A generous fellowship for undergraduate or graduate research.
The Dr. Allan W. Hook Endowed Wild Basin Creative Research Fund is a generous fellowship that provides funding for student projects at Wild Basin or other lands in the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve system. Hook Fellows' projects can be research-based or creative endeavors, and they can be grounded in any major at any college or university. Recent Hook Fellows have investigated new technologies for censusing deer, researched microbial communities in the streams and soils of Wild Basin, and created nature-based art installations.
HOOK FELLOW SUCCESS STORY
Check out this video from Justin Stewart, a former Hook Fellow now doing graduate studies abroad. His research on soil microbial communities at Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve was published in the FEMS Microbiology Letters Journal (Oxford University Press, February 2021).
Research data (above) submitted by 2020 Hook Fellow and St. Edward’s student Edere Ohwobete shows noise levels (in decibels) at multiple locations within the preserve, and demonstrates that golden-cheeked warbler territories are located in areas with lower noise levels.
Learn more and apply for a Hook Fellowship (2024 deadlines coming soon).
The application period for the Hook Endowed Wild Basin Creative Research Fund has concluded for 2023. Fellowships up to $5,000 per student are offered for research at Wild Basin or other areas of the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve. Application deadlines for 2024 will be announced soon. Although some elements may change, the guidelines from 2023 are below:
- 2023 Hook Wild Basin Fellowship Application Guide & Instructions
- 2023 Hook Fellowship Application Form
Applicants may be from any accredited college or university.
** We will host two workshops to help with application preparation **
- Workshop #1: February 2024, TBD. Equity Hall in Room 317 on St Edward's University campus.
- Workshop #2: March 2024, TBD. John Brooks Science Building South in Room 288 on St Edward's University campus.
An overview of research projects by Hook Fellows.
2023 Hook Fellows
Monitoring avian biodiversity with revegetation efforts in areas of the Balcones Canyonland Preserve
Authors: Wren Conner
Mentor: Darren Propppe
Synopsis: The Balcones Canyonlands Preserve (BCP) system was formed in 1996 to protect important habitat for endangered avian species which rely on mixed juniper-oak woodlands. The preserve system contains several tracts of woodland in different stages of succession, with some sites undergoing active revegetation. These sites are lacking critical information on avian biodiversity and community composition. This project aims to address this gap in knowledge by running avian biodiversity and vegetation surveys at several sites across the BCP to assess ongoing revegetation efforts and their impacts on avian biodiversity. The surveys and data collected by this project will inform land managers about the efficacy of certain revegetation efforts as well as provide information about the avian communities present at each site.
The Music of Nature: A Study of the Wild Basin Soundscape and the Intricate Web of Factors That Contribute to the Acoustic Environment
Authors: Susheel Palakurthi
Mentor: Yong Shin Park
Synopsis: Soundscapes are collections of anthrophonic, biophonic, and geophonic sounds which can be used to identify environmental processes and human activities in a landscape. As society continues to develop land for human use, anthropogenic sounds increase, which causes a shift in biological abundance and diversity. Prior research has explored the patterns of environmental sound levels in the continental United States, but no study has specifically investigated the Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve (WBP) in Austin, Texas. In this project, we develop a soundscape model for the WBP, considering multiple variables: land cover, hydrology, climate, topography, human activity, and time of day and year. Using machine learning techniques, such as principal component analysis and random forests, we identify and explore the factors and spatiotemporal patterns that cause shifts to the sound levels in the WBP as anthropogenic growth occurs around the preserve. Comaps will also be developed to analyze multiple factors conditioned on time. This research will help stewards of the WBP formulate and implement solutions to reduce sound levels, improve fauna conservation, and provide the most enjoyable ‘soundwalks’ to WBP visitors.
Dark Sky, Loud Night – an electronic music composition based on the audio data sourced overnight at Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve.
