Inside USD

Fishing for Answers to Climate Change

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

corriganiiiAshley Corrigan came all the way to San Diego to find out why lakes were freezing later and melting earlier in her native Minnesota.

Corrigan, who graduated summa cum laude from the University of San Diego last month and will start graduate school this fall at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, originally thought she would go to medical school. But the opportunities for student research at USD led her to her true passion.

After spending two years in the laboratory of USD associate professor of chemistry David De Haan, “I knew there was more to do with a science major besides medical school,” she said. Working in the atmospheric chemistry lab added to her interest in climate change. In particular, she was interested in complaints from friends and family members that the ice fishing seasons in Minnesota were growing shorter.

So Corrigan studied twelve lakes throughout Minnesota, concluding that freezing is occurring about 14 days later in the fall and thawing taking place nine to 17  days earlier in the spring. While this trend will likely continue as temperatures in the fall continue to rise, increased precipitation may mitigate it to some degree, she found.

She presented her findings at USD’s annual Creative Collaborations Conference this spring, along with some 125 other undergraduates who worked with faculty members on research projects ranging from the natural and social sciences to business and engineering and arts the humanities. USD is a leader in offering opportunities for undergraduate student research, including the PURE (Pre-Undergraduate Research Experience) for minority and first-generation college students  and SURE (Summer Undergraduate Research Experience) programs.

Corrigan, who is the first in her family to graduate from college, also was selected for the prestigious Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society and received the research award from both the biology and chemistry departments. She plans to continue her work at Scripps, focusing on the interaction between atmospheric aerosols and climate change.

— Liz Harman

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