University News

Earthwatch Students at WIU's Kibbe Life Science Station

August 2, 2007

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MACOMB, IL - - Western Illinois University's Alice L. Kibbe Life Science Station in Warsaw (IL) is hosting Earthwatch Institute's Student Challenge Award Program for the sixth consecutive year.

Ten high school students from across the country have been based at Kibbe since July 27, taking part in field expeditions along the upper Mississippi River as they work with Western's biology faculty to complete riparian (river bank) and aquatic ecosystem monitoring projects. They will present their research data for area educators and community leaders at the conclusion of the program on Saturday, Aug, 11.

"Kibbe Station is a real gem in the heart of the Midwest with a wide variety of upland, wetland and aquatic habitats associated with the river and rugged hills along its length," said Sean Jenkins, director of the Kibbe Life Science Station and an associate biology professor. "The station provides a wonderful laboratory to study how ecosystems function and the influence our activities are having on the plants and animals that live there."

The students take part in trapping and sampling aquatic organisms in the river; collecting, sorting and documenting insects in the area; and studying of vegetation and algae, Jenkins said. Trips to the Dubuque River in northeastern Iowa to study turtles, as well as to Chicago for tours of the Shedd Aquarium, Brookfield Zoo and Field Museum are planned. Also, the students will assist in river/floodplain cleanup activities along two miles of Mississippi River shoreline as part of Kibbe's involvement in the Adopt a River Mile Program of the Mississippi River Beautification and Restoration Project.

When they get free time, students can take advantage of other activities available at the station.

"There are 12 miles of hiking trails through the scenic Cedar Glen Natural Area, consisting of a beautiful stream that meanders through a valley lined by rugged limestone cliffs," Jenkins said. "We also have several miles of shoreline to explore along the river."

"We have a strong commitment to student research in the College of Arts and Sciences," said Inessa Levi, college dean. "The Earthwatch Institute's Student Challenge Award Program program at Kibbe is something of which we are very proud. It is a pleasure not only to host some of the brightest students in the nation every summer, but to also know we are instilling skills and experiences that will last them a lifetime."

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