Monday, July 9, 2018

Environmental Science major working as Natural Resource Intern at Gorman Nature Center

This summer we are featuring stories from our students involved in science internships.  Today we hear from Environmental Science/Biology major Tyler Theaker, our second student working at the Gorman Nature Center this summer.
I am the current summer Natural Resource Intern at Gorman Nature Center in Mansfield,
Ohio. My position mostly involves exotic/invasive species control, assisting in surveying and monitoring biotic inventories of park properties, assisting with preventative maintenance of power equipment and other heavy machinery, as well as Trail maintenance. The exotic/invasive species that I have and will be managing include garlic mustard, reed canary grass, multiflora rose, glossy buckthorn, honeysuckle, and Autumn-Olive. Eventually I will be assisting in the application of herbicides on such invasive plants. We do this to help restore parts of the park to their natural state. I have been surveying the activity of cavity nesting birds that inhabit the Park’s bluebird houses such as Eastern Bluebirds, Tree Swallows, Carolina Chickadees, House Wrens, and the invasive House Sparrow. We take note on which species inhabits which bird house, whether or not the bird was present, and if there is a nest present the number of eggs as well. If there happens to be a nest of an invasive species such as the House sparrow, I have to take care of it. For preventative maintenance of equipment I take good care of and clean the equipment to last longer. When I maintain the trails I usually assist in cutting trees that may have fallen over the trails, mow and weed whack around the property, hedge trim over hanging tree limbs, lay out gravel in ruts, and pick up trash/litter to keep the property looking nice for the general public. Occasionally, when I am not working outside I interact with the public: answering phone calls, directing visitors, and interpreting nature center information; assist with and conduct natural history programs; and work with and care for educational and display animals. This internship has been a great experience thus far, and I encourage future biology or environmental majors to apply for this internship!

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Ashland Toxicology major interning with the Ohio EPA

Ashland Toxicology major Hayley Nininger conducts independent research with faculty member Dr. Andrew Trimble, presenting this Spring at our annual undergraduate research symposium.  This summer Hayley is applying her research skills in her internship with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.  Hayley sent in a description of her work:
I am currently an intern at the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency - Division of
Environmental Services in Reynoldsburg, Ohio. This lab’s primary focus is to study samples for environmental contamination. These samples include water, air filters, sediment, and fish samples. My placement was into the Nutrients and Mercury Laboratories. These labs conduct over 20 different tests on the individual samples such as ammonia, COD, mercury, nitrate, sulfate, TKN, etc. My primary duty is to digest samples for COD (Carbon Oxygen Demand) and TKN (Total Kjeldahl for Nitrogen). I also assist with other testing as well when necessary. My other functions include organizing MSDS sheets, organizing samples, and developing chemical inventories for the full lab. I am also keeping track of what samples are arriving, when they will be arriving, and what tests need to be performed on each one. I have also been shadowing other research scientists who are doing things such as pesticide and herbicide extractions from sediment and analyzing metals in drinking water to ensure a safe quality. The Microbiology lab is another lab which I have assisted in. This lab does E. coli testing, ELISA, and qPCR. The main function of the Ohio EPA is to identify sources of known environmental problems and reveal pollution that might be undetected. This internship has already given me so many great experiences and I cannot wait for more of them! I have already learned so much and I am so grateful! Every day is completely different. I love working here! This internship is one that I would recommend to anyone that has any interest in environmental science or toxicology!
You can look for future internship opportunities with the Ohio EPA on their website or Twitter feed.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Ashland Toxicology major interns at Gorman Nature Center

Over the summer we plan to share stories about our many science students working in science-related internships this summer.  First is a report from Danielle Bates, a Biology and Toxicology double major.  The Gorman Nature Center, where she works this summer, has hired AU science students for the past few summers, and the Center's Volunteer Director, Amanda Kriner ('13), is one of our alumna.

I am the current summer education intern at Gorman Nature Center in Mansfield, OH. A
large part of my position is educating the public on the wildlife and habitat in the area. We have numerous programs for kids and adults alike. During the month of May we have several school field trips visiting the Nature Center and we set up different stations that allow the kids to learn and do different activities. These activities include using aquatic nets at the pond and fossil hunting in the stream. Part of my internship is also caring for the animals we have at the Nature Center, including snakes, turtles, frogs, and salamanders (tiger salamander in photo)! I check their behavior every day and ensure that they have clean tanks and water. I will be working on a project while I am here, hopefully documenting smooth greensnakes on the property! They are endangered in Ohio and we have documented the first one in Richland county. While my internship is technically "indoor", I am outside quite a bit. It is truly a blast working here! Every day is different. This internship is a great opportunity for any college student majoring in a field of science or education!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Ashland Alumna Perseveres to her Ph.D. and a Research Career

Dr. Kelly Harrison (‘2010, second from left in the front row) with her lab group at the University of Kansas.

Following graduation with a degree in biology from Ashland University in 2010, Dr. Kelly Harrison started her journey toward her Ph.D. by working as a research technician in Dr. Harry Kestler’s lab at Lorain County Community College, looking at the CCR5 cell receptor and the ability of HIV to infect cells.  She entered the Micro/molecular genetics doctoral program at Oklahoma State University in the fall of 2012, initially studying virulence factors from Salmonella and Shigella as broadly protective vaccines against enteric pathogens. 

In her first class on first day of her Ph.D. studies a professor came in to speak about "how to be successful" and told the class that the only thing important in grad school was not brains or talent or whatever, but GRIT. Kelly writes, "It’s so true.  A river cuts through rock not because of it's power but because of its persistence!"  Little did she know how much persistence would be required of her to finish her Ph.D. program. 

