Beauty of Wisconsin’s outdoors inspires student’s summer research

During his senior year of high school, Ricardo Jaimes ’17, moved from a large city in Illinois to the much smaller community of Marinette, Wisconsin. “I started noticing nature and doing more outdoor activities,” he says. His newfound love of Wisconsin’s natural beauty inspired him to attend college to study environmental science.

As part of the McNair Scholars Program at Ripon College, Jaimes participated this summer in a combined internship experience sponsored by the Green Lake Association. Founded in memory of physicist and Challenger astronaut Dr. Ronald E. McNair, this program helps first-generation, low-income and underrepresented groups of students prepare for graduate school and Ph.D. programs.

Jaimes’ summer internship was funded in part by Ripon College’s Center for Social Responsibility and a Great Lakes grant. Mentored by Ripon College Professor of Biology Bob Wallace, Jaimes studied the water quality of Green Lake and Silver Creek in the city of Green Lake.

“It’s been great working with Dr. Bob,” Jaimes says. “As a member of the Green Lake Association, he knows a lot about the area.” Jaimes studied the “buffer zone” of Silver Creek, which flows into Green Lake. A buffer zone is the vegetation that grows on both sides of a creek. The plants slow the flow of runoff into the creek, and trap and filter sediments and pollutants. “I’ve been studying the height, the width, and how far it goes,” he says.

Jaimes also looked for abnormalities in the buffer zones, such as large algae blooms, and where abnormal runoff can be coming from. Many Wisconsin water bodies, including Green Lake and Silver Creek, suffer from high amounts of phosphorus in the water. Runoff from farms can contain high amounts of phosphorus, which cause algae to bloom and damage water quality. Jaimes surveyed the water in Silver Creek and wrote a research piece about the water of Green Lake.

Recently, Jaimes and other McNair Scholars from Ripon and our collaborating schools, Lawrence University and St. Norbert College, traveled with the McNair staff to UW-Milwaukee and the Medical College and Graduate School of Milwaukee to learn more about graduate school. At UW-Milwaukee, Jaimes met with McNair Scholars from other Wisconsin schools, including UW-Eau Claire and UW-Milwaukee, to discuss research he and other scholars re participating in this summer.

“One of the great things about the McNair program is talking to other students, collaborating and sharing research with them,” Jaimes says. “Their research is sometimes useful to me, and I’m sure my research has been useful to them, as well.”

Jaimes says he enjoyed working with Wallace, the Department of Natural Resources, the Green Lake Association and the Fond du Lac Land and Water Conservation Department. “It’s also been great being out by the creek and enjoying Wisconsin’s nature,” he says.

This research experience will help Jaimes prepare to attend a graduate school upon graduation from Ripon. He is interested in the fresh water program at UW-Milwaukee and other possibilities as well.

Megan Sohr ’18
Oshkosh, Wisconsin

Photos by Alison Thiel

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