MacRae awarded inaugural Unity College Undergraduate Research Mentor Award

May 03, 2014

Unity College Assistant Professor of Sustainable Fisheries Management Pamela MacRae has been named the recipient of the newly established Unity College Undergraduate Research Mentor Award.

Earlier this year, the directors of the Unity College Undergraduate Research Program and the office of the Vice President of Academic Affairs issued a call to faculty to submit proposals for mentoring undergraduate research. Designed to give opportunities to facilitate a robust faculty-student collaborative learning environment, the annual Undergraduate Research Mentor Award allows beneficiaries $1,000 in seed money to commence the project, as well as a crucial 3-credit course release in order to have enough dedicated time to pursue the research. A top criterion for selecting a winning submission is that the faculty member offers a clearly detailed explanation of how students will be included in the entire process, from implementation to intensive subject research through completion of the project.

In her proposed project, “A Comparison of Fish Assemblage Structure in Lakes with and without Alewife,” MacRae and a student collaborator will study fish assemblage structure in lakes and investigate the impact of alewives in local Maine waters. They will begin their research Fall 2014.

Specifically, MacRae and her research student will look at the effects of re-introducing alewives on small schooling fishes in the littoral zone, the area of the lake that is close to the shore. These fish typically feed on plankton and are prey to the area sport fish, occupying an important place in aquatic food webs.

“Maine’s historically thriving alewife population has plummeted over the last two centuries, largely due to dams that block the natural spawning migration pattern of the species,” said MacRae. “While the effect on recreational fish of alewife re-introduction has been the focus of various local studies, as a fish community ecologist I think it is as important to examine the impact of the small forage fish in these lakes.”

Wildlife and fisheries management major Brian Eaton, ‘16, was chosen to work with MacRae on the project. Eaton, a student in MacRae’s population and community ecology course, was a fitting choice having had previous research experience on a project studying fish communities. Additionally, Ian Sypek, ’15, and Richard Lee, ’15, will be volunteering on this project, helping Eaton with sampling.

“Pamela’s proposal stood out given her coherent research objectives, a sound timeline and the outline of rigorous student learning outcomes,” said Kevin Spigel, associate professor of geoscience and co-director of the Undergraduate Research Program at Unity College. “Her project also indicated robust student involvement, and clearly illustrated the reciprocal benefits of close faculty mentorship which ultimately contributes to a richer undergraduate education.”

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