Environmental Biology

Graduate Student lands internship with The Executive Office of the President

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charlieHood College Environmental Biology student Charlie Cheul – Woo Kwak has been accepted to The White House Internship Program. According to the official website: “The President, First Lady, and White House staff are committed to providing young leaders an opportunity to develop their leadership skills and serve their country through the White House Internship Program. This program was developed to provide hands-on experience and cultivate meaningful skills.”

Some of the application requirements of The White House Internship were two recommendation letters, as well as answering application questions such as “Who is your favorite President, and why?” and “What characteristics are most valuable in a leader, and how do you demonstrate those characteristics?” In order to apply for the position, you must be an undergraduate or graduate student and have US citizenship. One of the primary reasons Charlie applied is because he wants to learn more about how science translates into environmental regulations. “To that end, I want to secure a Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship in 2019. In order to get the competitive edge over other applicants for the fellowship, I needed an experience at D.C. in a field related to policy. “

Charlie’s assignment at the White House is not yet determined. There are many departments within the White House and he has applied to some of them specifically. We are sure his internship will be interesting and informative just by hearing some of his duties “…I will conduct research, manage incoming inquiries, attend meetings, write memos, staff events, and participate in service projects and non-profit organizations in Washington D.C. I’ll also attend speaker series and small group meetings exploring different policy aspects within the Executive Office of the President.”
Charlie found about the internship in the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) newsletter, as he has interned for USFWS and was previously featured in our Graduate Highlights: http://gradhighlights.hood.edu/category/environmental-biology/). Charlie points out how everything is connected: “I wouldn’t have heard about this internship were it not for my internship at Guam with USFWS. I would never have heard of USFWS unless I attended Hood.”

Hood Graduate Student presents research at ESA and ECN Conferences

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IMG_1600Jennifer Erin Pierce, a 2017 graduate of Hood College’s MS program in Environmental Biology, recently published research she has been working on as a part of her Internship with the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History (NMNH). “Braconidae of Plummers Island and Comparison of the Fauna in Canopy and Understory”, was presented at this year’s Entomological Society of America (ESA) Conference and the Entomological Collections Network (ECN), both in Denver CO.

Plummers Island is a 12-acre Potomac River island in Montgomery County, Maryland, about nine miles upriver from Washington, D.C., and is the most scientifically studied island in North America. The goal of the study was to determine species richness between the canopy and understory of Braconidae, important parasitoid wasps used for biocontrol, in eastern deciduous forests, and to understand if stratification occurs. “My job was to chemically dehydrate the specimens, point mount them, label them, and then identify all of the Braconids to their genus and then separate them into their different species.” Jennifer is currently working on naming the specimens, which can be difficult because not all genera have species keys. Once the species were separated, Jennifer and her team found out that they would need around 1600 specimens from the canopy and the understory individually before they reached species saturation, indicating that there are potentially a lot more species to be found on Plummers Island. They also found that species richness and abundance is higher for the understory compared to the canopy. Jennifer is hoping to get back to Plummers Island this summer for more sampling.

Jennifer was assisted in her research by Dr. Bob Kula, a research entomologist for the USDA Systematic Entomology Laboratory in Beltsville, MD. She has only words of praise for her mentor. “He’s been a great mentor for this project and has encouraged me every step of the way.” Jennifer was also assisted by Dr. Michal Parak, a researcher at the Institute of Forest Ecology in Slovakia who helped with the statistics on the project and often collaborates with Dr. Kula.

Jennifer’s Hood experience provided the background knowledge needed for this project. “A lot of the courses I’ve taken for this program are ecology-based which has helped me understand why stratification of Braconidae could be occurring on Plummers.” Jennifer also gained writing skills through her coursework which has been a big help, along with the interpretation of statistical results. She mentioned in particular Dr. April Boulton’s Insect Ecology course, which provided helpful background knowledge on the subject.
According to Jennifer, among the essential things for a student is to go out there and make contacts. “I’ve learned that networking is an important part of research because scientists are always collaborating with one another. Whether it’s through internships or volunteering, go out there and meet some scientists!”

NASA DEVELOP and other adventures

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TomlinCasaRosaJared Tomlin, a Hood College Environmental Biology student, was a self-taught graphic and web designer before entering school as a non-traditional student. He wanted to spend more time in nature and hopefully make a positive impact on the world, which changed his focus from technology to environmental science. He graduated from Shephard University in 2014 with a BS in Environmental Studies and received multiple scholarships and grants, before joining Hood’s Graduate School and continuing his pursuit of knowledge.