Authors: Molly Leach and Will Hermanowski
Mentor: Christopher Dietz
Synopsis: Dark sky preservation is essential to the protection of wildlife native to Central Texas. This research will culminate in an electronic music composition installation based on audio recordings sourced overnight at Wild Basin preserve. This interdisciplinary project will feature a critical citizen science and community outreach component in which participants will have the opportunity to help document the late-night activities of Texas wildlife in audio recordings that will then be featured in the completed musical work. Direct collaboration with community members through interdisciplinary citizen science activities will create opportunities for educational outreach focused on Dark Sky initiatives that are critical to the protection of wildlife located within the Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve. While this research will culminate in the completion of an electronic music composition based on the sounds of nocturnal wildlife, future interdisciplinary research may choose to further this work’s artistic scope through the addition of visual or performance arts. This research offers an opportunity for educational outreach that is engaging and accessible to patrons of all backgrounds and interests, from the arts to the outdoors.
2022 Hook Fellows
Analysis of upland and riparian habitats as stopover sites for migratory songbirds in Central Texas
Authors: Dawn Romaine Houston
Mentor: Joseph Veech
Synopsis: Migration may be the most perilous and energetically expensive period for migratory birds and has profound effects on breeding success and survivorship. High-quality stopover sites, with abundant food resources, allow for rapid refueling of energy stores enabling a songbird to continue on the next portion of its journey. Riparian areas are recognized as important stopover habitats, particularly in the desert Southwest, whereas upland habitats provide adequate stopover sites in other regions of North America, such as the Midwest. Central Texas lies squarely in the Central Flyway, yet no research to date has investigated stopover habitat in this region. We propose to assess the relative stopover habitat quality of riparian and upland habitats by comparing refueling performance, physiological condition, and chronic stress of migratory songbirds. We will also compare fine-scale habitat characteristics using field and remote sensing methods between habitat types with regard to migratory songbird abundance. Finally, we will evaluate foraging activity and arthropod abundance to identify which habitat type may be more useful as a resource to migrating songbirds. Our goal is to acquire knowledge of stopover habitat ecology in Central Texas that could ultimately inform natural resource agencies and conservation stakeholders of priority habitat for migratory bird conservation.
Sensor-based monitoring of microclimates and soundscapes in Balcones Canyonlands Preserve
Authors: Annaclaire Kepple and Quynhmai Tran
Mentors: Timothy Keitt, Brendan Allison, Suzanne Pierce, Je’amie Powell, Katherine Brown
Synopsis: The combined stressors of climate change and a growing population pose grave threats to our well-being within Texas and globally. A large body of research has demonstrated the value of biodiversity in providing ecosystem services to humanity. In addition to being self- sustaining, healthy, diverse ecosystems benefit people. Some even argue they are essential to our survival in the coming centuries. Yet from a policy standpoint, we are often flying blind with regard to tracking changes across ecosystems and landscapes. This project aims to establish a platform for continuous monitoring of environmental conditions and sounds using a variety of sensors that can capture information about temperature, precipitation, soil moisture and acoustics in the ecologically important habitats at Balcones Canyonlands Preserve (BCP). We will build and deploy sensors in BCP and use the data collected to explore relationships between the local climate and ecological communities informed by acoustics – such as songs from bird species including the golden-cheek warbler and the black-capped vireo. These data have considerable potential to inform how this area can be managed effectively when challenged by stressors that can include extreme or unusual weather conditions and increased access by the public.
2021 Hook Fellows
The effects of invasive Bothriochloa ischaemum on native grassland systems and their ability to sequester carbon in the Texas Hill Country
Authors: Meriam Elawad and Camille Dedeaux
Mentor: Amy Concilio
Synopsis: Prairies are an endangered ecosystem due to constant pressure from development and agriculture. Many of the remaining grasslands have become invaded by nonnative grasses, which in turn has altered the dominant plant life forms present in those ecosystems. Vegetation cover is known to directly influence the content, quality, and depth distribution of soil C, as it is directly responsible for organic matter input into the soil below. One way C is transported into deep soil pools is through root systems. As invasive species move into healthy prairie ecosystems, it is safe to assume that root structure and depth may change as well, potentially hindering prairies’ natural proclivity to store C in its soil. This would be detrimental because as it stands, in our climate’s current condition, we need to get more C stored in terrestrial ecosystems, and prairies are a promising place to do that. However, we don’t know much about C storage in the grasslands of central Texas. This study will fill that gap by quantifying carbon sequestration in soils of invaded versus native and restored prairies in the Texas Hill Country. We anticipate finding that carbon storage is significantly higher in grasslands where native species are present, in which case, our results could be used to help justify restoration efforts.
