Research Experience for Undergraduates

SIUE STEM Center National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates


NSF REU Site: Exploring Evidence of the Anthropocene
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and the Illinois Natural History Survey, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, announces the third year of a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) site, Exploring Evidence of the Anthropocene: Archaeological and Ecological Interdisciplinary Research Experiences for First Generation Students in the Upper Mississippi River System (NSF Award No.1659633). This REU site offers ten students experiential, interdisciplinary research opportunities in archaeological and ecological sciences addressing topics related to the onset of the Anthropocene. Students will examine research questions related to deep-time environmental dynamics in the Upper Mississippi River System and changing environmental conditions by comparing data on fish communities and populations from both archaeological collections and modern samples. This eight week program includes five weeks of field research and data collection in both archaeology and ecology.

The final three weeks include integrating archaeological and ecological datasets to make meaningful inferences about the Anthropocene. REU participants leave the program having generated and presented an original research poster while gaining practical research experiences. Students are also able to earn up to 6 credit hours for participation in the program from SIUE at in-state tuition rates.

Archaeology and ecology students will work in interdisciplinary teams and as an entire cohort to integrate human-environmental data and gain authentic experiences working as a research team. Not only will students learn new approaches to research, they will also meet students from across the country with similar interests. This research experience will be intellectually rewarding, and it will be fun! When asked about their overall experience of this REU site, 2017 participants commented, “I loved it and would definitely recommend this to people interested in research” and “[This was] overall [an] amazing experience, life changing, thank you.”

Program Dates: Monday, June 3rd –  Friday, July 26th, 2019. Students traveling to the REU site will arrive Sunday, June 2nd and depart Saturday, July 27th.


This REU site will select five archaeological and 5 ecological students to participant in the 2019 program. REU students will receive a weekly stipend of $500 per week (i.e., $4,000 for eight weeks). Housing accommodations will be provided for participants at no cost. Students will be responsible for their travel to and from Edwardsville for the start and end of the program. Students will also receive $300 in travel funds to present their research at the Mississippi River Research Consortium in the spring of 2020. Students will need to provide their own food (housing includes a shared, full kitchen and several grocery stores and dining facilities will be available to students). Students will also receive local transportation to and from various field and laboratory settings.


The goal of this REU is for participants to improve their proficiencies in scientific literacy and communication, interdisciplinary analysis, research writing, critical thinking, and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) skills through an immersive research experience. Throughout the program, students will also gain experiences in experimental design and will conduct a team-based project focused on the comparison of archaeological and modern stable isotope ecology. The following outlines the tentative weekly schedule. Further details about the expected daily schedule can be found on the 2019 tentative syllabus.

  • Week 1: Students will focus on scientific theory and method and will be introduced to the ecology and archaeology of the Upper Mississippi River System. All students will receive an introduction to archaeological and ecological field work and safety training involved in field research. Students will form interdisciplinary research teams and begin to explore potential research topics.
  • Weeks 2-5: Students will gain practical experience in archaeological excavations and fish population monitoring with non-destructive sampling methods including boat electrofishing, fyke netting, and hoop-netting. Working with comparative skeletal materials housed at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, students will learn zooarchaeological methods and at the Great Rivers Field Station, students will learn to dissect and age modern fish specimens.
  • Weeks 6-7: Working in interdisciplinary teams, participants will summarize, analyze, and interpret datasets  they create from long-term regional databases and monitoring programs across the Upper Mississippi River System. Students will learn how to work with data management software and how to conduct similarity-based, multivariate statistical analyses.
  • Week 8: During the final week, students will produce an original research contribution to our understanding of the timing and scope of the Anthropocene. Students will create a research poster presented to regional scholars and researchers on the final day of the REU. This poster will also be presented at the Mississippi River Research Consortium in spring 2020.


While participating in this REU site, students will reside in dormitory facilities on Southern Illinois University Edwardsville’s campus, Edwardsville, IL. Archaeological field work will be conducted at the Gehring site, a multicomponent habitation site most intensely occupied by Native Americans during the Middle Woodland (50 cal. B.C. – A.D. 250) and Mississippian (cal. A. D. 1000 – 1300) periods. Ecological sampling will be conducted on the Mississippi and Illinois rivers under the supervision of experienced field crews at the Great Rivers Field Station in Alton, IL (part of the Illinois Natural History Survey, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign). Laboratory analysis will be conducted at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, Department of Anthropology Laboratory and the Great River Field Station.

