KU News: New principles for biological fieldwork will build equity for researchers and local communities

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New principles for biological fieldwork will build equity for researchers and local communities
LAWRENCE — A new paper appearing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences lays out a set of principles for biological fieldwork designed to lessen inequities between researchers and local populations, as well as internally among research teams themselves. Many “best practices” in the paper are adapted from procedures for permitting and licensing developed over years at the University of Kansas Biodiversity Institute and Natural History Museum.

2022 KU Engineering graduate awarded $35,000 Phi Kappa Phi fellowship
LAWRENCE — Amanda Hertel, a 2022 University of Kansas graduate in chemical engineering from Shawnee, is the recipient of the 1897 Fellowship by the honor society of Phi Kappa Phi — the nation’s oldest and most selective collegiate honor society for all academic disciplines. The prestigious $35,000 fellowship recognizes the top-scoring applicant in a STEM discipline. As the 1897 Fellow, Hertel will pursue a Doctor of Medicine at the KU School of Medicine.

Kansas Geological Survey scientist receives early career award
LAWRENCE — Sam Zipper, assistant scientist and geohydrologist at the Kansas Geological Survey at the University of Kansas, is the 2022 recipient of the Kohout Early Career Award from the Hydrogeology Division of the Geological Society of America, nominated for his work to help understand and improve water resources in agricultural, urban and natural environments.

Nine KU students receive Undergraduate Research Awards for fall
LAWRENCE — This fall, nine University of Kansas students will receive an Undergraduate Research Award (UGRA). UGRA recipients are awarded a $1,000 scholarship as they work on mentored research and creative projects. The fall 2022 recipients include Kansans from Lawrence, Overland Park and Topeka.

Full stories below.

