RIO GRANDE — Wildlife Conservation students from the University of Rio Grande’s School of Mathematics and Natural Sciences recently attended Ohio Biological Survey’s annual Ohio Natural History Conference.
The conference brings natural history and science researchers from across the state together to share their most recent findings in the field. As part of the conference, 12 of the 17 students presented six posters detailing their own field research at the Ohio History Center. Professor of Wildlife Conservation, Dr. Don Althoff said he is proud of the students for the dedication they put into their research and presentations.
“These projects gave our students the chance to experience first-hand the challenges associated with designing and conducting research and the satisfaction of presenting their findings in a scholarly way through the sessions at this conference. People walking by can ask them about the projects and research, which gives them the experience of sharing their work with colleagues from the field,” Althoff said. “I am proud of each of them for recognizing the value of going above and beyond to further their understanding of the natural world. It’s quite an accomplishment and this year is the most students we’ve ever had participating in the poster sessions and I’m thrilled they were able to get this kind of exposure and had such a serious attitude about their projects.”
Students in the Wildlife Conservation program have opportunities to research alongside their professors and classmates. This allows the professors at Rio to continue providing a quality education by acting as a mentor for students as they practice working in the field. Bob Miller, a senior from Worthington, presented a group project, “Relationship Between Digital Images Pixel Counts and Aquatic Vertebrate Biomass: The 5-Gallon Bucket Technique,” with fellow students C. J. Morgan, Andrea Maxwell, John Schwartz, Colin Stanley, Wyatt Snodgrass, and John Blazer. The project focused on an experimental procedure of taking pictures of animals from above, processing that image to get a pixel count, and then entering the count into a formula to accurately estimate the organism’s weight without directly handling the specimen. He said he enjoyed getting to discuss the project with other researchers from around the state
“These conferences are always educational and they’re a great networking system for us. The wildlife conservation field is constantly putting out great new information and updated data, so this is a good opportunity for us to learn something beyond what we would in the classroom and meet other people who use different techniques we may be able to bring into our own future research,” Miller said. “I enjoyed getting to present our project at this event because it’s an opportunity to let others know what we’re doing here at Rio and represent our program. This is also a great opportunity for us to practice presenting our research in a professional setting before we enter the field.”
This year before the conference, the students received a behind-the-scenes tour of the Cleveland Natural History Museum with the museum’s Ornithology Curator Dr. Andrew Jones. The tour included over 500 specimens in the 30,000+ collection, which was started back in the late 1800s and includes three extinction species: the ivory-billed woodpecker, the passenger pigeon, and the Eskimo curlew. The group also visited the museum’s outdoor wildlife exhibit featuring a variety of species historically found, but rarely seen, in Ohio. Althoff said he enjoyed getting to share the unique experience with his students.
“This tour gave our students an inside look at the research collections at the museum. It was really a special opportunity to see that aspect of the museum, which is off-limits to the general public,” Althoff said. “The students really enjoyed getting to see specimens of endangered species we don’t get to see every day. That was a real benefit for the students in the Advanced Ornithology course because they were able to see what we talk about in class out in the field.”
For more information on the School of Mathematics and Natural Sciences or the Wildlife Conservation program, contact the Office of Admissions at (740) 245-7208.
Jessica Patterson is a communications specialist for the University of Rio Grande.