Summer Community of Scholars

Who's working with students and faculty from other universities?

Kate Willis


Academic and Research Interests

I started off as an undergrad planning to major in mathematics, but I fell in love with environmental science freshman year when I took an introductory ES course. Since then I have completed research on environmental technology, ecology, and even some environmental education. My senior thesis focused on creating lesson plans for junior high school students in the Worcester area. I was able to obtain a grant for this research and implemented my lesson plans at the University Park Campus School in 2008, after graduating. My recent interests lie in researching global climate change and its effects on the earth’s ecosystems and feedback cycles, especially in the arctic. My graduate research will focus on these systemic effects of climate change and lithosphere-biosphere-atmosphere interactions in the arctic. I have applied for Master’s and Ph.D. programs for fall 2009 and I look forward to continuing my research in the coming years.

This past summer (2008) I participated the Polaris Project; a field research project in Siberia with an ecological team from the United States and Russia. It was a life changing experience, and solidified my decision to continue (as I am now) in geographical field research. We traveled throughout Siberia and were able to study the landscape up close and personal. I find that I learn best in a hands-on environment, so this was perfect! We focused on comparing levels of dissolved organic carbon (a contributing element to global climate change) transport in the Kolyma River watershed. I have continued this research this year by using GIS in order to determine a relationship between the watershed size, landscape and the carbon levels present in adjacent waters. A few other students from the project and I were lucky enough to present our results at the American Geophysical Union 2008 conference. It was an amazing learning experience, and a great way to collaborate with other scientists.

Extracurricular Activities

Besides research, I played varsity field hockey for four years at Clark and was a captain my senior year. I also worked for Clark admissions as a senior interviewer. As a graduated Clarkie, I work in the Earth Systems Science laboratory with Dominik Kulakowski, as well as at a local slow-food restaurant to support local and organic agriculture (and my rent bills). I have also been tutoring high school students in math and physics. I am currently taking a GIS class in preparation for graduate school next year.


Willis, K. S., Abbott, K. R., Bulygina, E., Frey, K. E., Holmes, R. M. & Schade, J. D. Biogeochemical characteristics of Siberia's Kolyma River watershed in relation to climate warming and permafrost degradation. 2008 Fall American Geophysical Union Meeting. San Francisco, California, 15–19 December 2008.