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Eastern Washington University
526 5th Street
Cheney, WA 99004
phone: 509.359.6200 (campus operator)

Kimberly Cook

 Acknowledgment to Mentor:  

"When I started at Eastern Washington University, I knew I wanted to study biology, but I had no idea what I wanted to do post-college. Once I met Dr. Margaret O'Connell, it became clear that I wanted to get a Ph.D. to teach and conduct research. On top of her teaching and Chair duties, Dr. O'Connell is still always happy to help me when I come tapping on her door. Whether I need help with a grant proposal, an application, or a simple question, she never hesitates to lend me her attention. The sheer quantity of duties Dr. O'Connell carries out on a daily basis is admirable, but when I consider the quality that she commits to everything she does, and her ability to maintain a slick sense of humor through it all, I am reminded why I want to go into academia."

  "As Dr. Rebecca Brown sat under the hot sun with me counting grasses, it really hit me how lucky I was to have such a mentor. We both had very busy schedules over the summer, and it was hard to find a time we could go out in the field together. However, she insisted on coming out to help me tediously count grass stems. Dr. Brown's support did not end with fieldwork. We spent days in the library running statistics, a laborious task as she had to teach me to do the coding and analyses. She continues to help me as I work through the intricacies of beginning graduate studies, and it is hard for me to imagine trudging through the process without her gracious help. I feel exceptionally grateful to get to work closely with such a fantastic mentor." 


Kim Cook is currently pursuing her BS in Biology with a focus on Wildlife. She is interested in ecology, specifically species interactions such as those that occur between animals and the plants in their habitat. She will graduate from Eastern Washington University in 2015 and plans on taking steps to obtain a PhD in biology or a related field. 


Dr. Margaret O'Connell  and Dr. Rebecca Brown

 TRiO McNair Research Internship:__________________________________________________________

Effects of Fire and Pocket Gopher Burrowing on Annual Grass Invasion in a Mima Mound Prairie (Summer 2014)

Prairies of the Western United States support diverse biological communities. These communities are typically maintained by natural disturbance regimes including fire and grazing or burrowing by native mammals. Given the productivity of these prairies, there has been widespread conversion to crop and range land. Consequently, the native distribution of prairies has been greatly reduced with bunchgrass communities being one of the most endangered North American ecosystems. For example, less than one percent of Washington prairie habitat remains intact. The Mima mound Prairie at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge is a rare remnant of Washington state semi-arid grassland. However, in recent years, an increase in invasive annual grasses has occurred on the refuge, currently exotics constitute over 20% of species observed.

Invasive grasses convert prairie to less diverse habitat with negative effects on wildlife, ecosystem function, and biological diversity. One factor affecting plant invasion may be soil disturbance, allowing for the colonization of invasive species by opening up space through the removal of native plants. On the refuge, burrowing pocket gophers (Thomomys talpoides) create extensive soil disturbance. In unaltered grasslands the excavations created by pocket gophers create nutrient gradients and improve soil porosity which promotes plant diversity. However, when invasive plants are present, simulated pocket gopher burrows have been found to favor exotic plant species colonization after disturbance.

Comparing invasive grass distribution on and off pocket gopher tailings could provide insight into habitat conditions that promote invasive grass species.   In this fire-adapted area, the abundance of invasive grasses may interact with fire suppression. My objective is to test the hypotheses that 1) pocket gopher burrows support a relatively high abundance of invasive grasses as compared to other undisturbed parts of the Mima mound, and 2) fire will reduce the abundance of invasive grasses.

Visual Sediment Deposition Following Dam Removal on the Elwha River, Washington (2014)
Dammed rivers trap sediment in reservoirs, causing decreased downstream sediment deposition. Dam removal rapidly releases this sediment to downstream reaches. The removal of the Elwha and Glines Canyon Dams on the Elwha River, Olympic Peninsula, Washington provides an opportunity to observe this sediment transport. The objective of my study was to document the sediment deposition on different sections of the river. I predicted heavy sediment deposition in the river channel and riparian zone downstream from the dams. To document this, I compared photographs of 28 plots above, 40 plots between, and 38 plots downstream from the two dams both before and in the first summer following dam removal (2013). Pictures of a 100m2 vegetation plot were taken in the same position before and after dam removal. The photos illustrate that the middle and lower reaches experienced high levels of visual fine sediment deposition, and the upper reach remained visually similar to previous years. This photographic data will provide a visual baseline for assessing the long term effects of dam removal.


Conference Presentations:_________________________________________________________________

  • 29th Annual National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR), Cheney, WA (2015)
  • Channeled Scablands Cooperative Weed Management Area Committee Workshop, Cheney WA (2015)
  • Washington Native Plant Society, Northeast Chapter, Invited talk, Gonzaga University, Spokane, WA (2015)

Visual Sediment Deposition Following Dam Removal on the Elwha River, Washington,

  • 17th Annual Student Research and Creative Works Symposium, Eastern Washington University, Cheney, WA (2014)

Honors and Awards:______________________________________________________________________

  • McNair Scholar Summer Internship, Awarded $2,800. The goal of the McNair Program is to increase the attainment of PhD degrees by students from underrepresented segments of society. (2014)
  • TLES Research Scholar Fellowship (2014)
  • Washington Native Plant Society Northeast Chapter Research Grant (2014)
  • Sigma Xi Grant-in-Aid-of-Research (2014)
  • High Demand Scholarship, Eastern Washington University High (2013-2014)
  • Dean's List, Students achieve honor roll if they maintain a grade point average of 3.5 or higher and complete at least 12 credits each quarter (2012 - 2013)

Graduate School Acceptances: ____________________________________________________________

  • Purdue University -PhD program in Ecological Science & Engineering
  • University of California Riverside - PhD program in Evolution, Ecology & Organismal Biology
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