firefly on a leaf
A firefly on a leaf.

Research Spotlight Sample

Note: Please submit two pictures, one of yourself and one related to the project. A third picture/graph may be submitted if it is necessary to your explanation of your Findings section. Specify the captions that should accompany each picture.

The Student

Description: Text that informs visitors about the graduate student and highlights their interests, journey, and/or unique personality (refrain from making this a mini CV – keep it casual.) Get visitors invested in your research by getting them invested in you.

Format: Introduction of self no longer than 150 words.


Jane Doe

Jane Doe in the field

I grew up in a tiny town about an hour from Rocky Mountain National Park. My aunt was a teacher, and during summer break she’d take me on hikes around the park. I’d complain relentlessly all through the bottomlands and heading up the mountains, but then we’d start running into these incredible little flowers peeking out from behind boulders. My favorite was a tiny sunflower my aunt called “Old man rubberweed” (It was Hymenoxys grandiflora, which most people call Graylocks or Old Man of the Mountain.) I didn’t think I’d be hiking those mountains again so many years later to look at bees, but I’m absolutely delighted to have had the opportunity!

Why the Research Matters

Description: The research question rephrased in a short but compelling narrative.  Please use this space to relate “why the research matters” to the general public.  Our website is designed to reach members of the general public interested in promoting pollinators with the use of beneficial plants.  So, please keep our audience in mind as you describe your work.  They may need to really hear the basics of why your project matters, both to science and in a practical sense to home gardeners, natural areas managers and others interested in creating pollinator habitat.

Format: Introduction to the research that is no longer than 150 words.


The top of a mountain is a hard place to live and many of the plants that are found there are specialists. Over millions of years they’ve evolved to handle meager soils and thin, cold air. As the climate gets warmer, trees and other non-alpine plants can survive a little higher on the mountain and push these alpine specialists into a smaller and smaller area.

But bees are not plants – they are not confined to the tops of mountains by their roots. Why then, are they showing up less in Alpine environments? The answer to this question has implications that extend far down the side of the mountain. The alpine environment is among the most fragile of the world’s ecosystems and has been among the first to see major change. Understanding how insects are responding there will help us be better prepared to grow crops and conserve nature in habitats that are closer to home.

The Experiment

Description: A few paragraphs describing how you conducted the research. Approach this from a human perspective, rather than a rehashing of methods. If you spent a lot of time in the lab processing samples, talk about how you personally handled that demand. If there were major revelations or big changes that occurred part way through the project, talk about them and how they impacted the project.

Format: An explanation of how the experiment was conducted as told from the point of view of the graduate who conducted it. No longer than 250 words.


The biggest, or at least most exciting, undertaking of this research project was field work. Each of the three field seasons required a 12 hour drive in a van full of rattling equipment. Once we got to the park service field station, we’d park and a ranger would drive us the half mile to the trail head with our tents and survey equipment loaded into a little trailer on the ATV. Then, we’d… [cont.]

My student worker Lisa and I spent an uncountable number of hours ID’ing insects from the camera traps. I think I’ve seen more pictures of Alpine bees than anyone else in the world at this point. I listened to audiobooks while doing ID’s and managed to get through the entire audiobook series of The Lord of the Rings before I finished. In the end we went through over… [cont.]

The Findings

Description: A few paragraphs describing your research findings. Begin with a very simple explanation and move on to something more nuanced. In the nuanced portion, feel free to flex your scientific expertise and assume that, if a general audience has made it this far they’ll be willing to look up a few words if they need to. Finish with a few sentences on how your findings impact your field of research/the world.

Format: An explanation of your findings. No longer than 250 words.


We thought we’d find that the bees were disappearing from the Alpine habitat because there were just fewer flowers up there than there used to be. While we think that’s true, there’s also…[cont.]

There’s an added layer of complexity to our findings. We saw in our bioassays that several of these flower species are producing…[cont.]

Our paper is currently in peer review. If it is published, we think it will help some of the folks doing land management at these locations make informed decisions about how trails might be best routed through national parks. We also think it might help guide experiments looking into flower visitation – we certainly aren’t the first lab to set up remote camera traps, but we might have been the first to use the photographs the way we did…[cont.]

Final Words

Description: Parting words from the student. Use this section to acknowledge your advisor, thank finding sources, and outline your plans for after graduation. If you’d like, you can also offer some links to resources for readers who want to learn more about your topic. If your publication is public access or your thesis/dissertation has already been published (and you would like folks to read it) you can provide a link here.

Format: a conclusion to the research spotlight that is no longer than 100 words.


I want to thank my advisor Dr. Smith and the rest of the folks in the Smith lab. I’m not totally sure where I’m headed after graduation, but I’m currently applying to various biologist positions in the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service. Wish me luck!