SENR Honors Spotlight: Robert Denney

Major: Forestry, Fisheries, and Wildlife, Honors
Specialization: Forest Ecosystem Science and Management
Graduation: May 2016

robert denney 2When I began college, I had no idea what research was, but I was sure I wanted to be a part of it. I wanted to be able to apply what I would learn in my classes to a real-world problem, and SENR Honors has definitely given me the opportunity to do this.

In the SENR Honors Program, you are asked to perform an undergraduate research thesis project, and this can be intimidating to think about at first. SENR faculty and staff guided me through the process, however, and I was able to establish a faculty advisor, Dr. Hix, in my sophomore year. With Dr. Hix, I was able to create my Honors study plan tailored to my interest in forest ecology. At one of our meetings, Dr. Hix and I were looking at a map of the distribution of eastern hemlock in the U.S., and from there I got an idea.

robert denneyI noticed that a small “pocket” of hemlocks existed in Alabama, and these hemlocks have yet to be infected by the hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA), an invasive insect that is inducing widespread hemlock mortality throughout North America. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with this information, but at least it was a start. In the fall of my junior year, I took Dr. Hix’s Woody Plant Identification and Forest Ecosystems classes, and these classes formed the basis of what my thesis is now becoming.

Though still in its infancy, my thesis has the objectives of 1) describing the current composition and structure of this disjunct hemlock ecosystem type in Alabama, and 2) modeling potential HWA infestation over the area. It is my hope that land managers can use my research in predicting the future spread of HWA in Alabama and see the effects this insect may have on forest composition and structure. I am currently in the SENR Honors Colloquium class developing my thesis proposal, am applying for grants, and getting ready to conduct my research later this year. SENR has taught me how crucial it is to be a steward of the Earth, and I am excited to see where this project and the path that SENR has set for me takes me in the future!

Internship Spotlight: Ben Rubinoff

Major: Environmental Science, Honors Program                                                   Graduation: May 2016Ben1

Internship: Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) in the Benthic Ecology Laboratory, Summer 2014

While I may love Ohio State, my heart is on the coast. While I grew up in Cincinnati, family vacations and trips to the Newport Aquarium resulted in a passion for marine life. I have carried this passion with me since when I was first able to say the word “water”. As a result, I have firm career goals that involve marine research. Although Ohio State doesn’t offer a marine biology major, I have been able to get involved in cutting-edge aquatic research, getting my feet wet in science since my freshman year. While I am thankful for my education in Columbus, I am especially grateful for an internship I participated in. In the summer of 2014, I interned for the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) in the Benthic Ecology Laboratory under the direction of Dr. Richard Osman and Dean Janiak.

Ben2My project investigated how infaunal invertebrate communities vary by habitat type in the Rhode River, a sub-estuary of the Chesapeake Bay. I was in charge of creating a biodiversity sampling protocol of soft-sediment communities for a global Smithsonian-funded research initiative called MarineGEO. I applied a habitat-based sampling design, randomly sampling habitats based on proportions. Dean and I performed a “bioblitz” style approach, taking 153 samples over the course of 3 days. Over the rest of the summer, we sorted all 153 samples and I identified more than 18,000 individuals to species level, encompassing roughly 1/3 of the samples. After identifying a subse
t of the samples, I used PRIMER, SigmaPlot, and Excel to statistically analyze differences in community composition.

Ben3This internship allowed me to develop laboratory skills such as microscopy, taxonomic identification, and sample preservation/processing. Even though most of my time (45 hours a week) was spent looking under a microscope, I was oddly comforted and happy with this tediousness. As a result, this experience confirmed my love for research and marine science. The project also increased my proficiency in the use of various statistical analysis software and GIS programs (Google Earth). Overall, my internship at SERC gave me an opportunity to see a research project through from start to finish, allowing me to present at conferences and hopefully publish my research. My work for the project is ongoing—I am currently working on writing/publishing. Stay tuned for more information on my summer research!

