Rio Grande, Ohio – Students from the University of Rio Grande’s School of Mathematics and Natural Sciences attended the annual Ohio Natural History Conference sponsored by the Ohio Biological Survey. Two of the students presented posters detailing their research in the field at the conference, which took place at the Ohio History Center. Professor of Wildlife Conservation, Dr. Don Althoff said their participation in these directed studies as part of the Rio EcoMonitoring Project demonstrates opportunities available to students to expand hands-on learning.
“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,” 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.”
Both students researched their projects alongside their professors, Althoff and Rob Hopkins. John Blazer, a senior wildlife conservation major from Gallipolis, worked with Althoff researching canopy-covering correlation to big brown bat and Eastern red bat presence in the region. He said he enjoyed getting to discuss the research with students, faculty and other professionals from around the state.
“Presenting this project was a pretty cool experience. Last summer I worked here on campus as the Rio EcoMonitoring tech under Dr. Althoff. I really enjoyed being able to do this fieldwork as well as the directed study with him. His passion for the field is what helped me decide to go into Wildlife Conservation myself. He always made himself available to work with during the project and I’m very grateful to have worked with him on this,” Blazer said. “I had people from different conservation organizations come up to me at the conference asking about my poster. It was a great opportunity to meet and network with people who work in the field.”
Researching together with students allows professors at Rio to continue providing a quality education by acting as a mentor for students as the practice working in the field. Dr. Rob Hopkins, associate professor of wildlife conservation, worked with Alex Haddad, a senior biology major originally from Gallipolis, to co-author a paper about their observation of a population of madtom catfish in the Kentucky and Tennessee border region to determine if it is a unique species. Hopkins said he was excited for Haddad
“This is a terrific conference for us to take our students to because it is nearby and allows them to present their research in an academic and friendly environment,” Hopkins said. “Working with our undergraduate students on research projects is one of the highlights of being here at Rio. They are getting into research early on in their academic careers. I’m very proud of the work Alex put into this project. He is a biology major looking into the medical field, so it was great to see him do research outside of his particular area and expand his boundaries a little bit.”
Several students from the School of Mathematics and Natural Sciences went to the conference to support their classmates and learn more about conservation research projects happening across Ohio by both university students and professional organizations. Colin Stanly, a wildlife conservation major from Wellston, said he enjoyed getting to hear more about the different projects.
“Getting to go to this conference was an awesome experience. It was interesting to hear the presentations and learn more about the research going on in Ohio,” Stanley said. “It really gave us a chance to see what it will be like to work in the profession.”
Althoff said he is proud of the students and their accomplishments through the wildlife conservation and the biology programs.