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June 15, 2010 - The URGE program provides a $3,500 stipend for students conducting summer research at the Institute, along with up to a $3,500 faculty mentor stipend that can be used for equipment purchases, general expenses, travel, or training needed for conducting the research project. Additionally, each grant award allows for up to $4,000 in room and board expenses for the student and faculty mentor.

Jacob Jeffers, along with his faculty mentor, Dr. Robb Bajema, associate professor of biology, is studying the trees that woodpeckers select for finding food and building their cavities. This project will investigate the selection of snags (standing dead trees) and live trees by woodpeckers for foraging and cavity building in the forests of the Pierce Cedar Creek Institute. Jeffers will record the number of cavities, height, diameter, and age of each snag in a given area as well as overall snag density.

The team hypothesizes that the greater the diameter of the snag and the less dense the wood, the more likely it is for woodpeckers to both forage there and build cavities. Also, they will look into the behavior of the woodpeckers while interacting with the snags. This may consist of foraging and nesting behaviors. Jeffers and Bajema hypothesize that larger snags with decay will have more woodpecker cavities while the smaller snags are used more often for feeding.

Jacob is a junior and biology and math major at Aquinas College. He is the son of Brian Jeffers of Kentwood and Carol Jeffers of Grandville. He is a 2008 graduate of Grand Rapids Catholic Central.

The Institute’s Biological Field Station is one of the few independently operated Biological Field Stations in the country. It is not associated with one particular college or university. It is made up of a consortium of thirteen Michigan and Indiana colleges and universities. An advisory board made up of two representatives from each school oversees the consortium. This arrangement allows students research opportunities they may not have at their school, especially for the smaller schools that do not have their own research field station.

The Institute is funded through a foundation created in 1998 by Bill and Jessie Pierce. Although Bill and Jessie passed away in 1998, just as ground was being broken, the Institute’s Board of Trustees and staff are thrilled to see their original dream become a reality through a program such as URGE.

This is the sixth year of the URGE program. Since the beginning of the program the Institute has awarded over 93 grants. Consortium members can also use the Institute’s facilities and property for a variety of activities from one-day field trips to weeklong courses with on-campus housing options.

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