Jared learned about the NASA DEVELOP program by attending Hood’s Career and Internship Fair. After a lengthy application process he was accepted and began work at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in summer, 2016. During the 10 week program, Jared’s team collaborated with United States Geologic Service and National Park Service ecologists at the Badlands National Park to identify invasive cheatgrass, and managed to present the findings at the Department of the Interior and NASA Headquarters at the Annual Earth and Science Application Showcase. He was also awarded the Science Systems and Applications Inc. (SSAI) scholarship, and was accepted for another term at Goddard in the summer of 2017, as a team leader. Jared then assisted in identifying areas of low resilience in the country of Niger, in collaboration with global humanitarian organization Mercy Corps. More information about their efforts can be found in this video: https://youtu.be/yQokSfq7hOw. Jared was also selected to attend the NASA Disaster Risk Reduction Across the Americas Summit in Buenos Aires, where he represented Cloud to Street, a private company that uses Google Earth Engine, cloud computing, and machine learning to identify historical floods at a scale not previously possible.

For all students looking to pursue a career with NASA, Jared suggests looking into DEVELOP. There are many opportunities for many different fields and interests, from earth science to program management to information technology, and even graphic design. Jared suggests following up and asking questions, to set yourself apart from someone who simply applies for the position.
Jared recalls that his arrival to Hood was accompanied with the expectation to accomplish great things, above and beyond a master’s degree. “What has stuck out the most to me during my time here was how the faculty encourages students to go and make their own path in the industry and foster relationships.” Jared also learned that developing a network is crucial in being successful in the community, as transition from the classroom into the field can be both challenging and exciting pursuit. “Hood has prepared me to meet that challenge and giving me the background to continue to grow.”

Adventurous Internship in Guam

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charlieCharlie Cheul – Woo Kwak, an Environmental Biology student at Hood College, has returned from a summer internship in Guam, spent surveying the Guam National Wildlife Refuge. This competitive internship is known as USFWS-DFP US Fish and Wildlife Service – Directorate Fellowship Program (USFWS-DEP), and Charlie first heard about it from Graduate School Dean Dr. April Boulton. He went through the long process of applying for a federal position, succeeded and headed off to Guam.

Charlie’s internship consisted largely of surveying the closed side of the Guam National Wildlife Refuge, which had never been comprehensively explored and surveyed. What made it even more adventurous is the fact that there was no data on what could be out there. At times, Charlie was the first person who ever set foot at that part of the Refuge. He successfully recorded over 170 survey plots on soil, dominant species, canopy cover, ungulate damage and target plant species. Charlie also put over 1000 trees on a final map. His most memorable experience was when he first created a map using ArcMap with his field data. About a month and a half into the project, he put about one quarter of the data points into the mapping software, creating a visual representation of everything that was in the thick of the jungle. “This was the first time I had ever taken on a professional project from start to finish – from field data to map – from ground-truthing to presentation.

Fun moments were not scarce. Charlie found an ancient pictograph of the indigenous Chamorro people drawn on a cave wall.  As no one had seen that relic before Charlie, he was excited to share that news to everyone, including the archaeologists on the island!  “As a ‘bonus,’ I walked over an unexploded grenade from WWII.  It didn’t explode when I stepped over it!! When asked to provide advice to our current students, Charlie emphasized the importance of persistence. “I would advise that they apply to as many internship or practicum as possible.  I applied to total of 16 positions and received 15 rejection letters prior to getting the one acceptance!”

From Illinois…to Pennsylvania…To Hood

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Derrion May Summer 2017

Derrion May is a first-semester student in Hood College’s Environmental Biology Master’s program. A native of Illinois, he graduated from Waynesburg University in Waynesburg, PA with a degree in general biology. The ocean has been a passion of his since the age of 12 when he became fascinated with the different species found underneath waves.

With experience in a marine biology lab as well as a summer internship at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, where his senior research project focused on investigating stingray mucus for novel antibiotics, Derrion recently started a full-time position as a Study Support Associate with Charles Rivers Laboratories, where he’ll be working with notable researchers on zebrafish and other aquatic species at their research campus in Ashburn, Virginia.

Derrion always wanted to pursue a graduate degree, but wasn’t sure about the most suitable time. During his final semester, he started looking into graduate programs and what they offered, and realized that Hood was a perfect fit. “I liked the possibility of being able to work as a science professional while still being able to pursue a graduate degree.”

Hood’s new Graduate Housing was a fit as well. “I thought that living on campus would be a good opportunity to be a part of a new community, while only being a short walk away from my classes.” His decision has brought him into contact with new acquaintances and students with different backgrounds as well as providing the opportunity to become more familiar with the area.

