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SOAR Profile - Rachel Johnson

Name: Rachel Johnson 
Major/minor: Environmental Science and Computer Science majors 
Expected date of graduation: Spring 2014 
Hometown: Waunakee, Wisc. 
Activities: Acting treasurer of Gamma Sigma Sigma, the service sorority; involved in America Reads, where college students help tutor school children in the Bethlehem area. Also participates in Student Christian Community and ECO (Environmental Coalition) and ACMW (Association for Computing Machinery- Women). 
Project title: Assessing the Impacts of the Lake Muhlenberg Dam 
Project advisor: Frank Kuserk

The opportunity to spend the summer wading through knee-deep water, taking a closer look at nature, and investigating its mysteries couldn’t have pleased Rachel Johnson more. It’s why her SOAR project, “Assessing the Impacts of the Lake Muhlenberg Dam,” was so fitting.

“I love field work and ecological monitoring, so this was a perfect opportunity,” the dean’s list student explains.

Her project looked specifically at how the Lake Muhlenburg dam affected the Cedar Creek, which required her – and fellow SOAR project participants – to analyze the biotic communities upstream and downstream of the lake, with fish, macroinvertebrate and E. coli sampling. She also monitored the area’s physical properties, such as temperature, and performed a physical habitat assessment. Additionally, she analyzed the chemical composition of the water to determine the concentration of certain compounds.

This robust collection of data and analysis reflected the overall health of the stream, and the results were definitive.

“We found that Lake Muhlenberg increases the water temperature in the creek by almost three degrees Fahrenheit,” concludes Rachel, adding that the biotic communities, such as the fish and macroinvertebrates, change upstream and downstream. “There was little conclusive evidence from our chemical analysis, but we did find that Lake Muhlenberg is eutrophic.”

Rachel, who is active in community service through the Gamma Sigma Sigma service sorority, plans to apply to graduate school for environmental science and, hopefully, continue research in ecology. Ultimately, she would like to land a job in ecological monitoring and restoration.