Who Can Apply

We seek applicants finishing their freshman or sophomore year of undergraduate studies in the spring of 2019. We will specifically facilitate education and career development content for first generation college students (students where neither parent completed a four-year degree). Students who are first generation college students are strongly encouraged to apply: preferences will be given to these students; however, applications from non-first generation students are also encouraged to apply and will be fully considered.

Applicants should have an interest in interdisciplinary research spanning archaeology and ecology. Although students will engage mostly in archaeological and ecological research, undergraduates with interest in biology, biochemistry, environmental sciences, fisheries sciences, wildlife management, natural resources, anthropology, geology, and paleosciences will greatly benefit from the offered educational and career development programming.

Applicants must be citizens or permanent residents of the United States and pursuing a bachelor degree. Students should have a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.7 (out of 4.0). Students graduating in the spring or summer of 2019 are not eligible for this REU site. Applicants should also be able to swim and conduct outdoor work under adverse conditions, such as very hot, humid temperatures.

How to Apply

The application includes: 1) application online form or pdf (Please note that you do not need to submit both the online and pdf form. Submit the one that is most convenient for you.), 2) statement of interest, 3) unofficial transcript, and 4) two letters of recommendation.

  • The application form can be found online or as a pdf. After completing the application form, you will need to send your statement of interest and unofficial transcript to Applications will not be considered until all application documents are received.
  • Applicants should provide a statement of interest that speaks to the applicant’s main research interest specific to this program, career goals, and expected benefits from REU participation (please limit to 2 pages).
  • An unofficial copy of transcripts from their current academic institution. If you have recently transferred to your current institution and feel an unofficial transcript from your prior institution will allow us to more effectively evaluation your performance in college, you may submit unofficial transcripts from both your former and current institutions. Both will be considered by the selection committee.
  • Applicants also should have two referrers submit letters of recommendation that speak to the applicant’s ability to work in a challenging, immersive learning environment. One letter of recommendation should come from the student’s lead academic mentor at their current college or university. REU site leadership will be communicating with this lead mentor before the start of the program and once the summer research project is complete.

Applicants should directly email their statement of interest and unofficial transcripts to Letters of recommendation should be sent by the recommender directly to

Direct mailings can be sent to:

Dr. Carol E. Colaninno

Campus Box 2224

Southern Illinois University Edwardsville

Edwardsville, IL 62026

Submission Deadline

Applications should be submitted by Monday, February 25th by 5:00 pm of the applicant’s time zone. Acceptance notification will be emailed mid-March.

Program Faculty

Dr. Carol E. Colaninno (Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, Center for STEM Education, Research, and Outreach) Research Interest: Long-term human-environmental interactions, zooarchaeology, public archeology, STEM education.

Dr. John H. Chick (University of Illinois, Illinois Natural History Survey, Great Rivers Field Station) Research Interest: Long-term ecological research, river ecology, community ecology, invasive species, habitat restoration, fish and zooplankton.

Dr. Andrew F. Casper (Shedd Aquarium) Research Interest: Rivers, watersheds, ecohydrology, floodplains, food webs, community ecology.

Dr. Sergiusz J. Czesny (University of Illinois, Illinois Natural History Survey, Lake Michigan Biological Station) Research Interest: Ecology and ecophysiology, ecosystem scale trophic interactions, population dynamics, early life history of fish.

Dr. James T. Lamer (Western Illinois University, Kibbe Field Station) Research Interest: Aquatic systems, aquatic invasive species, fish hybridization, fish population genetics, stream and large river ecology, long-term ecological monitoring.

Dr. Corey S. Ragsdale (Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, Department of Anthropology) Research Interest: Bioarchaeology, migratory patterns, skeletal and dental variation, past health and violence, Mesoamerica, American Southwest

Dr. Julie A. Zimmermann (Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, Department of Anthropology) Research Interest: American Bottom archaeology, Native American prehistory, zooarchaeology, prehistoric foodways, prehistoric environments.