Most people would never realize that wading into a river and turning over a rock disturbs the home of dozens of different living organisms.
But Art Martin isn’t like most people. The associate professor of biology is an expert researcher on
aquatic ecology. Since joining the SVSU faculty in 2008, he has helped numerous SVSU students wet their freshwater science research feet in local waterways.
“I’ve always wanted to do research at an institution that emphasizes teaching, which is exactly why SVSU is a good fit for me,” said Martin, who earned his Ph.D. in behavior neuroscience (i.e., “how animals make decisions”) and has engaged in post-doctoral studies of how hormones impact animal behavior.
“I really like having the flexibility to research ideas that are of interest to me,” Martin said. “I can take my students out of the classroom or lab and go into the field to collect
invertebrates, which allows us to assess the quality of an ecological system. For example, certain species that exist in one spot but not in another let us draw conclusions about the quality of the aquatic systems in our region.”
And these studies, Martin said, are of great interest and value to environmental agencies on both a state and national level. In
recent years, Martin — in collaboration with David Karpovich, H.H. Dow Endowed Chair in Chemistry at SVSU — has received several grants that provide financial support to conduct water quality research. (See sidebar, below.)
“The difference between working in a lab or in the field is that the research scenarios are less controlled in the field — so you’ll see what really happens as compared to when you control what happens in a laboratory,” Martin said. In the field, “students are learning how to collect samples and how to analyze them — which are experiences they never forget.”
As a result of the field-based experiences, Martin said students learn to see their environment in different ways. “They begin to realize what happens in small eco-systems,” Martin said.
Including what might be found living under a rock