Quick Facts
  • 24

    first-year students take the FYRES course each fall semester

  • 6

    FYRES research mentors—geoscience majors with research experience

  • 1

    FYRES coordinator—a student who arranges logistics and outreach

  • 1

    professor/dune scientist to teach and lead the research activities

Meet the FYRES community

Real science takes place in community, building on results from past researchers, collaborating with peers and mentors, and flourishing with support from others.

Every year we build a unique FYRES community from the particular participants: first-year students, more-experienced student mentors, support staff and a professor working hard to pull everything together. The specific research questions (new each year) connect us with a set of dune managers and places. Along the way, we engage with a variety of interesting people: guest speakers, helpful librarians, community members curious about what we are doing on the dunes, new friends who are surprisingly patient or enthusiastic with our stories about our experiences.

Below you can meet current and past members of the FYRES community. Do some exploring to get a feel for what could be your future FYRES community, to learn about people who are your current community, or to support a friend or family member.

The Fall 2020 students came from a diversity of majors, including accounting, environmental science, digital film and media, and many more!

Meet the Fall 2020 students here.

FYRES students are a diverse group in geography, major interests, and reasons for taking FYRES. Roughly half of all FYRES students are non-science majors taking the course for their science core credit; the other half are students exploring some interest in a possible Earth science major. We aim for 24 students per year, but class sizes have ranged from 11 students in the first FYRES year to a high of 27 students in Fall 2016.

Meet the FYRES students from past years:

This year's mentors are students in geoscience majors, some of whom were former students in the FYRES programs.

Meet the 2022-23 mentors here.

FYRES Research Mentors are students majoring in an Earth science discipline with some prior experience in research. Research Mentors provide support for FYRES students as they engage in dune research. By the middle of the fall semester, teams of 3–5 FYRES students and 1 Research Mentor are focused on specific interesting questions about Lake Michigan dunes. Research Mentors continue their work through the spring semester to complete the team research report and to present results at a conference.

Meet the FYRES Research Mentors:

The FYRES Coordinator makes FYRES activities possible by taking care of logistical and outreach details, such as getting equipment ready, monitoring the student application process, organizing the research presentation event and keeping the FYRES website up to date. This is a part-time, paid student position, usually held by a student in the Department of Geology, Geography and Environment.


Jacob Fetter is a sophomore studying Environmental Studies with a concentration in Geography. He is from the far west suburbs of Chicago, in a city named Saint Charles. Last year, as a student in FYRES, he studied the populations of Cirsium Pitcheri, or Pitcher’s Thistle, on a dune blowout at Rosy Mound Natural Area near Grand Haven, MI. He enjoyed the experience greatly and decided to get involved in the program and facilitate more students to have field experiences. Jacob is keeping his career options after college open but considering a job with the National Park Service. When not working or studying environmental conservation, he enjoys playing video games and repairing or making things when he can find a workshop.

Meet the past FYRES Coordinators:

FYRES 2016 professor on duneDr. Deanna van Dijk is a physical geographer who has been studying Lake Michigan dunes for more than 15 years. She teaches the FYRES class and labs, supervises the FYRES Research Mentors and works with the FYRES Coordinator to ensure that everything runs smoothly.

She prefers that you get to know her in person, and she is delighted if a dune is somehow involved in that process, but some more information is available:

  • A one-page biography of how her professional interests relate to FYRES.
  • Her curriculum vitae (c.v.), which is the academic version of a resume.

We are grateful to many people who contribute to the FYRES project in different ways, including:

  • Calvin faculty who make guest appearances in classes to share knowledge about their research areas.
  • Calvin staff who make activities possible through room coordination, making equipment available, overseeing vehicle rentals, providing administrative support, custodial work and much more.
  • Organizations providing financial support (check out the list of funding sources on the About Us page).
  • Dune managers and their organizations who give permission for research on specific dunes ... but also provide interesting questions to investigate and are willing to answer questions during the research projects.
  • Members of each participant's community (family, friends, etc.) who encourage the work and are willing to listen to our stories.

Thank you for your contributions!