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The Unity College Honors Program offers an engaging challenge for academically talented and motivated students from all academic disciplines. Professor Pamela MacRae works with honors students in a population and community ecology class at China Lake. Photo by Mark Tardif.

Unity College Assistant Professor of Sustainable Fisheries Management Pamela MacRae has been named the recipient of the newly established Unity College Undergraduate Research Mentor Award. 

Earlier this year, the directors of the Unity College Undergraduate Research Program and the office of the Vice President of Academic Affairs issued a call to faculty to submit proposals for mentoring undergraduate research. Designed to give opportunities to facilitate a robust faculty-student collaborative learning environment, the annual Undergraduate Research Mentor Award allows beneficiaries $1000 in seed money to get the project underway as well as a crucial 3-credit course release in order to have enough dedicated time to pursue the research.  A top criterion selecting a winning submission is that the faculty member offers a clearly detailed explanation of how students will be included in the entire process, from implementation to intensive subject research to the completion of the project.


In her proposed project, “A Comparison of Fish Assemblage Structure in Lakes With and Without Alewife,” MacRae and a student collaborator will study fish assemblage structure in lakes and investigate the impact of alewives in local Maine waters. They will begin their research in fall 2014.

Specifically, MacRae and her research student will look at the effects of re-introducing alewives on small schooling fishes in the littoral zone, the area of the lake that is close to the shore. These littoral fish typically feed on plankton and are prey to area sport fish, and play an important role in aquatic food webs.

“Maine’s alewife populations have declined over the last two centuries, largely due to pollution and dams that block the natural spawning migration patterns of this species” said MacRae. “There is currently a movement to remove a number of dams that are blocking alewife movement to their native lakes, sparking a lot of debate over the impact of these re-introductions on native fish. While the effects of alewife re-introductions on recreational fish has been the focus in a number local studies, I am interested in examining the potential interaction between alewife and small littoral fishes.”

Wildlife and Fisheries Management major Brian Eaton ‘16, was chosen to work with MacRae on the project. Eaton, a student in MacRae’s Population and Community Ecology and Marine Fisheries courses, was a fitting choice having had previous research experience on a project studying fish communities. Additionally, Ian Sypek ’15 and Richard Lee ’15, both Wildlife and Fisheries Management majors, will be volunteering on the project, helping Eaton with sampling.

“Pamela’s proposal stood out given her coherent research objectives, a sound timeline and the outline of rigorous student learning outcomes,” said Kevin Spigel, Associate Professor of Geoscience and co-director of the Undergraduate Research Program at Unity College. “Her project also indicated robust student involvement, and clearly illustrated the reciprocal benefits of close faculty mentorship which ultimately contributes to a richer undergraduate education.”

Thursday, April 03, 2014