Research Opportunities

Previous Student Projects
(not all associated with the ESE Institute)

joshua nixon - research rookie

Joshua Nixon was a Research Rookie 

Student Research Programs with the Office of Student Engagement and Experiential Learning


Opportunities to work with current Environmental Studies Faculty

Biodiversity & Environmental Restoration

  • Opportunities are available for students for greenhouse and laboratory studies of plants and insects, and possibly field studies of restored communities at Nachusa Grasslands. Barber Lab Website (Nick Barber)

  • Students interested in volunteering for seed germination experiments or doing field work at the Nachusa Grasslands. (David Goldblum)

  • Students interested in lemurs can get involved in basic research through Dr. Mitch Irwin, whose research focuses on how lemurs respond to habitat degradation in Madagascar. One can engage in field research, either through Dr. Irwin's field school "Madagascar Past and Present", or targeted individual study experiences. Here in DeKalb, there are plenty of opportunities for lab work in parasitology or nutrition, or entering and managing datasets from Madagascar. (Mitch Irwin)

  • Students interested in restoration, conservation, or the intersection between climate change and restoration are encouraged to apply to student opportunities available in Holly Jones’ lab.  DrJones’ lab will train students to foster curiosity about how ecosystems work and their underlying ecology and to pursue ecological research that enhances environmental stewardship.  Their research focuses on how best to prioritize restoration, the links between ecosystem restoration/conservation and human well-being in the face of global climate change, and maximizing restoration gains and investigating restoration trajectories at the local, regional, and global scale.  For additional information about Jones’ research and the application process, please go to the Jones' Lab Website(Holly Jones)

  • He foresees continuing opportunities for students to get involved with biodiversity monitoring and inventory work at area forest preserves. (Richard King)

  • Field and laboratory opportunities are available for students to investigate human impacts on soils, hydrologic properties, and landscapes.  This includes agricultural, restored prairie, and never cultivated prairie and savanna sites at Nachusa Grasslands and comparable locations in the region. (Mike Konen)

  • There are opportunities for students who want to help track populations of dragonfly adults and larvae, investigate habitat and prey preference, or develop models of these systems. There also are opportunities for students who may be interested in developing integrated ecological-economic models addressing questions related to conservation/restoration ecology and ecosystem services. (Carl von Ende)

Energy Studies

  • There are opportunities for students who are interested in working on the project to reduce fossil fuel dependence in the railroad industry, working on the super high mileage vehicle, and other energy-related projects. (Cliff Mirman)

  • Students may be able to explore the heat transfer capabilities of biomass or work with pneumatic conveyance systems to explore reasons for particle drop-out. The heat transfer rates and design of a cook stove using ceramic parts is being conducted. Need student willing to work with art department to find the right material mixtures that can withstand the high heat. Once fabricated, tests of heat transfer and biochar production will take place. (Nick Pohlman)

The Human Experience

  • There are opportunities for students to do self-directed research or independent study projects on environmental ethics, especially the moral dimensions of climate change. (Jason Hanna)

  • Students interested in interdisciplinary projects involving regional environmental research. He hopes to engage students outside of the history “box." (Eric Mogren)

  • There are several opportunities to do self-directed literature research and feminist research projects. Dr. Swanson is working on a study abroad program focused on gender and the environment, to take place in 2016. (Diana Swanson)

  • Students interested in becoming partners and engaged in the community as researchers by working with citizen groups to do field research, outreach, collecting and analyzing field data, web-based work, publicity work, helping rural communities to do news releases and op-ed pieces. (Kendall Thu)

  • Students interested in water conservation, international water disputes, and Middle East studies are encouraged to contact Dr. McKee about opportunities for ethnographic field research and interview analysis. English-only speakers, as well as those with Hebrew or Arabic proficiency, are welcome. Opportunities for student involvement are also available for an early-stage research project investigating alternative farming/agriculture and sustainability in the U.S. Midwest. (Emily McKee)

  • Opportunities are available for students to prepare, identify, and describe subfossils from Madagascar. As small mammal communities are correlated with major habitat types, this data is useful for making paleoenvironmental reconstructions. (Karen Samonds)

  • Students that are interested in projects about finding ways to increase the presence of social science research in the world wide discourse about sustainability.  There is also an opportunity for a beta project on climate change stressors on farmers' decision making in the US Midwest (including Northern Illinois).  (Giovanni Bennardo)

Environmental Policy

  • Students interested in studying the politics of environmental, health, and safety regulation can participate in Dr. Swedlow's research on these topics as research assistants and/or by taking POLS 324 Politics of Environmental, Health, and Safety Regulation or POLS 611 US Regulatory Politics in Comparative Perspective. (Brendon Swedlow)


  • There are always opportunities for students interested in lab work, and in field work in Illinois and Mexico. Dr. Lenczewski is also working on grants to increase the number of Latino students in Environmental Studies. (Melissa Lenczewski)

  • There are opportunities for students who are interested in researching microscopic fossils, mostly from Antarctica, which provide a long-term climate template with which to compare the current climate change being seen on short time scales. (Reed Scherer)

  • Global Environmental Health (GEH) Lab has several research sites around the world (e.g. US, Japan, Guatemala, Ghana, Indonesia, and Mexico) where Dr. Shibata and student researchers conduct environmental assessments and epidemiologic studies in order to protect and promote human health, especially children’s health.  Dr. Shibata will direct a study abroad program in Indonesia in the summer 2014.  Additional information can be found at or (Tomoyuki Shibata)