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Contact: Brendan Lynch, KU News Service, 785-864-8855, [email protected], @BrendanMLynch
New principles for biological fieldwork will build equity for researchers and local communities
LAWRENCE — For hundreds of years, teams of biologists have carried out fieldwork around the globe, often trekking to remote places to collect specimens and data about our natural world. Today, such work can demand collaboration between large international teams of biologists, extensive permitting with authorities, interaction with local communities and research plans often led by one or two senior investigators.
Too often, these factors can result in power imbalances between researchers and local communities where fieldwork takes place. Moreover, inequities based on race, gender, sexual orientation and seniority can develop within the teams of researchers themselves.
Now, a new paper appearing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences lays out a set of principles for biological fieldwork designed to lessen inequities between researchers and local populations, as well as internally among research teams themselves. Many “best practices” in the paper are adapted from procedures for permitting and licensing developed over years at the University of Kansas Biodiversity Institute and Natural History Museum.
“When I was invited by colleagues at Berkeley to be part of this conversation, I was really happy to contribute,” said co-author Rafe Brown, curator-in-charge of the Herpetology Division at KU’s Biodiversity Institute. “After more than 30 years of working in the Philippines, I had lots of experience in managing groups of people working together in the field. I’d seen a lot of things work out well, and a lot of things work out so-so, where we needed some improvement in the way we interact, as groups of people, working often in remote and stressful field conditions. I’ve seen some real trainwrecks of group psychology during fieldwork — and things that just struck me as potentially dangerous. I never had any real disasters myself, but I saw some risky and even scary behavior, and heard a lot of stories over the years, in my early career, and in grad school.”
KU’s Biodiversity Institute is seen as a leader in collaborating with local authorities and populations to make sure biological fieldwork is ethical, legal and safe — in part because of its extensive checklists and procedures for permitting and licensing. Supplemental documents to the PNAS paper — a Field Safety Plan Template and a Scientific Permit Checklist – are adapted in part from KU’s procedures.
“I’d like to see these shared widely and adopted by institutions around the world as a foundation for fieldwork planning,” said Lori Schlenker, assistant director of collections and facilities at the Biodiversity Institute. “We’re committed to participating in safe and legal fieldwork and training the next generation of students to be able to lead their own programs and mentor their own students in these practices when they graduate from KU. We’ve been building on our experiences — good and bad — and have developed procedures so that prior to departure, permits are in place and researchers have considered how they will collect, export and import research specimens safely, legally and ethically. This ensures that resources are not expended on specimens that we cannot legally accession into our collections. Most importantly, the safety of all field team members is critical. Applying the experience of our BI researchers, and with guidance from KU, emphasis is placed on communication and transparency as part of the fieldwork planning process.”
Much of this to hone the way KU biologists tackle permitting and interacting with local authorities and communities has taken place in the Philippines, where Biodiversity Institute personnel strive for locally inclusive fieldwork.
“Our 15-year, multi-institutional collaboration with KU has resulted the traditional products and outputs — like students trained, papers published, grants obtained — but it has also profited from many deep discussions and steps taken, to correct the past landscape of exclusively foreigner-led, expeditionary fieldwork,” said co-author Tess Sanguila of Father Saturnino Urios University in the Philippines. “Additionally, here within the country, our own scientific community often only considers and prioritizes the contributions and inputs from the so-called experts in the capital city over those of the researchers from the provinces in the southern Philippines, who are stereotyped as being of inferior expertise. This paper provides a simplified and practical starting point, from which we hope to establish a solution to this whole imbalanced culture, and from which we fundamentally advocate to ‘support local’ for more inclusive and invigorated long-term collaborations of the future.”
The PNAS paper advocates four main principles for fieldwork to promote “equity, reciprocity, access, benefit-sharing and safety”:
1. Be collaborative: We embrace collaborative science and fieldwork practices with our partners, field teams and the communities with whom we work.
2. Be respectful: We prioritize local sovereignty and long-term benefits for the community, and we invest time and effort in learning about and respecting local history and cultures.
