Environmental Biology

Student earns scholarship award for summer internship project

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Jared Tomlin, C’16, a Master of Science candidate in environmental biology, was presented with a scholarship award from Science Systems and Applications, Inc. at a recent event held at the NASA headquarters.  He worked with NASA this summer on a project focused on ecological forecasting. This video gives an overview of the project.

Jared is back at Hood to start work on his thesis, which will examine the effect of riparian zones on flooding in the Shenandoah Watershed.



Student Works with NASA this Summer

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IMG_90722Jared Tomlin, C’16, a Masters of Science in environmental biology candidate, is working with NASA this summer on a project focused on ecological forecasting.

Tomlin is conducting work as a participant in the NASA DEVELOP Program, which is a part of NASA’s Applied Sciences Program and operates at 13 locations throughout the nation. Tomlin’s project team is working at NASA Goddard Space and Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and partnering with the National Park Service and the U.S. Geological Survey to monitor and forecast the abundance and distribution of invasive brome grasses in the Northern Plateau.

The brome grasses impair the area’s native grasslands and contribute to a decrease in native species diversity. Understanding the behavior of the invasive species through space and time is key in developing successful management efforts.

“The program functions to give partner organizations, such as the National Park Service, the ability to better understand complex, landscape level environmental questions for decision making by utilizing the constellation of Earth observing NASA satellites, tools and operational support,” he said.

In addition to the years of field data collected by scientists in the area, the job requires the use of Landsat and Terra satellites, both part of NASA’s Earth observations fleet.

Tomlin earned a certificate in geographic information systems from Hood College in May, making him well equipped for the position. The selection process for participants in the DEVELOP program is considered highly competitive.

“Attending the Hood job fair with a résumé in hand to talk to the DEVELOP representative gave me a start, and my adviser was key in helping navigate the process,” he said. “A strong GPA with a background in GIS and Earth sciences, as well as technical ability in programming and design, were key in my acceptance.”

Tomlin learned about many different GIS and remote sensing solutions throughout his GIS course work, and he maintained a focus on environmental biology and climate change.

“The education I received at Hood College was paramount,” he said.

Before pursuing graduate studies at Hood, Tomlin attended Shepherdstown University in West Virginia, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental science and sustainability. He plans to continue his education to earn a doctorate and go on to work at NASA or a similar organization.

Meet Program Directors at Virtual Open Houses

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Can’t make it to campus but want to talk with top faculty about Graduate School programs?  Six virtual open houses in November 2015 provide online opportunities to do just that.

Meet directors of the Biomedical Science, Environmental Biology, MBA, Management of Information Technology and Information Technology masters programs and the GIS and Cybersecurity certificate programs. Ask questions and get answers straight from the source. Go to the Visit Us page to register for your choice of sessions.

Grad Spreads the Word About Watershed Issues

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ENV Renee BourassaIn 2009, when she started her graduate work at Hood, Renee Bourassa was working as a loan processor for a small mortgage company. The job allowed her the flexibility to take classes at night in order to work towards a new career in environmental science. Later she chose the internship option to complete the program, leaving her day job to pursue an internship at a local organic farm called Fox Haven Farm.

That summer, Renee says, “I worked through the practical applications of the environmental principles I had learned in class, including the importance of riparian buffers, soil conservation and other foundations of organic farming. My master’s project involved testing nutrient management practices to see how they changed nutrient levels in the soil.” As the internship came to a close, Renee took a position at the farm’s education center where she “did a little bit of everything” –  including designing and implementing educational programs for all ages geared towards living a healthier, environmentally-focused life.

These days Renee can be found at the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin where her job is to inform the public of issues concerning the Potomac watershed. “My education at Hood College gave me the background in science and the understanding of ecological systems to translate our work at ICPRB into terms the general public can understand and relate to,” Renee says.

In addition to a master’s in Environmental Biology (2014), Renee earned a GIS Certificate (2013) and a B.A. in Law and Society (2007) from Hood . She and her husband now make their home in Boyds, Maryland.  They expect their first child in January 2016.

Hood Alum Presents at Prestigious Toxicology Conference

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Emma Bowers

Emma Bowers

Hood College Graduate School alum Emma Bowers recently presented a talk and poster at the prestigious Gordon Research Conference on Cellular and Molecular Mechanisms of Toxicity. Now a doctoral student in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Curriculum in Toxicology (CiT) program, Emma earned her master’s in Environmental Biology from Hood in 2012. She presented her doctoral research on the proinflammatory adaptive response to ozone and the differences in inflammatory response between acute and chronic exposures in a poster titled “Modeling ozone adaption in vitro: Inter-individual variation and epigenetic contributions.”