Study Abroad Spotlight: Paige Hagley

Major: Environmental Science, HonorsLava cave exploration
Graduation: May 2015

SENR Study Abroad Program:                  Iceland, August 1st-14th                                         Click Here For More Information

I had never been homesick for anywhere other than the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains until I traveled to Iceland in the summer of 2013. After finishing my second, and most mentally challenging, year as an environmental science student, I embarked on a study abroad to Iceland with the School of Environment and Natural Resources. Not only was I captivated by the volcanoes, glaciers, and black sand beaches, but I also began to develop an understanding and appreciation for the way other cultures manage and protect the environment. We toured farms, geothermal power plants, hydroelectricity generation plants, museums, and hiked among geologically and historically important wilderness areas. These places gave me new perspective on how important positive mindsets are when working to change the way we treat naHike along Hellarture. In fact, when deciding to specialize in environmental communication in my undergraduate career, I was reminded of the Soil Conservation Service of Iceland’s difficulty in working with hostile farmers and citizens. I decided I wanted to work among scientists to help communicate information necessary to make informed decisions affecting the environment.

I consider that trip to be the best thing I’ve ever done. Not only were the sights breath-taking (including soaking in hot tubs and watching the sunset), but it completely changed the way I viewed my future. Before the trip, I didn’t think there were many opportunities for me internationally, besides the occasional vacation. But the trip inspired me to apply to the University of Iceland’s graduate program. The experiences and friendships I gained from the trip will last me a lifetime. I am counting down the days until I can return, and in the meantime I am stuck in frigid Ohio watching nature videos and reading news articles about that wonderful island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.Surround by two volcanoes after our mountain hike

ENR Scholars Spotlight: Emily Evans

Major: Environment, Economy, Development, Sustainability (EEDS)  headshot         Specialization: Community Development      Graduation: May 2017

Program: Environment and Natural Resources (ENR) Scholars Click Here For More Information

My name is Emily Evans, and I’m a 2nd year in the Environment and Natural Resources (ENR) Scholars program here at OSU.

When I first signed up to be a Scholar, I had no idea what I was getting myself into; I just wanted to surround myself with students who loved nature and knew how to recycle. I knew I’d be challenged intellectually, make good friends, and have lots of fun…but I never expected that it would totally change my life. (I know that sounds cheesy, but hear me out!)

enr campingAt the very beginning of freshman year, I applied to join the ENR Scholars Leadership Council (LC). This group helps plan events, service opportunities, and outdoor adventure trips for ENR scholars. Even though I’d led clubs in high school, we hadn’t been able to do very much. The LC, however, gave me a real opportunity to make a difference in the lives of my peers. I loved it immediately!

Over the past year, I’ve grown from a regular LC member to become the leadership council president—and now I’ve actually got a job with Scholars developing our programs and running events. It’s been a truly long journey, especially because along the way, I realized that I’d been suffering from crippling social anxiety since the beginning of college. Leading people is hard enough, but it’s even harder when you’re afraid to even talk to them! Still, once I realized why I was always so nervous around people, the ENR program gave me a safe and inspiring place to work past it.

Now I’m in the second semester of my sophomore year and I feel like I’m not just surviving—I’m thriving. After working closely with my mentor Esther (our awesome ENR coordinator10537193_402620049886573_3727637188113040274_o), I’ve grown into a capable and confident leader. I know how to organize events and run meetings—but what’s more, I’ve discovered that leadership development is one of my true passions. Despite my anxiety, I really do love people! Now I want to give back and help students work through their own challenges, too. If each student finds something they really love, I know they can go on to change the world. It might sound cliché, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true.

In the end, ENR Scholars gave me the opportunity to challenge myself mentally and physically, forge strong friendships, and ultimately grow as a human being. It’s been a truly transformative experience and I’m so grateful to be part of the program!