2020 Hook Fellows
Kaitlyn Stark. Comparing Molecular markers of Gregarine Life Cycle Stages in Cockroaches Obtained from Wild Basin to Laboratory Raised Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches
Advisor: Dr. Daniel Gold
Jemima Ohwobete and Andrea Huriega. Quantitative Analysis of the Effect of Traffic Noise Levels on the Endangered Golden-Cheeked Warbler in Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve
Advisor: Dr. Darren Proppe
Colton Mitchell. The effects of Ligustrum sinense and L. japonicum on bird abundance and diversity in Travis County, TX
Advisor: Dr. Amy Concilio
2019 Hook Fellows
Gracen Bivens. The Effects of Urbanization on Mesopredator Landscape Utilization and Dispersal Routes in the Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve, Vireo Nature Preserve, and Surrounding Urban Areas
Aaron Duran. Activity and Distribution Patterns of Mammals at Wild Basin Preserve
John Rippel. Inoculating Invasive Species Logs with Trametes versicolor (Turkey Tail) to Promote Lasting Soil Health and Improve Ecosystem Function
Taylor Kelly. Using Water and Adjacent Soil Reservoirs of Microbials to Characterize Antibiotic Resistance
2018 Hook Fellows
Nicholas Barrett, Matthew Fenci. Comparing Biological Diversity in Gregarines from Wild-isolated and Grain Beetles Through Genomic Sequencing.
Alex Birch. Fluoride Toxicity in Freshwater Systems: Wild Basin.
Juan Diaz, Holcombe Huddleston. Organization and expansion of Wild Basin's photographic, video, and document archives.
Elayna Grove. Camera Trap Data Collection: The Effects of Urbanization on Austin's Wildlife.
Patrick Kelleher. Travis County Stream Assessment: Macroinvertebrate Indices and Water Composition Comparison.
I Gusti Ayu Larasati. Effect of Housing Development on Wildlife Movement Along and Through Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve Boundaries.
Adriana Lee. Evaluation of Ecosystem Function of a Restored 30-Year Old Dumpsite in Wild Basin Preserve.
Elizabeth Rodriquez, Cole Calderon. Using the Wild Nematode Microbiome as an Indicator of Soil Health.
Sarah Waddell. Composition, Recruitment, and Restoration of Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum) in Riparian Zones of the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve System.
Becky Woodward. Identification and Analysis of Microbial Communities Associated with Texas Milkweed, Asclepias texana, success in the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve.
2017 Hook Fellows
Phillip Valdez. Mobile Plant Identification App for Wild Basin.
Chris Enders, Kristen Meisner, Winfred Mudong. Groundwater Dye Trace Analysis Through BCP/WQPL Tracts.
Ashley Bussell, Nicolas Gonzalez, Leslie Roberts. Estimating Heavy Metal Runoff Concentrations from Bridge Decks.
John Gonzalez, Nicole Wile. Water Contamination Sourcing in Bee Creek and North Hollow in Wild Basin.
Renee Cornue. You are Here: Earth Day Art Show.
Justin Stewart, Kizil Yusoof. Microbial Communities Relationship to Soil Characteristics.
2016 Hook Fellows
Elizabeth Ademski. Exploring the potential for plastic-eating microorganisms in Wild Basin soil communities.
Kelsey Emmons, Michelle Mendoza, and Lauren Schricker. Determination of the economic value of ecosystem services provided by Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve.
Michael Horvath, Lexington Belyeu, and Danica Metlay. Utilizing UAVs to measure biodiversity and compare white-tailed deer survey techniques at the Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve.
Abigail Kropf, Savannah Bryson, and Eric Johnson. Identifying successful methods for removal and management for three invasive plant species coexisting in a Central Texas riparian forest.
Jacqueline Ortuno. Mosquito activity comparison of adult Aedes aegypti between work and natural protected areas.
Maria Rodriguez. Using indicator microorganisms to determine the effects of urbanization on ecosystem services at Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve.