Summer REU Internship 2024

Applications for summer 2024 are closed. Check back next year!

The Echinacea Project is looking for enthusiastic undergraduate researchers for the 2024 summer field season. Our project investigates how small population size and reduced genetic diversity influence individual fitness, population demographics, plant-insect interactions and evolution in the purple coneflower, Echinacea angustifolia. We seek students with interests in plant population biology, evolution and quantitative genetics, pollination biology, plant-insect interactions, and conservation biology. This REU (research experience for undergraduates) is a great opportunity for aspiring ecologists, conservation biologists, and evolutionary biologists to gain field research experience. There are also opportunities for those with quantitative backgrounds (statistics, math, computer science) to gain experience managing data, programming, or modeling. All will learn about the ecology and evolution of plants in fragmented prairies! Read more general information about our field season.

Joey (REU 2022), Geena (field assistant), Sophia, Emma, and Johanna (REUs 2022) measure Echinacea plants in experimental plot p1

Program Details

The main field season runs June through August. The exact start and end dates are negotiable. There is a $640/week stipend and travel expenses to the research site are covered. We provide housing.

Independent project: You will develop an independent research project in consultation with the two principal investigators of the project, Dr. Stuart Wagenius and Dr. Ruth Shaw. You will also get an opportunity to practice informal and formal science communication with other members of the team. Projects can explore questions about the ecology and evolutionary biology of Echinacea angustifolia, other prairie plant species, pollinators, or herbivores. All work occurs in the context of prairie remnants which allows projects to be directly applicable to conservation challenges of habitat fragmentation. Here are some examples of potential projects:

“Performance of hybrid Echinacea plants compared to native Echinacea angustifolia

“Influence of prescribed fires on the survival of old and young Echinacea angustifolia plants”

“Long-term effects of aphids on survival and growth of Echinacea angustifolia plants”

“Effects of fire on reproduction in common insect- and wind-pollinated prairie plants” (not Echinacea)”

“Trade-off between reproductive success and future reproductive effort in Echinacea angustifolia

“Influence of fire on the environment experienced by emerging Echinacea angustifolia seedlings”

Qualifications: We are looking for undergraduate students who are willing to work outdoors in adverse conditions, exhibit patience, pay attention to detail, possess good hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills, work well independently and as part of a team, and have a strong interest in scientific research. During the summer, REU participants must be enrolled in an undergraduate institution and be a US citizen or permanent resident of the US or its possessions. Individuals from groups historically excluded from sciences and conservation are particularly encouraged to apply.

No experience is necessary, but you must be enthusiastic and hard-working.

Liam (REU 2023) harvests an Echinacea head at a prairie remnant

How to apply

If you enjoy working outdoors and you are excited to learn about the ecology and evolution of plants in fragmented prairies, please apply for an REU with the Echinacea Project. To apply, please do the following:

  • Fill out our online application form.
  • Send an email with:
    • a cover letter, including the following:
      1. why you are interested in this REU
      2. what are your future plans
      3. what you hope to gain from the experience
      4. a statement that you are eligible for the REU program
    • your resume
    • your transcript (unofficial OK)
  • Ask a professor or employer to email us a letter of recommendation

Send your application materials via email to with the subject line “Summer REU intern application” by Wednesday, 21 February 2024 at 11:59 pm CST. Format your cover letter, resume, and transcript as pdf files. Begin each file name with your surname.

To ensure that your application is thoroughly considered, submit by the deadline, 21 February 2024 at 11:59 pm CST. However, we will review applications until positions are filled. Please include an email address and phone number where you can be reached during late February-early March.

You are welcome to apply to multiple positions with Team Echinacea with the same application. Please indicate which positions you are interested in on the form you submit with your application.

Britney (RET 2022), Emma, Joey, and Sophia (REUs 2022) map Echinacea plants and collect demographic data at a prairie remnant

More information

First, read about our field season! If you have any questions, contact a team member via e-mail. Read about our lab and field activities on the flog and more about the project’s background.