CWC students work with research professor to boost academic, career prospects

RIVERTON, Wyo. — Central Wyoming College Professor Kirsten Kapp recently gained recognition for co-authoring a ground-breaking study identifying dryer vents as a significant source of microfiber pollution. Her research findings were published in a peer-reviewed journal article that was recently featured in Forbes Magazine.

Photo: Zachary Andres

Professor Kapp, who is a Professor of Biology and Math, has been studying microplastic pollution since 2014. She enjoys working alongside undergraduate students while conducting research, as they all bring valuable skills and perspectives to each project while keeping it fun. Ellen Yeatman, Zachary Andres and Mark Star are some of Kapp’s recent research assistants. The research efforts of Professor Kapp, Yeatman, Andres and Star highlight the fact that undergrad students can find opportunities in their department to boost their research skills, career prospects and academic credentials.

Undergrads at CWC, in science-based departments especially, can enhance their future prospects, whether it be in starting a new career or applying to grad school, by working with professors in undergrad research. Below are the stories of Kirsten Kapp’s three research students who participated in her microfiber research, and how it supported their academic and career prospects.

Ellen Yeatman

Ellen Yeatman was a vital member, from start to finish. She is the co-author of a study published in the Journal of Environmental Pollution in 2018 called Microplastic Hotspots in the Snake and Lower Columbia Rivers: A journey from Yellowstone to the Pacific Ocean. At that time, Yeatman was a CWC student taking a microbiology course for fun and to see where her academic interests lie. Her research with CWC biology professor Kirsten Kapp on microplastic pollution confirmed her interest in water quality.

Photo: Ellen Yeatman

After working for a summer with the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, Yeatman attended the University of Wyoming and graduated in May with a Master of Science in Agricultural and Applied Economics.

Her master’s research focused on the ecological and economic effects of a water-use demand management program in the Green River Basin. She is now working remotely as a water resource specialist with American Farmlands Trust.

Zachary Andres

Photo: Zachary Andres

Zachary Andres was instrumental in beginning a study with home appliance dryers that CWC professor Kirsten Kapp and her research partner Rachael Miller had been exploring. Miller suggested he start collecting snow samples from outside dryer vents. Andres was excited about the project and to gain research skills, and presented his preliminary results at the University of Wyoming’s Undergraduate Research Day in spring 2019. His study design, recommendations and results inspired the recent study published in PLOS ONE.

Since working on this project he has pursued his interest in wildlife and field research. Currently, he is working on a mule deer fawn recruitment study, and throughout the summer he surveyed the Jackson area for winter ticks, working with a Ph.D. student at Montana State University.

Mark Star

Mark Star helped to kick off a high elevation microplastics study in the Wind River Mountains, with a focus on snowfields and glacier melt in the Dinwoody Cirque. This is a project that Professor Kapp had been excited about for some time, but needed the energy and motivation of someone like Star to help get it started.

Star collected the first high elevation snow samples in the Dinwoody Cirque. As a result of his interest in this study, he hoped to expand the project to include Annapurna, Nepal. He secured a grant from the University of Wyoming, explored partnerships with Tribhuvan University, and arranged to collect snow samples for analysis of microplastics. Unfortunately, his plans were canceled due to COVID-19.

In 2018, he graduated from CWC with an Associate’s Degree in Expedition Science, and Outdoor Education and Leadership. He will graduate this May from the University of Wyoming with a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Systems Sciences and will enter the Graduate Certificate in Teaching program for Elementary Education this summer.

About The Author

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Central Wyoming College

Central Wyoming College is a community college that offers both associate's and bachelor's degrees and serves Fremont, Hot Springs, and Teton Counties Our main campus is located in Riverton, Wyoming and we have outreach centers in Lander, Jackson, and Dubois, each with programming designed to serve their communities

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