Environmental Science major Brittany Beebe earns undergrad research fellowship

Brittany BeebeStory by Anne Conway

Environmental science major Brittany Beebe received a competitive fellowship award based on her work with invasive species at the University's Aquatic Ecosystem Analysis Lab.

Beebe received the Environmental Protection Agency Greater Research Opportunity for Undergraduate Research Fellowship for her research on the invasive Asian clams in Lake Tahoe's Emerald Bay.

The EPA fellowship is a two-year program that will provide Beebe with an EPA summer internship. The award of $50,000 will pay for her tuition, a stipend, and her travel expenses.

"It is really interesting how invasive species can change an ecosystem," Beebe said. "Everything is so interconnected and we are not sure how the clams will change the ecology of the lake."

Beebe said the University works with other universities and agencies to study the invasive clams. Large rubber mats, called benthic barriers, have been placed in the bay to manage the clams, and Beebe also examines bugs on the lake bottom and native clams to see how the barriers affect the ecosystem.

"You want to manage the population but we don't want to destroy our native invertebrates," Beebe said.

Prior to the placement of the benthic barriers, researchers tried dredging the lake bottom, but that was disturbing the ecosystem.

Beebe transferred from Wisconsin, where she was studying architecture. She wanted a more dynamic work environment, which she found through environmental science.

"I didn't want to be inside in an office all day," Beebe said. "This allows me to work outside to collect information on what is harming the lake but analyze information in the laboratory to determine how the biology of the bottom of the lake is changing."

Beebe began her work in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Science. Her work as a paid intern has allowed her to get hands-on experience in the environmental science field.

"I have gained so much experience with all the equipment and with ecology," Beebe said. "I have learned so much in this year. I want to help bring more research to the project and spread the word about the University. I feel like I owe the project a lot and I want to be able to help get more funding and research."

With climatologists predicting a drier, warmer Earth in the future, Cushman said, “we have to begin to transition to alternative energy production systems to supply drop-in replacement fuels for heavy trucking and aviation — transportation sectors that are not readily moved toward natural gas or battery power in the near term.”