Genesee Students Tackle Environmental Research

Genesee Community College Environmental Studies students engaged in real-life scientific research as part of the College’s new Field Experience in Environmental Studies course, Associate Professor of Biology Maureen Leupold reported to the Board of Trustees Monday evening.

Students participated in six different research projects, undertaken in cooperation with Finger Lakes Community College, SUNY College at Brockport, and the Rochester Institute of Technology. The research is part of a National Science Foundation grant designed to help colleges integrate scientific research into college classes and labs.

Research projects included:
  • Red Tail Hawk DNA Analysis. Students are learning DNA extraction and analysis skills, using blood collected from hawks at the Braddock Bay Raptor Research Project. Initially most of the DNA analysis is being completed at RIT, but Genesee labs will soon be equipped to handle much DNA work. (Conducted students by Joseph Gorny of Attica, Joseph Richardson of Darien Center and Nathan Svensen of Batavia.)
  • Invasive Plant Species Studies. Using global position systems, students are tracking and documenting the invasive honeysuckle shrubs in Genesee County Park. (Conducted by Frank Pombert of Albion.)
  • Oak Opening Restoration. Students are learning how to restore and maintain prairie grass species native to Western New York. Students are conducting the project on land at the Genesee Country Museum and Nature Center in Mumford. (Conducted by Adam Kramarsyck of Brockport)
  • Raptor Research. Students are learning ornithological field study techniques, and documenting the occurrence of short-eared owls at the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge. (Conducted by Kathryn Scarborough of Basom.)
  • Medicinal Plant Study. Students are locating and documenting plants with medicinal properties at Genesee County Park. One of the goals of the research is to develop information about medicinal plants for park visitors. (Conducted by Sandy Colombo-Steele of Batavia.)
  • Lake Watershed Runoff Analysis. Students are studying the flow of nutrients into Silver Lake, and compiling data about the impact of storms on Silver Lake and surrounding tributaries. (Conducted by Nicholas Eddy of Bliss.)
One of the unique features of Genesee’s research course is the participation of highly-experienced environmental researchers in each of the projects. Dr. Larry Buckley, Professor of Zoology at RIT and Dr. James Hewlett, Professor of Biotechnology at FLCC, for example, are spearheading the Red Tail Hawk DNA Analysis, Professor Leupold said. Heidi Kennedy, a noted New York State Department of Environmental Conservation wildlife biologist, is leading the raptor research project.

“Our students are not only exposed to high-quality research projects, but they have the opportunity to become engaged with scientists who are conducting sophisticated research,” Professor Leupold told trustees.

Joseph Gorny, a Genesee student participating in the Red Tail Hawk DNA project, said that the research experience will help him launch his career. “What I like most about the research project is that we’re getting real-life experience in DNA analysis and lab techniques,” Mr. Gorny told trustees.