Derrion emphasizes how important the help from the entire graduate school was as he transitioned from a student struggling to finish his last undergraduate class this past summer to becoming a science professional. He looks forward to more exciting moments and unique opportunities as he pursues his graduate degree at Hood.

Plant by Plant towards Preservation of Monarchs – John Maciolek’s inspirational story

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john 3John “Monarch” Maciolek, a 2017 Hood College graduate in the Environment Biology program, has single-handedly been advocating for a monarch butterfly habitat in the newly-opened Hood-Frederick Memorial Hospital Resource Garden since its inception this spring. John’s assistance with the garden has been invaluable. He has not only donated his free time and effort, but milkweed plants from his property, all to develop an environment friendly to the monarch butterfly. The milkweed is the only plant in which the monarch can lay their eggs, and as the monarch’s natural habitats are being destroyed, the preservation of milkweed is crucial.

According to John, three species of milkweeds are planted in the Garden; Common Milkweed, Butterflyweed and Swamp Milkweed, with future plans for at least five different species. What makes this project even more notable is the fact that there are pollinator plants in close proximity to Milkweeds, so the butterflies will have food at the same spot. John believes that the garden is “a great educational tool that can be used as a resource for a number of Hood classes, like Environmental Problems, Insect Ecology and Conservation Biology.”

John started his Masters in Environmental Biology after several years in the Bioinformatics field. His career transition inspired him to develop plans for opening a nursery which would focus on native plants and their preservation, as well as establishing a non-profit which would work to purchase and preserve land before it is sold for large developments. “There are so many ways of developing infrastructure without having sprawl. I am not anti-business, just anti-sprawl.”

Gardenn

While working toward these career goals, John will continue overseeing Hood’s Monarch Garden, which has been endorsed by both Monarch Watch and the Xerces Society.  John encourages anyone who is interested in helping these beautiful butterflies to volunteer with the Hood-FMH Resource Garden.

Outstanding Student- Environmental Biology

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Curtis Rogeri-jpCrsC6-Ls is the recipient of the 2017 Outstanding Environmental Biology Student award.  While enrolled in Hood College’s ENV Master’s program, Curtis was given the opportunity to work on a USDA-APHIS grant analyzing the effects of insect growth regulators on a honeybee pest, the small hive beetle. He presented his findings at both the Mid-Atlantic Ecological Society of America regional meeting, and at the National ESA meeting, as well as to a group of notable Korean visiting scientists.  As a direct result of his academic work at Hood, Curtis is employed by the USDA Bee Research Lab to assist in researching honeybee physiology, nutrition, and the various pests that continue to plague them.  He is working on preparing the findings of his thesis on small hive beetles for publication and hopes to get at least two journal articles out of the endeavor.

 

From Insect Ecology to Academic Leadership – Hood College’s Graduate Dean

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aprilheadDr. April M. Boulton, Interim Dean of Hood College’s Graduate School and Associate Professor of Biology, came to the college in 2006 as an instructor.  She became Director of the Environmental Biology (ENV) master’s program and assistant professor of biology in 2009.  She was then appointed as the Associate Dean of the Graduate School in May 2015 and was promoted to Associate Professor of Biology March 2016.  Dr. Boulton was named Interim Dean of the Graduate School in June, 2016 and will continue in that role through the 2017-18 academic year as well.  As Interim Dean, Dr. Boulton oversees all admissions and enrollment operations in the Graduate School, in addition to many support services for current graduate students from new-student orientation and international internships to career education and the annual Three-Minute Thesis (3MT) competition.

Prior to her dean appointment, she enjoyed teaching a variety of undergraduate and graduate courses for the biology department and ENV program with a focus on climate change and insect ecology.  Dr. Boulton received her Ph.D. in Ecology from the University of California, Davis, her master’s in Animal Behavior from Bucknell University, and her bachelor’s degree (liberally trained with a double major in psychology and classics) from Centre College where she graduated cum laude and as a member of Phi Beta Kappa.aprilpic2

An insect ecologist by training, she has published in several peer-reviewed scientific journals and was awarded a research grant by the USDA to investigate control measures for the small-hive beetle, a pest of the commercial honeybee.  Dr. Boulton was instrumental in the passage of the Maryland Pollinator Protection Act, which also resulted in her appearance on Kojo Nmandi’s WAMU radio show and an article in the Washington Post.

Dr. Boulton is a founding member of the Graduate Women in Science (GWIS), Greater Maryland Chapter and serves on the Board of Directors of the Fort Detrick Alliance.

