Research takes UNI professor and students around the world

Undergraduate research has always been something that has set the University of Northern Iowa apart from other institutions. This year, more than three undergraduate research projects are happening in the biology department alone. One of those projects has taken researchers to Brazil, and later this spring will take one to Utah.

Fiddler crab research

Kelsey Hampton, a UNI junior majoring in biology, will present

her research on fiddler crabs at the National Conference for 

Undergraduate Research in Utah.

In a study built to investigate the impact of global climate change on coastal communities, Carl Thurman, a UNI biology professor, and many undergraduate students have spent years researching the genetic and size differences of Brazilian fiddler crabs. A current from Africa brought fiddler crabs to the edge of Brazil 40 million years ago, splitting them and forcing them to adapt to different climates. After they split, the fiddler crabs were forced to make different adaptations depending on where the current placed them. Thurman and his students are taking a look at nine different species of fiddler crabs to see what changes have taken place and what implications this has on those environments.

This spring, Kelsey Hampton, a UNI junior majoring in biology, has an opportunity to present her research at the National Conference for Undergraduate Research in Ogden, Utah. Hampton was one of three UNI students chosen from more than 3,500 national applicants to present her poster at this conference. She has been looking into the size differences among the fiddler crabs.

"Researching with the biology department and professor Thurman has provided me with many networking opportunities with other universities, bolstered my resume with valuable experience unavailable to most undergraduate students, and provided me with the chance to attend the National Conference for Undergraduate Research (NCUR) this coming March," said Hampton. "By performing research here at UNI, I have become a very competitive candidate for graduate programs. The experience gained from gathering my own data, analyzing it myself, and working with my collaborators have helped to present me as a competent candidate for graduate study."

So far Thurman and Hampton have found differences in the size, DNA and kidney function of the different species of fiddler crabs. Thurman and Hampton, along with other students, plan to continue their research as a way to help global conservation efforts. For more information on the Brazilian fiddler crab project, contact Thurman at