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Ariel Poirier

Geography and Environmental Studies


Ariel Poirier is a Geography and Environmental Studies major, graduating in December, 2018. She is the Treasurer for the GES Council of Majors, and a Newcombe Scholar for Returning Women through the Women’s Center.

Research Topic: Assessing functional traits (define how species interact in their environment and with each other- i.e. water requirements, height, seed dispersal) in plant species varying in low and high diversity communities. There are a total of 36 communities and also monocultures (controls) in both top soil (soil commonly used in gardens, rich and full of nutrients) and fill soil (used in vacant lots, not nutrient rich, contains glass, metal, brick etc).

How did you find the research opportunity?
It was offered to me by my advisor, Dr. Christopher Swan, Geography and Environmental Systems, after I expressed having an interest in working with plants.


Ariel is pictured collecting above ground biomass for the topsoil monocultures. This involves cutting the species from the soil line and then placing them in the drying oven. After the biomass is dry, it is weighed and recorded. This species is Gypsophila Elegans, commonly known as Baby’s Breath.

Do you get course credit for this work?
I got research credit and was paid through the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies based out of New York. I have put a great deal of time into my research because I encountered a few setbacks along the way. It has continued through the school year, but I have followed through with my research regardless.

What was the hardest part about your research?
Learning the hard way that nature has its own plan and might set things back despite best laid plans!

What was the most unexpected thing?
My plants did not grow after the first seeding.

How does this research experience relate to your work in other classes?
This REU position gave me a hands-on experience that I could not get in the classroom. Being able to have the chance to apply textbook education to real world experiments was rewarding and continued to build on the knowledge I already had.

What is your advice to other students about getting involved in research?
Ask about research opportunities! And ask many professors what they have available.


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