Environmental Science students at Genesee Community College are engaged in three innovative natural science research projects this year, Associate Professor of Biology Maureen Leupold reported to the Board of Trustees Monday evening.
The research projects, funded by the National Science Foundation, give students the opportunity to participate in real-life scientific research important to the local region, Professor Leupold told trustees. Current research projects include DNA analysis of the local red tail hawk population, a study of nest boxes of area birds, and an inventory of amphibians in Genesee County Park and Forest:
•The Red Tail Hawk DNA Analysis Project, led by student Leah Reino, is an attempt to study the genetic characteristics of the red tail hawk population. Students are preparing DNA from Red Tail Hawk whole blood obtained through the Braddock Bay Raptor Project. Students are learning tissue preparation, DNA extraction, polymerase chain reaction, nanodrop analysis, and gel electrophoresis skills. Students are using laboratory facilities at the Rochester Institute of Technology, but expect to transfer much of the lab work to Genesee in the near future.
•The Next Box Monitoring and Banding Project, led by Thomas Klotzbach, is a study of 67 nest boxes located near the Batavia Campus buildings and along the Lake Ontario State Parkway. Birds are monitored weekly and banded, and the data collected is reported to the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology. Scientific banding protocols for many nestling bird species do not exist, and the results of the study may result in the development of the first nestling banding protocols in the nation for bird species as part of project
•Genesee County Park and Forest Amphibian Inventory, led by student Daniel Scheg, is an attempt to compile the first-ever inventory of amphibians present in the parklands. Mr. Scheg has been identifying areas where salamanders, newts, frogs, and toads gather and breed, and has been compiling an audio and visual record of findings. The results of the study will be used in the park’s educational publications and in the Black Creek Watershed Management Plan.
Several area educational institutions are collaborating to make the research projects possible. SUNY College at Brockport and the Rochester Institute of Technology are allowing students from Genesee Community College and Finger Lakes Community College to use their labs, and faculty members from all four colleges are guiding the research. National Science Funding came to the projects as part of a NSF initiative to bring research projects into two-year colleges, and foster collaboration between two-year and four-year colleges, Professor Leupold told trustees.
As part of the research projects, students have to attend and participate in public meetings, Professor Leupold noted. “This is an outstanding opportunity for students to gain research experience and serve the community,” she said.
Judy Spring, Genesee County Park Environmental Educator, said that she has been involved in several research projects involving the park. She told trustees that Genesee students were contributing to a healthy park and forest. “We are very pleased to have them involved,” she said.
The natural science research projects began in 2009. Last year’s projects included a study of invasive plant species in Genesee County Park; restoration of native plants at Genesee Country Museum and Nature Center; raptor research at Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge; a study of medicinal plants at Genesee County Park; and a study of watershed runoff of Silver Lake tributaries.
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