Natalie transferred to NC State University as a junior in Natural Resources-Ecosystem Assessment. From the beginning, she eagerly sought opportunities to pursue her interests through research, service-learning and an internship while maintaining a 4.0 GPA.
Her class experiences led her to two service-learning projects to continue to grow her knowledge within the natural resources field while also giving back to the community. The first project was completed through the Natural Resources 300-Natural Resources Measurements course. During the project near Swift Creek, she focused on tree height, basal area and woody debris while identifying woody and herbaceous vegetation. Natalie also used GIS and GPS to create random sample plots. This data collection allowed her to identify the ecosystem type in an effort to create and present a comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment to Wake County officials.
Continuing her interest in service-learning, Natalie completed a second project based at Parrish Manor Community Garden. Through this project, she had the opportunity to create a curriculum appropriate for teaching teenagers about composting and vermicomposting. In addition, Natalie guided the students as they built a 3-bin compost system.
While completing service-learning projects, Natalie has also sought research opportunities at NC State University. Over the past year and a half, she has studied the effects of vesicular arbuscular mycorrhizae on nitrogen uptake from organic sources in Japanese stiltgrass (Microstegium vimineum). A $1000 Undergraduate Research Award from NC State University has aided her ability to create an experiment in a phytotron, measure vesicular arbuscular mycorrhizae infection in roots systems and utilize stable isotope analysis techniques.
Natalie’s passion for natural resources and research led her to pursue a summer Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) internship through NC State University. At the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, she had an amazing experience as she focused her research efforts on the effect of hard clam (Mercenaria mercenaria) aquaculture on dissolved oxygen concentration gradients in the sediment. Throughout the summer, she created mesocosm experiments with sediment cores, took part in a nutrient flux experiment, worked with a variety of tools, including an O2 microsensor and a spectrophotometer and wrote a paper to present her findings at the VIMS REU Intern Symposium.
For her final semester at NCSU, Natalie is investigating nitrogen source controls on nitrous oxide production in organic and conventional farming systems. A second Undergraduate Research Award is allowing her to quantify total inputs of carbon and nitrogen on both systems, take nitrous oxide emissions measurements in the field, and measure denitrifying microbial activity. She hopes to continue this project in her graduate studies at NC State.
Natalie’s proven determination and diligence have allowed her to explore a variety of experiences that set her apart and offer her a variety of marketable skills as she plans to graduate in the spring. She has made an effort to benefit from the many perks of being a student in the Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources, including getting to know faculty in an effort to learn about these opportunities to pursue.