Taking an entire science experiment and squeezing it into a four by three foot poster seems like a daunting task.
Weber State senior and geography major Alexa Pierce did just that for the sixth annual Intermountain Sustainability Summit poster session held on March 5.
She won first place in the undergraduate category and also snagged the People’s Choice Award for the 2015 poster session at the Summit.
“I wasn’t expecting to win at all, to be honest,” said Pierce, “so I was really excited when I heard that I won both awards because I’ve never done anything like this before.”
According to the Intermountain Sustainability Summit website, the poster session is an open competition for students to present their own sustainability research and display it on a single poster.
The posters were judged during the Summit by expert panelists and conference attendees who chose winners to receive cash prizes for their experiments and designs.
According to WSU geography professor Dr. Daniel Bedford, the poster session is not an easy challenge to take on.
“You have to boil down everything you want to say into one poster. There’s no backtracking, so you’ve got to get it right the first time,” he said. “It’s a piece of communication and it’s a hard thing to do.”
However, having a passion for geography since childhood, Pierce decided to submit her poster based on a project that took root last semester in her Climate and Weather class taught by Dr. Bedford
The experiment was to analyze and compare the temperatures of turf and xeriscaped surfaces across Weber State.
The overall goal for the experiment was to assess what the potential climate side-effects would be of a large scale xeriscape effort on campus, said Bedford.
“Xeriscaping is the idea that you plant native species that can cope with dry conditions so you don’t have to water them as much,” he said. “However, xeriscaping could have the potential consequence of making the campus hotter.”
As mentor and teacher for the project, Bedford had the entire class collect temperature measurements all across campus using infrared thermometers.
They also used a portable weather station, which was donated by the statewide national Science Foundation project iUTAH.
Over the course of fall semester, the entire class was able to collect enough data for Pierce to design a poster and submit it in the spring poster session.
“It took a lot of time to do this experiment,” she said. “For the poster, I had to explain it in a way that was presentable rather than just having a bunch of numbers. But for me, it was interesting to see how little impacts can affect the campus as a whole.”
In fact, what made their experiment unique was that it was relevant to Weber State campus, said Bedford.
“You know, it’s all about the Sustainability Summit and the project we did was an issue that had very much to do with campus sustainability,” he said. “Alexa just did a really great job of putting all the pieces together.”
Having won her first poster session, Pierce wants to continue this project with Dr. Bedford next year.
She said she’s interested in doing undergraduate projects like this and the poster session was a great experience for her.
“Despite the fact that you may or may not win, it’s still fun to present your research so that people can see it in a way that they’ve never thought of before,” she said. “It’s just really rewarding.”