August 2022: The Laurel Magazine

Page 82

OUTDOORS

Crucial Research

at HBS

E

A team of student-researchers is delving into the myriad ways that we’re affecting the Plateau’s ecology.

xciting things are happening at the Highlands Biological Station this summer, and the onset of August means the excitement continues – as they prepare for one of their most impactful annual programs – the Highlands Field Site program through UNC Chapel Hill’s Institute for the Environment. This program began at HBS in 2001 as an immersive, semester-long opportunity for students to explore real-world environmental issues through a combination of course work, field trips, group research projects, and internships. This month, HBS will be welcoming their largest ever cohort of HFS students as 15 individuals, ranging from college sophomores to seniors, are scheduled to arrive and explore the ways humans affect the natural environment and build on the research that past students have conducted. HFS Director Dr. Rada Petric noted that this year’s group has even more diversity than in the past with 73 percent of the students identifying as female. “Our goal is to make sure this program is literally available to everyone – that no matter what your background is or where you’re coming from, that you would want to participate in this program, and that you can gain all the amazing experiences that we provide which will help you in whatever career path that you choose.” You don’t need to look far to see the impact of this program. Three of last year’s HFS students – Chloe Hall, Grace Kinder,

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and Noa Meiri – returned to the Station this summer as Research Assistants to collect additional data and expand on their fall 2021 microplastics study (the lead Principal Investigators are Dr. Jerry Miller and Jason Love) with the hopes of publishing their findings. In addition to this, they are assisting with HBS’s MAPS bird banding in partnership with Blue Ridge Bird Observatory and will soon be contributing to a pilot citizen science project led by Petric, who is working to collect bat data along the Appalachian Trail. The HFS program is made possible through UNC Chapel Hill’s Institute for the Environment, HBS, Western Carolina University, and the Highlands Biological Foundation. Earlier this year, the Foundation awarded $100,000 of grant funding to support this program for the second consecutive year – their largest investment towards education to date. The Foundation’s Executive Director Charlotte Muir noted how passionate the organization is about the program, stating that “HBF is thrilled to support the Institute for the Environment program at HBS. This program is creating the next generation of scientists, and we think Highlands is the perfect place to immerse these students in the natural world.” For more information about the HFS program and to learn how you can contribute to its impact, visit highlandsbiological.org. by Winter Gary, Communications & Events Coordinator, Highlands Biological Foundation