3. Be legal: We commit to obtaining all necessary permits, authorizations, and land permissions, and to following all legal guidelines and requirements.
4. Be safe: We work proactively to promote a safe physical and emotional environment for all members of research teams and local communities with clear guidance and communications.
Lead author Valeria Ramírez Castañeda, doctoral student in integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley, said her own time conducting biological fieldwork in the Amazon inspired her work on the paper.
“My own personal experience comes from the Global South,” Castañeda said. “I’m Colombian, and my focus was in particular on how we interact with local communities when conducting fieldwork. My research in biology takes place in the Colombian Amazon, where I work with predator-prey interactions between snakes and frogs. The local community — biologists, drivers, field assistants, among others — sustain and inform my work there. However, are we scientists reciprocal when it comes to thinking about benefits and acknowledgments for the community? I’ve been trying to change or at least acknowledge practices that exclude the local communities from research. I was born in the biggest city in Colombia — Bogotá — so I was an uninvited guest in the Amazon territory. I’ve been trying to get to know the community where I work, ask for consent for every procedure, explain my research, collaborate with biologists and field assistants from indigenous and local communities, and participate in community-science projects.”
In addition to working with local populations and authorities, the new paper offers recommendations to alleviate power asymmetries that can plague fieldwork teams internally.
“With all the recent civil unrest in the U.S. and the existing inequities that have been exacerbated by the pandemic, it’s a good time to reevaluate how we do things in our profession because people are listening and reflecting,” said Rebecca Tarvin, assistant professor of integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley. “Personally, I’ve wanted to think more deeply about field biology for some time. I didn’t receive any formal training on how to do collaborative science involving fieldwork and I think this is largely true for others in field biology. The way people conduct fieldwork thus often depends on the norms and culture of their lab and on the default approaches to doing science. However, doing equitable science takes intentional planning, and many default approaches are not equitable. That’s why we wanted to provide some general guidelines that can help anyone proactively plan more equitable research programs.”
Tarvin added that data show diverse teams can produce more innovative and robust research.
“Having diverse groups doing fieldwork in a way that is fair, open and collaborative with the people living where we work has the further benefit of including everyone in conducting, communicating and benefiting from science,” she said.
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Contact: Cody Howard, School of Engineering, 785-864-2936, [email protected], @kuengineering
2022 KU Engineering graduate awarded $35,000 Phi Kappa Phi fellowship
LAWRENCE — Amanda Hertel, a 2022 University of Kansas graduate in chemical engineering from Shawnee, is the recipient of the 1897 Fellowship by the honor society of Phi Kappa Phi — the nation’s oldest and most selective collegiate honor society for all academic disciplines. The prestigious $35,000 fellowship recognizes the top-scoring applicant in a STEM discipline. As the 1897 Fellow, Hertel will pursue a Doctor of Medicine at the KU School of Medicine.
“Amanda is a truly superb student with both great talent and a strong interest in the well-being of others. There is no doubt that she will be an outstanding physician,” said Dave Darwin, professor of civil, environmental & architectural engineering.
Hertel was nominated for the fellowship after being selected this spring by the KU chapter of Phi Kappa Phi as the winner of James Blackiston Memorial Graduate Fellowship.
Hertel received multiple additional honors while at KU, including a Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society Scholarship, Undergraduate Research Awards in spring 2021, fall 2021 and spring 2022, the Fred Kurata Thermodynamics Award and the Outstanding Undergraduate Research Performance Award in Chemical Engineering.
Since its creation in 1932, the Phi Kappa Phi Fellowship Program has become one of the society’s most visible and financially well-supported endeavors, allocating $649,000 annually to outstanding students for first-year graduate or professional study. This year’s program awarded two awards at $35,000 each, the 1897 Fellowship and the Sherrill Carlson Fellowship; six $20,000 Marcus L. Urann Fellowships, named for the society’s founder; and 54 fellowships of $8,500 each.
The selection process for a fellowship is based on the applicant’s evidence of graduate potential, undergraduate academic achievement, service and leadership experience, letters of recommendation, personal statement of educational perspective and career goals, and acceptance in an approved graduate or professional program.
To see the complete list of 2022 Phi Kappa Phi Fellows and learn more about the program, visit www.PhiKappaPhi.org/2022Fellowships.

