By:: Lexi Neukirch and Katie Morrison
Michaela Rogers, an NRES Senior with emphasis areas in Field and Lab Analysis of Ecosystems and Conservation Biology, took a unique college pathway that led to researching dung beetles in Spain. While studying abroad at Lancaster University in England, Michaela successfully applied to their undergraduate research course. After perusing the list of mentors and their topics for one that interested her, she met with Dr. Menéndez, an ecologist who piqued her curiosity about the impacts of climate change on the range shifts of dung beetles inhabiting mountainous terrain. Although Michaela had previously worked as a lab assistant in an Entomology Lab at UK, she felt that she was on a steep learning curve while working independently, learning new statistical methods and meeting the challenges of a demanding final writing project. Over the course of a year in England, Michaela’s study involved classifying and quantifying beetle samples previously collected across a three-month span at ascending points along the Picos de Europa Mountain Range in Spain. She compared dung beetle community diversity and location data to the literature to assess how the insects relocate along the elevational gradient due to climatic sensitivity. Michaela spent the first semester conducting lab work, and the second semester writing, always working closely with Dr. Menéndez to improve her research skills. Michaela presented her research at the NRES Internship Forum last fall. Michaela’s advice to those interested in research, whether at UK or abroad, is to “find a mentor who is studying something you are interested in. Not only will you be more motivated to work on a project that you actually care to learn the results from, but you may make a connection that can help you later on in your professional career.” Michaela has stayed in touch with Dr. Menendez, and looks forward to pursuing entomology work after she graduates. Pictured above: (top) a dung beetle, (bottom) Michaela Rogers sorting beetle families in the Entomology Lab where she completed her internship.
is a junior in the NRES major with emphasis areas in Environmental Policy and Economics and Human Dimensions and Natural Resource Planning and is working in South Africa this semester. Last semester, Chloe conducted a research project with Dr. Andrew Stainback that examined the management of an area of mountainous rainforest in Africa that contains endangered primates, orchids, and birds (some of which can’t be found anywhere else in Africa!). Her project explored the potential collaboration between the management of this rainforest throughout adjoining protected areas, Nyungwe National Park in Rwanda and Kibira National Park in Burundi. The results of her research could support conservation professionals and policymakers from both countries in more effectively collaborating to protect this important ecosystem. To conduct this research Chloe reviewed the peer-reviewed literature on trans-boundary conservation in Rwanda and Burundi, and other conservation efforts around the world. Chloe and Dr. Stainback met frequently to discuss her findings and help shape the research paper she collaborated on with several other authors that details the findings of this research project. Chloe’s interest in studying abroad this semester in South Africa was piqued by her research. She is currently working for the Western Cape Primary Science Programme (PSP) in Cape Town, an organization that has been working since 1985 to address the inequalities in education in South Africa. The PSP aims to improve the quality of teaching and learning in South African primary schools in the critical fields of mathematics & numeracy, natural sciences and technology, environment, language and literacy development and social sciences. When Chloe first arrived at UK she had no idea that her path through college and the NRES degree would lead to this exciting opportunity to study abroad in South Africa! Her research project with Dr. Stainbeck opened the door to new opportunities she never previously imagined. Pictured above: A photo of Nyungwe National Park in Rwanda (from Dr. Andrew Stainback).