Emma has tailored her research toward filling a perceived knowledge gap in epigenetics: “I am working to build a model for the role of the epigenome in the susceptibility to the adverse effects of air pollution exposure. Once we identify crucial markers associated with susceptibility, we can then collaborate with scientists in other fields . . . to identify risk factors and susceptible populations.”

Her advisor at UNC-Chapel Hill says that Emma’s research will have broad implications in epigenetics and environmental research methodology: “Her work is going to be extremely informative in both understanding how we will respond chronically to pollutants and also understanding who is susceptible and how we can identify these people.”

Published with permission from EPA’s Office of Research and Development’s (ORD) National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory (NHEERL. Author: Tess Liebersohn, contracted writer for NHEERL/ORD. Photo courtesy of UNC. 

Cyrana Honored as Outstanding Environmental Biology Student

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Michael Cyrana is the recipient of the 2015 Christopher H. Smith Outstanding Environmental Biology Student Award. During his time at Hood, exemplified many of the best qualities that the Environmental Biology faculty looks for in its students.

In the faculty nomination, professor of biology Drew Ferrier described Mike as “an active and involved student in the classroom, always adding to discussions and making insightful connections among seemingly divergent topics. He also excelled in his research, working independently to develop a novel research study that assessed the ability of hooked mussels to develop defenses against being preyed upon by both native and non-native crabs.”

In the course of his work,  Mike also collaborated with and helped direct two undergraduate students who were conducting related studies – providing him with a first mentoring experience and the undergraduates with a valuable first research experience.

Since graduating from Hood in September, 2014, Mike was accepted as a Ph.D. student at Tulane University in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.  He is now a doctoral teaching assistant there and beginning further studies.

“Ebola Fighter” to Speak at Graduate School Commencement

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Dr. Thomas Geisbert

Dr. Thomas Geisbert

The Graduate School of Hood College is honored to have Dr. Thomas W. Geisbert deliver the keynote address at its 2015 Commencement on May 16.  Dr. Geisbert was one of several “Ebola fighters” spotlighted by Time magazine in its 2014″Person of the Year” selection. 

As a researcher at the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Maryland, Geisbert co-discovered the reston species of Ebola virus in 1989. This work was the subject of many articles in scientific literature and in the popular press as well as Richard Preston’s best-selling novel “The Hot Zone.” He is now a professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston and the Galveston National Laboratory.

Grad Student Summer Intern with Fish and Wildlife Service

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Lois Johnson-Mead

Lois Johnson-Mead

Environmental Biology master’s student Lois Johnson-Mead (’16) was recently awarded a highly competitive paid summer internship with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  Among other responsibilities as a resource assistant fellow with the FWS Aquatic Invasive Species Division, Lois will conduct and review risk assessments and screening of aquatic species that may need to be addressed through an FWS partnership with the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council and the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.

Lois is currently the professional development coordinator at the Hill School in Middleburg VA, where she has been a science teacher and department chair since 2005. In addition, she is a substitute teacher with Frederick County Public Schools, where her science education and classroom experience supports the county’s education program. She holds a B.S. from Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. Originally from Philadelphia, Lois now lives with her husband in Point of Rocks, MD.

Boulton Testifies Before House of Delegates

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April Boulton, Ph.D.

April Boulton, Ph.D.

April Boulton, director of the Hood Graduate School Environmental Biology program, recently testified before the Maryland House of Delegates regarding the issues of science surrounding neonicotinoids and pollinators. Her remarks related to a bill before the House concerning the negative impact of a newer pesticide class (neonicotinoids) on insect pollinators. Dr. Boulton’s extensive background with both native and commercial bee fauna in Maryland led to the invitation to testify.

Obama’s SOTU: Careers for Tomorrow

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Obama“T]he best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate, and if we don’t act forcefully, we’ll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and floods, and massive disruptions that can trigger greater migration and conflict and hunger around the globe. The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security. We should act like it.”

These words from President Barack Obama’s January 2015 State of the Union Address point up the societal value and career potential of Master’s and certificate programs like Environmental Biology and Cybersecurity. Both programs are offered at the Hood Graduate School. Check them out!