August 30, 2023

Susquehanna University is one of several recipients of a $3 million National Science Foundation grant to train the next generation of scientists to advance climate change research.

“Two formidable challenges exist for the scientific workforce in the 21st century,” said Tanya Matlaga, assistant professor of biology at Susquehanna and co-principal investigator on the project. “The first is how best to diversify participation and produce a new generation of scientists with a broad spectrum of ideas and experiences and the second is how best to mitigate the impacts of large-scale global change.”

Susquehanna is partnering with Bridgewater State, Pennsylvania State, Michigan State and Monmouth universities to create a postbaccalaureate research and mentoring network integrated within the existing Salamander Population and Adaptation Research Collaboration Network. SPARCnet is a research initiative that brings together scientists, educators, university, federal, state and nonprofit partners to understand climate adaptation and population dynamics of the red-backed salamander.

Program to mentor young researchers

Funded through by the NSF’s Research and Mentoring for Postbaccalaureates in Biological Sciences program, the SPARCnet RaMP program will recruit college graduates with limited research experiences to participate in a one-year, paid and mentored research position at SPARCnet sites in the eastern United States. Mentors will be trained in mentoring best practices while mentees will be trained in a variety of research methods and professional development skills. The grant will support 30 postbaccalaureate mentees over three years, preparing them to successfully enter the STEM workforce and postgraduate education programs.

Susquehanna will host a postbaccalaureate research mentee during years two through four of the program. In addition to advancing SPARCnet’s research, the position will also interact with SU undergraduates, and attend lab and research meetings and presentations within the biology department.

Each year’s mentee group will complete a collaborative core project using the network-wide, 10-year data set on salamander populations, and each individual mentee will complete a tailored independent project with their mentor.

“Not only will the projects expose mentees to basic hypothesis-driven, ecological research, but they will uncover patterns and mechanisms of change and model those changes with aims to impact policy and management,” Matlaga said. “Mentors will also be able to bring their mentoring best practices back to their home institutions to broaden the program’s impact.”

Matlaga has been engaged in research with SPARCnet for the past 10 years. Read more about the joint faculty-student research here.

Learn more about Susquehanna’s Department of Biology.