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Nathan Hawk ’02 of Lehighton, Pa. traveled to Nevada as an EXCEL Scholar this summer with Dru Germanoski, professor and head of geology and environmental geoscience. In a project conducted under the auspices of the United States Forest Service, Hawk attempted to assess the effects of controlled burns on drainage basins and rivers.

In Lafayette’s distinctive EXCEL program, students assist faculty members with research while earning a stipend.

“I have done work with professor Germanoski the last two semesters dealing with the relationship between the Bushkill Creek and groundwater in the surrounding areas,” says Hawk, a geology major. “This summer we characterized drainage basins in regions that are areas of controlled burns for wild fire safety. I accompanied him on a trip to Nevada for a few weeks to do field work.”

“For the past century or so, the U.S. Forest service has had a campaign of fire suppression made popular by Smokey the Bear,” says Germanoski. “We’ve realized this is not how normal ecosystems work. In a natural scenario, forest fires occur in 75- to 80-year cycles. In fact, without natural forest fires, the closing in of the forest canopy has imperiled a lot of plants and animals, and resulting burns, when they do occur, have been devastating.”

Through the use of controlled burns, the Forest Service aims to repair the damage of its over-vigilance in the last century. However, even controlled burns can de-stabilize stream systems and damage the hydrology of a region. Germanoski and Hawk’s research aims to determine the impacts of a controlled burn regimen.

“This research is a great experience for me, and it will help give me an idea of where I would like to focus for a career,” says Hawk. “I also feel very confident in professor Germanoski’s knowledge of the topic, and I feel I can learn a lot from him.”

In Nevada, Hawk worked with a variety of professionals and other students. He also collected data for a series of other projects.

Says Germanoski, “I think Nate really got a lot out of this project. It opened his eyes to what other researchers are doing.”

“This project involved a lot of fieldwork, and I enjoy being outdoors. The summer research was a new experience for me,” says Hawk.

He adds, “Geomorphology/hydrogeology is where I would like to have my career lead me. Rivers and streams have always been intriguing to me and now I get to find out what controls them and what they control.”

Hawk is a member of the Outdoors Club.

Categorized in: Academic News