Greater Maryland Graduate Women in Science (GM-GWIS) Spring 2017 Travel Award

Posted by | Biomedical Science, Computer Science, Environmental Biology, Graduate School Highlights, Information Technology, Management of Information Technology, Mathematics Education and Leadership | No Comments

PictureGreater Maryland Graduate Women in Science (GWIS) is the local chapter of an international organization dedicated to empowering women in science. The GWIS mission is “to build a global community to inspire, support, recognize and empower women in science. The organization strives to build a powerful international network of women scientists, mentor the leaders of today so that they can inspire the leaders of tomorrow and empower women scientists to excel in their careers.”

GM-GWIS is granting a “Travel Award” for GM-GWIS members for their participation to the DC Science Writers Association (DCSWA) Professional Development Day (PDD) on Saturday, April 8, 2017.

Professional Development Day has been DCSWA’s signature event since 2006. Each year,
100 to 150 science reporters, editors, radio and video producers, freelancers, and students gather for a fun and exciting day of networking and skill-building. This year, PDD will include six panel sessions, three interactive workshops, a plenary speaker, breakfast and lunch, all-day resume coaching, and an invitation to socialize with your colleagues following the event. See the day’s agenda at https://dcswa.org/professional-development-day-2017/

Benefits of the conference and award include: A great day of fun, learning, and networking opportunities, and the honor of placing the award on your resume.

The Travel Award will cover the registration fee and provide an additional $10 stipend for travel expenses such as gas or Metro, as breakfast and lunch are included in the registration fee. Up to two (2) awards may be made this year. Awardees must register and attend the meeting, and then submit receipts to GM-GWIS following the event to be reimbursed immediately. All graduate students who are GM-GWIS members are eligible. To register for professional Development Day, visit https://dcswa.wildapricot.org/event-2477067

Application Process: Applicants will submit an essay of 300-500 words that explains how they might benefit from attending this event. Applications are due by Wednesday, March 22; send your essay to greatermaryland@gwis.org; include name address, phone number, graduate school and major. If you do not receive next day e-mail confirmation of your submission, call: 301-304-0140. Awards will be announced on or before Sunday, March 26.

Applicants are encouraged to review the meeting agenda and the DCSWA website before completing their essay. Applicants do not need to be majoring in journalism or science writing. Science writing is a major part of many careers, and the information and networking opportunities of this meeting should benefit many types of STEM professions.

Application and Essay evaluation criteria:
1) Applicant is a graduate student and GM-GWIS member.
2) Essay quality:
• Writing, including grammar, structure, and use of support when needed
• Content convinces reviewer of applicant’s interest in the content of the meeting, and how it might benefit the applicant whatever her future career choice
3) Applications and essays will be evaluated by a panel of 3 or more members of the GM-GWIS Executive Committee.

* Awards may not be made if there are no applications that meet the guidelines proposed here, or if an awardee registers but does not attend the event.

 

A Hood student and her independent research experience

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Marie Ott

Marie Ott-Smith, a Master of Science candidate in Environmental Biology at Hood, is working on an independent research project in partnership with Dr. Drew Ferrier. Her research is focused on the effects of road salt runoff on a local ecosystem. We recently caught up with Marie and the full text of our chat is below.

Background

I majored in Biology at Albright College in Reading, Pennsylvania and graduated in 2010. I was hired the same year at an environmental consulting firm performing Phase I Environmental Site Assessments (ESAs) for Real Estate and Telecommunications and I have been with them since as a Project Scientist. My interests have always centered on marine and freshwater aquatic environments and the biota that inhabit them.

Why did you choose Hood?

I chose Hood because the programs here are geared towards working professionals. Considering I work full time from home in Harrisburg, PA (a little under 1.5 hours away) while also traveling via airplane at least once a week from the Baltimore airport, I needed a flexible program. The long drive for class and my research have been totally worth it.

What have you enjoyed most about your time at Hood?

Honestly, it’s just nice to be back in a classroom enhancing the knowledge i acquired during my undergraduate education. The variety of class topics I had to choose from made it exciting to see what was going to be available each semester.

Why did you decide on an independent research project?

I chose the independent research track for the hands on experience that I can use in my current job and future career.

What is your independent research focused on?

In 2015, I partnered with Dr. Drew Ferrier and began my Independent Research Project (ENV 579) which focuses on how road salt runoff affects a local ecosystem. I grew algae in Carroll Creek in Baker Park near the Hood campus. In the lab I then exposed the algae to different salinities to determine how the stress affects their photosynthetic ability using a tool called Pam Fluorometry.

Any advice for future graduate students about Hood and about the Environmental Biology program?

Take as many classes as you can to experience all that this program has to offer. Also, do not get disappointed if it takes you longer to complete your program than you envisioned. What is most important is that you will eventually finish. There is no timeline for learning- anyone can enhance their knowledge at any stage of their life.