CNCC students head to UC-Boulder to conduct field research | CraigDailyPress.com

CNCC students head to UC-Boulder to conduct field research

Program gives community college students the chance to explore a career in science — in the field

Michael Neary

Brett Lindgren, a Colorado Northwestern Community College student, will participate in a research program through the University of Colorado, Boulder, in a few weeks. Here, he’s standing at Fish Creek Falls.

Brett Lindgren has enjoyed science for a long time — and he recalls contemplating a career in the field as early as fifth grade.

"All the kids wanted to be firefighters," said Lindgren, who graduates from Colorado Northwestern Community CollegeColorado Northwestern Community College this spring with an associate of science degree. “I wanted to be an astrophysicist.” this spring with an associate of science degree. "I wanted to be an astrophysicist."

Colorado Northwestern Community College this spring with an associate of science degree. "I wanted to be an astrophysicist."

Lindgren, 29, has earned a slot as one of 10 participants in the Research Experience for Community College StudentsResearch Experience for Community College Students program, part of the University of Colorado, Boulder. He’s slated to do field work on issues related to sunlight and snow-melting patterns. Michaela Brannum, a student at CNCC’s Rangely campus, will also be participating in the program. program, part of the University of Colorado, Boulder. He's slated to do field work on issues related to sunlight and snow-melting patterns. Michaela Brannum, a student at CNCC's Rangely campus, will also be participating in the program.

Research Experience for Community College Students program, part of the University of Colorado, Boulder. He's slated to do field work on issues related to sunlight and snow-melting patterns. Michaela Brannum, a student at CNCC's Rangely campus, will also be participating in the program.

Each student in RECCS works with a mentor, often from the university. Lindgren's will be Dave Barnard, a Boulder Creek Critical Zone Observatory post-doctoral fellow at the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, of CU-Boulder. The participants stay at CU-Boulder for about two months, starting at the end of May, and they earn stipends for their work.

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"I was intrigued by the RECCS program because it is an internship strictly for community college students," wrote Brannum in an email. She also noted the research would help nourish her studies as a marine biology major.

Brannum said her work for the project would entail limnology, the study of inland waters. She's planning on attending University of Hawaii at Manoa in the fall to finish her bachelor's degree in marine biology, and she hopes to pursue a career in veterinary science.

Lindgren, who has a science-rich high-school and college background, described some of the work he'll be doing this summer.

"It all has to do with snowpack — predicting snowpack, and how fast the snow will melt," Lindgren said. "You go out into the forest, and you take measurement of the trees, and you record how much solar radiation they're actually absorbing, and how much is coming through the canopy to melt the snow."

The measurements, he said, help to predict how much water may be going into the river, and also how fast.

A key goal of the RECCS program, according to the program's website, is to help community college students gain an "authentic research experience" as they investigate the geosciences.

In its second year, the RECCS program is "hosted by the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Science and the Institute for Arctic and Alpine Research," according to the program website. The National Science Foundation funds the research.

Lesley Smith, associate director of CIRES Education and Outreach, said the program can supply community college students with the sort of intensive research experience that's often associated with larger universities.

"We're providing that opportunity to get them excited about research," she said.

That's a point also emphasized by Jennifer Taylor, curriculum development and project coordinator for CIRES and program manager for RECCS.

"This is a research experience for students," Taylor said, who added the program can help students determine whether they want to continue with their work in the field of science.

After the research, Taylor said, they might be able to say, "Yes, I am really committed to pursuing a four-year degree, and possibly a graduate degree after that."

That's the sort of determination Lindgren wants to make.

"It's cool I get this opportunity, because now I will know if this is something I want to pursue or if I want to go in a different direction," he said.

Lindgren graduated from Moffat County High School in 2005, and he's been working ever since — but not in science. Going back to school, he said, has given him a chance to rekindle that dream. The prospect of outdoor field research is also powerful to him.

"I grew up in Northwest Colorado," he said. "We all like field work. We like going out and finding new trails and animals. This is a perfect opportunity to solidify my choice."

Contact Michael Neary at 970-875-1794 or Contact Michael Neary at 970-875-1794 or mneary@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @CDP_Education.Contact Michael Neary at 970-875-1794 or mneary@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @CDP_Education.