The first challenge occurred in 2014 when she transferred to the University of Kansas with her advisors to continue her research.  While at KU, she was selected as an ASM (American Society of Microbiology) Teaching fellow for the following year and, in February 2015, was selected to present her research with Salmonella vaccines in cattle to the State Senate and Governor (and won the Capital Graduate and BioKansas research summit).

Kelly completed her Ph.D. with Dr. P. Scott Hefty of KU, working on genetic manipulation systems in Chlamydia.  However five months into her research with Dr. Hefty, Kelly was visiting her family for homecoming at Oklahoma State and was one of the victims in the crash caused by a driver who drove into the crowd watching the homecoming parade.  She was severely injured, and was life-flighted to Mercy Hospital in Oklahoma City, where she underwent multiple surgeries and a blood transfusion.  After extensive rehab and while continuing physical therapy, she returned to the lab in March 2016.  She won the ASM Regional meeting Poster presentation on her first day back, and defended her dissertation (“Discovery of Genetic Correlates Important for Chlamydia Infection and Pathogenesis”) in July of last year.

Dr. Harrison is currently working as a post-doc back at Oklahoma State University, studying the host-pathogen interactions of the Herpes Simplex 1 virus.  She writes that she discovered her love for microbiology and immunology during her studies at Ashland, and because of her experiences here hopes to teach and do research at a small, private university. Kelly states, “The interactions between professors and students are so much more significant when class sizes are smaller and those interactions are what really shape student's lives.”  Reflecting on her journey, she writes that “I think the best advice I could give would be to never give up. Even with a number of obstacles (moving states, switching labs, the crash) I still managed to get done in 5 years solely because I'm stubborn and refused to give up. I had every excuse to and no one would blame me. But you can't give up so easily.”

Monday, April 30, 2018

Charles River supports Toxicology major's travel to national meeting

Last spring Toxicology and Environmental Science double major Luke Knight received a travel award from the Society of Toxicology to attend the Undergraduate Diversity program at the annual meeting in Baltimore, Maryland. Luke was invited to attend this year's meeting in San Antonio and serve as peer-mentor for that same program. Our local industry partner, Charles River Laboratories, supported Luke's travel and he sent in this report and some photos.
I got the opportunity to serve as a peer mentor for the 2018 Society of Toxicology annual meeting that was being held in San Antonio, Texas thanks to the travel grant offered by Charles River Laboratories. I was offered the position for the peer mentorship because I have a major in toxicology and I was an Undergraduate Diversity Program Awards recipient for the 2017 meeting in Baltimore. My role as a mentor was to offer guidance and to answer any particular questions regarding the profession, speaking from personal experiences in my collegiate career thus far. I also helped engage the students in discussion about particular prompts and encouraged them to participate in the presentations that were being held. Aside from the peer mentorship, I got the chance to experience the ToxExpo and to speak to prospective employers about future careers. Overall, I was very excited to have the chance to go to the conference again and meet up with some people that I befriended from the previous year. Also, I cannot thank Charles River Laboratories enough for giving me another chance to experience the SOT meeting.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Ashland Science students heading to summer internships

We are starting to get news from our students about the exciting internships they will take part in this summer.  These opportunities range from internships in animal rehabilitation at the Possumwood Acres Wildlife Sanctuary in North Carolina, to more local internships in toxicology at the Lubrizol Corporation, in entomology at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, and with the Gorman Nature Center.

A student will also be heading to Central Michigan University to take part in a National Science Foundation funded research internship in Great Lakes ecosystem ecology while two others will be staying right here in the Kettering Science Center working on research using the zebrafish to study lens cataracts and blindness.

Stay tuned for more student internships news, and reports back from students at the end of the summer.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Ashland University students and faculty launch water quality monitoring program

The Black Fork of the Mohican River and the Black Fork Wetlands have been receiving a monthly
“check-up” since July 2017. This month marks the first check-up in 2018, as water quality data continues to be collected, analyzed, and used to shape our understanding of local water health. Six current students are involved in Ashland University’s Water Quality (AUWQua) Monitoring Program: Natalie Kracker ’18, Alexis Lough ’19, Maria Kern ’19, Shelby Reutter ’19, Alexis Flagg ’19, and Elizabeth Takacs ’20. Student-led field teams collect water from pre-determined sampling sites for nutrient analysis in the lab and use a multiprobe to measure water temperature, pH, salinity, conductivity, and dissolved oxygen.

These measurements are important in determining the current health of the water and enhance our understanding of the organisms that can live there. This type of project is especially informative in agricultural areas, as nutrients, like nitrogen and phosphorus, which can contribute to algal blooms, are tracked. Large quantities of algae have caused concern in other nearby aquatic systems. In recent years, harmful algal blooms (HABs), caused by toxin-producing algae, have occurred in Lake Erie, Buckeye Lake, and even the Ohio River. Armed with the baseline data being collected by the AUWQua Monitoring Program, we can begin to coordinate efforts to maintain or improve best practices to protect our water quality.

Several AU Sciences faculty (Patty Saunders, Mason Posner, Dolly Crawford, Robert Bergosh, and Jenna Dolhi) are spearheading this project with funding provided from the University’s Provost Innovation Grant and Biology Department.

Coming soon! Ashland University Computer Science students, mentored by Iyad Ajwa, are developing a web application for public dissemination of the local water quality data.