Dr. Jason Keller and Dr. Cassandra Medvedeff Zalman want to know how wetlands interact with climate change. To find out, they run a fun, innovative research group known as the #SwampMonsters. “It turns out that wetlands play a really important role in regulating the Earth’s climate,” they say. “These ecosystems store an estimated quadrillion pounds of carbon in their soils (that is a thousand trillion pounds of carbon, or 60-times the amount of carbon released each year from burning fossil fuels on the planet). Wetlands are also the largest natural source of the potent greenhouse gas methane to the atmosphere. This means that we need to understand wetlands if we want to understand global climate change.”

Both professors have mentored multiple students at Chapman University. “We have had SURF students conduct summer research,” they note. And OURCA Travel Grants “have allowed our students to attend national conferences.” OURCA is Chapman University’s Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity, and the OURCA Travel Grant program supports undergraduate student (and faculty mentor) travel to present research and/or creative activity at regional, national, and even international conferences. In cooperation with other funding sources on campus, the grants cover travel, lodging, and conference registration fees.

In fact, with the support of OURCA, Chapman’s Student Government Association and Schmid College of Science and Technology, Dr. Keller’s and Dr. Medveff’s students presented  their research at national meetings of the Society of Wetland Scientists in Portland, OR, and Providence, RI, and hope to present in Puerto Rico this coming summer.

In addition to their work on wetlands, Keller and Medvedeff Zalman want to enliven the way research is perceived. “Far too often we view research (at least research in the sciences) as a sterile endeavor carried out by a bunch of nerds in lab coats hunched silently over a lab bench.  This is nonsense. Research is fun, creative and, at least for our group, all about community and teamwork.” Who wouldn’t want to be a Swamp Monster?

Interested in getting involved with research and/or creative activity at Chapman University? Visit OURCA’s website for more information about the various programs and grants available to Chapman University undergraduate students.