Undergraduate Research

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Unity College undergraduate research students, in addition to presenting at the Student Conference, also show their work at local and national conferences.

Kaitlyn Nafziger at Unity College

Kaitlyn Nafziger : The Influences of Soil Properties on Leach's Storm-Petrel

For her senior thesis Kaitlyn Nafziger studied the influences of soil properties on Leach’s Storm-Petrel (Oceanodrama leucorhoa) burrow morphology. In some island ecosystems burrowing seabirds are the only source of bioturbation within the soil due to a lack of mammals, however little is known about the influences on the size and dimensions of their burrows. Kaitlyn measured the length, height, and width of Leach's Storm-Petrel burrows on Eastern Egg Rock Island, Maine and collected soil samples from each, and then looked for relationships between burrow volume and dimensions, and soil properties such as texture and wet and dry bulk densities.

Georgia Male - Unity College Student ResearcherGeorgia Male : The Behavior of Red Eared Sliders

Georgia Male, a sophomore in the Captive Wildlife Care and Education Program, advised by Cheryl Frederick, initiated an observational research project through the Project Assistant course, to record and examine the behavior of Red Eared Sliders (Trachemys Scripta elegans) throughout modifications in their habitat within the Unity College Animal Room. Not only is this project useful in assisting in the captive management practices of this species, it is also an opportunity to gain valuable experience in systematic data collection, application of statistical analysis, and qualitative and quantitative aspects of behavioral observations. The observations lasted approximately six weeks and Georgia is in the process of producing a paper to present her findings. 

Rae-Ann  MacLellan-Hurd and Stephanie Tardiff  Rae-Ann MacLellan-Hurd and Stephanie Tardiff : Phosphorous and Nitrogen in Unity Pond

Rae-Ann MacLellan-Hurd and Stephanie Tardiff  with advisors Dr. Kevin Spigel and Dr. James Killarney are working on a project testing the levels of phosphorous and nitrogen and how phosphorous is bound within the sediment of Unity Pond (a.k.a. Lake Winnecook). Unity Pond has a history of algae blooms that are possibly linked to the amount of phosphorous and nitrogen with in the water column. By testing the sediment, they will determine if more phosphorous is likely to be released into the water column that could lead to more algae blooms in the future.

Jordan Zitnay and Megan BrownJordan Zitnay and Megan Brown: Ants and Climate Change

During the summer and fall of 2015 the students will work with faculty from Unity College, Harvard University, and the University of Vermont, to intensively sample ants in forested habitats between 44.5 and 45.5 °N latitude to: (1) more accurately determine the northern range limit of the ant genus Aphaenogaster in New England; and (2) to test whether populations at their northern range limit have limited capacity to resist or repair thermal damage, as indicated by gene expression of heat-shock proteins when ants are heat-stressed. During the summer, the students will: learn field ant-collecting skills and how to identify and differentiate among the species of Aphaenogaster; sample ants and collect colonies in Maine; assess thermal tolerance of workers from Aphaenogaster colonies; and analyze the data and write the work up for publication.

Zachary Mann : Land Snails Zachary Mann : Land Snails and the Impact of Logging on Diversity

Zachary Mann presented his research project at the Northeastern Natural History Conference in April. The purpose of this study was to determine how logging in eastern hemlock forests change microclimate conditions and land snail richness and abundance.  Eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) forests throughout Maine are threatened by hemlock woolly adelgid (Adelges tsugae), an introduced insect pest. This study concludes that logging in hemlock forests could lead to changes in microclimates that significantly alter land snail communities, which includes local extirpations of species occurring in low abundance.  It also reveals that more surveys of Maine’s land snails are necessary to update current distribution knowledge.

Elizabeth Orcutt : The Impact of Logging on Hemlock Ecosystems

Elizabeth Orcutt : The Impact of Logging on Hemlock Ecosystems

For three years at Unity College, Elizabeth Orcutt studied the impact of logging on hemlock ecosystems. For her senior thesis she chose to study the impacts of logging on biodiversity of ground beetles. Ground beetles are important biological indicators for ecosystem stability, and she focused on species shifts. Elizabeth found that logging impacts the presence of certain functional beetle groups and thus has larger ecosystem implications.Her research was presented at the Northeastern Natural History conference in Springfield, Massachusetts.

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