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June 09, 2011
McElroy Grants Received for Student/Faculty Collaborative Research

The R. J. McElroy Trust has awarded four grants - totaling $7380 - to support undergraduate student/faculty collaborative research in the Department of Natural and Applied Sciences at the University of Dubuque. Tori Ballweg C'12 (Madison, WI), Christine Grannis C'12 (Peyton, CO), and Gabrielle Gronau C'12 (Dubuque, IA) will work with Dr. Gerald Zuercher, associate professor of biology and environmental science, to assess flying squirrel populations at the Mines of Spain Recreation Area; Lucas Chase C'12 (Colesburg, IA), Logan Webb C'12 (Batavia, IA), will work with Dr. Adam Hoffman, assistant professor of environmental chemistry, to explore how road deicing salt affects our soil and aquatic ecosystems; Aaron Matthews C'13 (Dubuque, IA) and Marcus Prull C'13 (Monticello, IA) will work with Dr. David Koch, assistant professor of environmental science, to determine the amount of movement of the three trout species within the Swiss Valley portion of Catfish Creek; and BreAnn Nesteby C'13 (Dubuque, IA) will work with Dr. Rasika Mudalige-Jajawickrama, associate professor of plant biology, to assess the genetic diversity of native orchid species in Dubuque county.

Dr. Mudalige-Jayawickrama and BreAnn Nesteby will survey the existing orchid species in Dubuque County and surrounding areas such as Mines of Spain and Swiss Valley nature reserves. Geographical location, environmental conditions, and blooming periods will be recorded for establishing the baseline of species diversity and distribution in the area, and the genetic diversity will be measured using DNA based genetic marker systems. Surveying and tracking these species will contribute towards a long-term objective of developing strategies for conservation of this vulnerable flora and increasing its genetic diversity.

Dr. Koch and his team will tag and track the three trout species that are stocked in Upper Catfish Creek in the Swiss Valley Nature Preserve. Stocked fish will be tagged and the stream will be periodically sampled to collect data on the dispersal of trout throughout the area. Information acquired from the study will be useful in assisting with preservation and maintenance of trout in specific areas of Upper Catfish Creek.

Dr. Hoffman and his team will determine the fate and transport of road-salts introduced through winter road and sidewalk applications. The team will examine the physical and chemical characteristics of soils that inhibit or facilitate salt binding to determine which soils might be more susceptible to road-salt pollution; probe urban soils for evidence of salt buildup; and conduct toxicity tests using road salts levels found during the winter salting season. Information gathered from their research will be helpful in determining the effects road salt has on water and soil quality, aquatic organisms, soil microbes, and plants.

Dr. Zuercher and his team will study the relationship between forest habitat structure and southern flying squirrel populations in the Mines of Spain Recreation Area (MoSRA). They will assess the southern flying squirrel population at MoSRA in terms of distribution, abundance, spatial patterns, activity pattern, and seasonal movements. By relating the status of the flying squirrels to the condition of the relevant habitats, this study aims to determine the possibility of using southern flying squirrels as an indicator species for habitat quality.

Each year, the Iowa College Foundation works with the R.J. McElroy Trust to provide awards designed to encourage undergraduate research experiences in student/faculty teams.

The R.J. McElroy Trust was founded in 1965 and is located in Waterloo, Iowa. The benefactor was R.J. McElroy, a pioneer Iowa broadcaster. In 1947, McElroy founded the Black Hawk Broadcasting Company and put radio station KWWL on the air. That was followed by KWWL TV and several other radio and television stations. McElroy died in 1965 and made provision in his will for the establishment of a trust fund, the proceeds of which are to be used for the educational benefit of deserving young people.

Since then, the Trust has funded a broad range of educational programs - including scholarships, fellowships, internships, student loan funds and numerous other projects to benefit youth of all ages. Literally thousands of young people in northeastern Iowa thank R.J. McElroy for the influence he has had in their lives. His strong commitment to youth and education has extended far beyond his lifetime to the enormous benefit of many, many young people. To see that this vision is continued for years to come is the responsibility of the R.J. McElroy Board of Trustees.