There was an unusually young scientist in the Williams Paleovegetation Lab in Science Hall this past summer.
After Mason Martinez, a junior from Madison East High School, was accepted into the UW High School Science Research Internship program last spring, he approached Prof. Jack Williams and graduate student, Sam Muñoz, about getting involved with geography/biology/ecology research.
With Muñoz as his program mentor, Mason joined the Williams Lab for field work in southern Illinois in June and then worked in the Paleovegetation Lab for the remainder of the summer helping Sam process lake sediment cores samples he helped collect. The core Mason worked on is part of a bigger project that Williams and Muñoz are undertaking – the reconstruction of vegetation in and around Cahokia, the largest prehistoric Native American settlement in north of Mexico, to investigate the impacts of prehistoric peoples on the environment. Mason used a technique called “loss-on-ignition” to evaluate changing carbon content in cores from Horseshoe Lake in Alexander County, Illinois (near Cairo, IL) – an area that was sparsely populated during late prehistoric times.
On November 6th, Mason presented a poster of his work at the program’s annual poster session and was one of 3 students that won an award for best poster. You can read Mason’s research abstract here.
The University of Wisconsin–Madison partners with the Madison Metropolitan School District each summer to provide a mentor and laboratory science experience for interested and qualified high school juniors and seniors.