NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates

Indigenous America to Indigenous Mekong Basin (Vietnam & Thailand): Adventures in Biology and Biodiversity

The Indigenous America to Indigenous Mekong Basin (IAIM): Adventures in Biology and Biodiversity in Vietnam and Thailand will be piloted this summer (2017) using a combination of funds from a NSF REU award and a NSF RCN grant. Since the new IAIM REU was only recently funded, summer 2017 will be limited to 4-6 students. A full IAIM cohort of 8-10 students will be deployed to southeast Asia beginning summer 2018.

Applications for this summer 2017 are NOW BEING ACCEPTED. Please fill-out the online application form (click here). Since we are running a limited call, if you do not get accepted this summer, your application will be rolled over into 2018.

The IAIM program is a 10 week program with 4-5 weeks spent abroad in either Vietnam or Thailand focused on data collection and the remainder of the program spent at a private biostation near the Chippewa Valley National Forest in northern Minnesota along a stretch of the Upper Mississippi River.

Program Description:

The Mekong River is the 12th largest river in the world. Receiving run-off originating from the Himalayan Mountain Range and entering from the Tibetan plateau, this river system provides vital ecosystem resources to more than 80 million people, including citizens of several southeast Asian countries. These include: Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, and Laos. Since the Chinese annexation of Tibet in 1950, multiple changes have occurred along the Mekong River. Most notably, a series of dams and hydroelectric dams have been built and industrial development along the Mekong has resulted in stress on the system. The combination of anthropogenic perturbations and climate variation in the region has resulted in the emergence of multiple geological, chemical, and biological changes in the region. The Lower Mekong Basin (LMB) has been particularly impacted by these changes.

In collaboration with institutions in: Vietnam (Can Tho University and Vietnam National University in Hanoi); and, Thailand (Chiang Mai University and Mahasarakham University) – the Ceballos Lab at the University of Arkansas (Fayetteville, AR) and collaborators including Dr. Rob Gardner at the University of Minnesota, Dr. Mary Cloninger at Montana State University, and Dr. Danielle Levesque at the University of Maine provides unique opportunities for students to be engaged in a host of research projects as part of summer internship and academic year assistantship experiences.

Project include research focused on: (1) sustainable aquaculture and aquaponics; (2) fish diseases and genetics; (3) traditional-use/tribal-use plants for foods and medicines; (4) biodiversity of fish and select mammal species; and, more. The experience typically includes 5-6 weeks abroad in the host country collecting data in project groups consisting of no more than 4 students (2 U.S. students plus 2 foreign students) and a faculty research lead. This is followed by a 4-5 week domestic component either in Arkansas (mid-lower Mississippi River region) or in northern Minnesota (upper Mississippi River region). During the domestic component students will continue their research, receive training on data organization and analysis, engage in technical writing skills development, and prepare posters, slideshow presentations, and/or manuscripts for publication based on their work and the work of past cohorts contributing to the same projects.

Students funded by NSF REU receive a stipend ranging from $5000-$5500 upon completing the program and submitting all deliverables. Students receive round-trip international airfare, lodging, and a meal allowance to support their participation in the program. Students who show exceptional achievement may request a travel allowance to present their research at a national or international conference after the experience. Exceptional student may also request letters of recommendation for professional or graduate school or for employment opportunities from program mentors.

This program builds on more than 10 years of successful international programming for undergraduates in multiple countries including: Norway, Mexico, Malaysia, Vietnam, and more. The program is highly dedicated to increasing the participation of individuals from racial/ethnic groups that are historically underrepresented in the natural sciences and those from economically-underserved communities. Selection is not solely based on GPA but a host of factors including letters of recommendation and a personal interview (i.e., video conference).

If you have further questions regarding this program, please contact Dr. Ceballos at ceballos@uark.edu.


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