Opportunities Abound for RESEARCH by Jenny Hill ’06 At Otterbein, students can research coral reef destruction, bacteria, avian communication and many other topics as early as their freshman year. Opportunities are plentiful at Otterbein, where professors encourage students to conduct research in a variety of disciplines. Thanks to the University’s small size, professors work closely with students — often collaborating with them on professional research, attending national conferences and co-authoring papers. This is a small sampling of their work. geology Researcher: Hal Lescinsky, chairman of Department of Biology and Earth Science Research project: Lescinsky’s research compares modern reef construction with that in the recent past in order to determine whether modern reef die-off and change is a natural process or related to current human impacts on the reef ecosystem. Lescinsky uses two main methods of research. One is by developing a coral “baseline,” or what a reef looked like in the past versus present, by looking at coral fossils. His research of Holocene reefs in the Dominican Republic showed that a reef had 75 percent live coral cover 6,000 years ago, compared to 6 to 10 percent now. The second is by researching the carbonate “budget,” or created versus destroyed coral structure in Helena Hayter ’13 studies notches on up-lifted coral reefs in Curacao. She disproved published papers that attributed the notches to sea erosion. 14 | O t t e r be i n To w e r s | Fall 2013 reefs. Much of the data collected by Lescinsky and his students for coral budget research is done at the Belize Barrier Reef, an endangered UNESCO World Heritage Site. Some students conduct individual research projects on research trips to Belize, while others collect data and work with Lescinsky on his research. Student researchers: During a research trip to Curacao led by Lescinsky, Helena Hayter ’13 studied notches on up-lifted coral reefs that previously had been assumed to have formed by erosion at sea level. She reinterpreted how the notches were formed, disproving the conclusions of published papers on the topic. Two years ago, Lescinsky’s students analyzed aerial photographs of the Belize Barrier Reef spanning nine years, provided by a Smithsonian researcher. Alicia Campbell ’11 focused her distinction project on quantifying the mangrove deforestation and island development in and around the South Water Caye Marine Reserve, a part of the reef. Her research showed widespread illegal cutting, dredging and filling at the site. She co-authored a paper with Lescinsky and her data was requested by researchers at the World Wildlife Fund and the Belize Healthy Reef Initiative for use in persuading the United Nations and other organizations to put international pressure on Belize to fulfill the terms of the World Heritage designation.