities with SWP are diverse, ranging from vegetation species inventory and monitoring to water chemistry analysis to collecting coastal erosion data using drone technology for developing a systematic protocol to aid long-term coastal restoration monitoring for many years to come,” Lafferty said. “In addition to his exceptional academic achievements and his contributions to meaningful ecological restoration here in Marquette, Tyler's demonstrable commitment to making our shared world more sustainable for generations to come sets him apart from his peers. He is well on his way to becoming a leader in the field of restoration ecology.”
Penrod will give two presentations on the project: at the World Society for Ecological Restoration conference in Cape Town, South Africa in September; and at the National Collegiate Honors Conference in New Orleans in November.
“I've had a lot of really great professors in the Biology and Communication and Performance Studies Departments who have given me opportunities to conduct research on my own, but with their guidance,” said Penrod. “Everyone has been so helpful and encouraging.”
Penrod is one of seven NMU Honors Program students selected to receive funding for summer research with faculty mentors.