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Contact: Sam Zipper, Kansas Geological Survey, 785-864-0364, [email protected], @ksgeology
Kansas Geological Survey scientist receives early career award
LAWRENCE — Sam Zipper, assistant scientist and geohydrologist at the Kansas Geological Survey at the University of Kansas, is the 2022 recipient of the Kohout Early Career Award from the Hydrogeology Division of the Geological Society of America, nominated for his work to help understand and improve water resources in agricultural, urban and natural environments.
The award, given annually to a scientist age 35 or younger or within five years of receiving their highest degree, recognizes the recipient’s contributions to the hydrogeologic profession through original research and service as well as a demonstrated potential for continued excellence throughout their career.
At the KGS, Zipper leads the HydroEcology of Anthropogenic Landscapes ([email protected]) research group and, with KGS assistant scientist Erin Seybold, leads the survey’s geohydrology internship program. Much of his research focuses on how water and land management decisions affect the people, economy and environment of the Great Plains.
“His work wrestles with one of the thorniest societal problems of our day — how do we sustainably manage our land and water resources to support human life and livelihood, ensure food and clean water for a growing population, and preserve natural ecosystems both now and for future generations?” said Steven Loheide, professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who was Zipper’s doctoral adviser and nominated him for the award.
Zipper’s research includes examining the relationships between intermittent and ephemeral streams and playas and other ecological systems, studying the effects of irrigator-driven groundwater conservation programs on water resources and developing easy-to-use tools to estimate streamflow depletion caused by groundwater pumping.
“I think Sam’s contributions have been particularly important because they transcend disciplinary boundaries, using a range of field methods, numerical modeling, analytical and statistical techniques, and social science to address societally relevant grand challenges,” Loheide said.
Zipper’s current research on water resources in Kansas is funded in part through several large grants from the National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Geological Survey and NASA.
“The KGS and KU have been a wonderfully supportive place to build a career focused on water issues that affect residents of Kansas and the Great Plains and that matter to people around the world,” Zipper said. “It is really heartening to know that the research I am doing has made an impact. Working through COVID, it was challenging to connect with other members of both the state water management and global water research communities, and sometimes working on research felt like releasing things into the void. This award is an encouraging indication that people paid attention to and valued what I have been doing the past couple of years.”
Zipper has been a member of the KGS since 2019 and is the author or co-author of 58 scientific publications with more than 250 co-authors from more than 150 institutions.
“Sam is a truly deserving recipient of the Kohout Early Career Award,” said Scott Ishman, associate director for research at the KGS. “His research is highly relevant to the state of Kansas and globally, addressing water resource availability, use, access and sustainability. The Kansas Geological Survey is fortunate to have such an accomplished early career scientist who shares his love and excitement for his research with his colleagues and students.”
Membership in the Geological Society of America consists of more than 20,000 earth scientists worldwide. Its Hydrogeology Division, established in 1959, promotes research and discussion within the branch of the geological sciences focused on water resources. The Kohout Early Career Award is named for Francis Kohout, an early pioneer in the study of geothermal saltwater convection in carbonate platforms. Zipper will receive the award during GSA’s annual meeting in October.
The Kansas Geological Survey is a nonregulatory research and service division of the University of Kansas. KGS researchers study and provide information about the state’s geologic resources and hazards, including groundwater, oil and natural gas, rocks and minerals, and earthquakes.
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Contact: Matt Downen, Center for Undergraduate Research, [email protected], @ugresearchKU
Nine KU students receive Undergraduate Research Awards for fall
LAWRENCE — This fall, nine University of Kansas students will receive an Undergraduate Research Award (UGRA). UGRA recipients are awarded a $1,000 scholarship as they work on mentored research and creative projects.
Students apply for UGRAs by writing a four-page research proposal under the guidance of a mentor. Faculty reviewers evaluate the applications based on the merit of the applicant’s proposal and a recommendation from the mentor.
“Students continue to make meaningful contributions to their fields in all disciplines across campus,” said Alison Olcott, director of the Center for Undergraduate Research. “These students are learning to use the tools of their disciplines in the process of research.”
This fall, the competition for Spring 2023 UGRAs will open. Online guidance and individual advising appointments are available to help students prepare strong applications. More information can be found here: http://ugresearch.ku.edu/student/fund/ugra.
Students receiving awards for fall 2022 are listed below in alphabetical order along with year in school, hometown, project title, mentor and mentor’s department:
1. Eleazar Abraham, a junior from Tangerang, Indonesia, “Optimization of BBB Modulators (BBBM) for Drug Delivery to the Brain,” mentored by Teruna Siahaan, Aya and Takeru Higuchi Distinguished Professor of Pharmaceutical Chemistry.
2. Jaydin Chase, a senior from Ankeny, Iowa, “Reading Intervention in Autistic Adults: Comparing Past Teachings to Current Perspectives,” mentored by Meghan Davidson, assistant professor of speech-language-hearing.
3. Joey Craft, a senior from Lawrence, “Exploring the Creation of Refugia and Improved Water Quality by Changing North American Freshwater Mussel Bed Densities and Configurations,” mentored by Amy Hansen, Diane M. Darwin Chair’s Council Assistant Professor of Engineering.
4. Vichie Hou, a senior from Washington, D.C., “Social Networks and Spatial Ecology of the Little Scrub Island Ground Lizard,” mentored by David Mai, assistant teaching professor of film & media studies.
5. Elizabeth Lee, a senior from Blue Springs, Missouri, “Measuring Sustainability and Resilience Tradeoffs for Tornado-Resistant Design Approaches for Single-Family Residential Buildings,” mentored by Elaina Sutley, associate professor of civil, environmental & architectural engineering.
6. Hannah Min, a senior from Lawrence, “Exploring the Creation of Refugia and Improved Water Quality by Changing North American Freshwater Mussel Bed Densities and Configurations,” mentored by Amy Hansen, Diane M. Darwin Chair’s Council Assistant Professor of Engineering.
7. Raina Peter, a junior from Topeka, “Barking or Biting: When and Why Does ‘Tough on China’ Legislation Have Economic Teeth?,” mentored by Jack Zhang, assistant professor of political science.
8. Danielle Pulido, a senior from St. Joseph, Missouri, “Determining the Feasibility of Using Eye-Tracking Technology to Examine Listening Comprehension,” mentored by Meghan Davidson, assistant professor of speech-language-hearing.
9. Tomas Rascati, a senior from Overland Park, “Mundo-19,” mentored by Elise Kirk, assistant professor of photography.

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