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University of Oklahoma ecology and evolutionary biology graduate student receives EPA's STAR Fellowship award

Norman, Okla.-- A University of Oklahoma ecology and evolutionary biology graduate student has received the 2011 Environmental Protection Agency Science to Achieve Results Fellowship. Carla Atkinson, a doctoral student in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Program in the OU College of Arts and Sciences Department of Zoology, was awarded up to $42,000 for three years for her research into freshwater mussels in North America and their role in the ecosystem.

"This project will use a combination of lab, mesocosm, and field experiments and observations to construct a model on how freshwater mussels utilize food resources and in turn alter the available nutrients in riverine ecosystems," writes Atkinson. "We can understand the impact on the river community and compare it to the human-derived nutrients to see which has more effect."

Atkinson received her undergraduate degree at Missouri State University and her master's degree from the University of Georgia. She is working under the direction of Caryn Vaughn, head of the Oklahoma Biological Survey.

The importance of maintaining clean water is the focus of studying the freshwater mussels. Atkinson will be researching in southeastern Oklahoma along the Little, Kiamichi and Mt. Fork Rivers. The mussels are the most affected faunal group by habitat alteration, but are very important to the ecosystem, which is essential for human well-being.

"In addition to clean water, functionally intact and biologically complex freshwater ecosystems provide economically valuable services and long-term benefits to human societies, such as food supply, flood control, habitat for animal and plant life, and the adaptive capacity to respond to future environmental alterations such as climate change," Atkinson said.


Contact: Angela Startz
University of Oklahoma

Page: 1

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