Conservation biology class gets hands-on at Sapelo Island

Conservation Biology class trip to Sapelo Island & Okefenokee Swamp
Curated by Debbie Aiken '12 Debbie Aiken '12

Every two years, Oglethorpe biology professor Dr. Roarke Donnelly takes his Conservation Biology class on a 4-day trip to Sapelo Island and the Okefenokee Swamp. The trip provides real-world context for many lessons in his course—not to mention a few bumpy rides in the back of this truck. 

Just after arriving on Sapelo Island, students set up a motion and heat-sensitive camera in a secluded area in hopes of catching a glimpse of the island’s resident bobcats. The camera was retrieved at the end of the trip with shots of deer, raccoons and opossums, but no cats.

The team set up a series of five nets in order to trap, identify, band, and release birds. Here, students use a bird guide to identify the species of the bird Dr. Donnelly untangles. 

Biology major Yidi Amha prepares to release a Carolina Chickadee. 

Students observe Brown Pelicans and Double-Crested Cormorands nesting on a shipwreck in the ocean. They had the opportunity to see some of the rare or endangered bird species they’d learned about in class.

Learning happened everywhere—even on the beach! Dr. Donnelly led students on a hike from the beach inland to learn about sand dune formation and how the vegetation in these areas changes over time. 

With very few vehicles on Sapelo Island, the biology team spent a lot of time walking from the dorms at UGA’s Marine Institute to various parts of the island. 

Students were eager to explore an old lighthouse to look for owl pellets, which can be dissected to learn about the birds’ diet. 

This is an OU classroom! Dr. Donnelly explained the history of Sapelo Island, while students sat “poolside” at a mansion built by R.J. Reynolds. The tobacco mogul eventually sold the estate and other island property to the state of Georgia. 

The group stopped at the Okefenokee Swamp on the way back to Atlanta to learn about the natural cycle of wildfires—one in particular burned for more than 13 months in 2011, changing the landscape for years to come.

What better place to learn about the geographic features that allow for the formation of swamps—than to stand in the middle of one?

The class took a guided boat tour through the swamp where they learned about plant species that thrive in this environment, like Bladderwort and Neverwet.

The swamp tour gave students the chance to see adult and baby alligators, Great Blue Heron, Snowy Egrets and Red-Shouldered Hawks.

Dean Easton, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, explained his team’s efforts to monitor, protect and preserve the endangered Red-Cockaded Woodpecker. 

The students who travel with Dr. Donnelly on this biennial trip always stop to pose for a photo amid the branches of this spectacular Live Oak, and would likely agree there’s no substitute for out-in-the-field learning. “You can talk about it all you want,” says Dr. Donnelly, “but to actually see and touch is a completely different experience.”

 

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Science-Palooza Helps Students’ Academic and Professional Development

Cancer Biology students also hosted a cancer awareness event that was featured on Cure Childhood Cancer's website.

A few weeks ago, Oglethorpe students majoring in biology, chemistry and psychology were able to verbally and visually present to the entire OU community on the topics they studied this semester. The annual Science-Palooza poster session event featured approximately 50 different presentations, and some students were responsible for more than just one. As attendees approached, students were prepared to explain their research and answer questions presented to them about their work.

Students enrolled in “Cancer Biology” explained the multiple processes of how cancer cells travel to organs in the body. “Cell Biology” students conducted experiments that showed how different chemicals can affect cell growth and development. Psychology students expanded on previous psychological research by creating experiments that focused on everything from race and pro-social behavior to belief in being able to influence random chance events. Some of the content may have been a little difficult to understand if you are not familiar with terms like HELA cells, metastasis, and partial eta effect sizes. Nonetheless, each presentation added its own special touch to the array of scientific topics present at the college-leveled science fair.

Allyson Terry '14 presents her psychology research during Science-Palooza.

Presenting at this event does a lot more for the students involved than simply showing off the eye-catching posters they created. By presenting at this Science-Palooza myself, I experienced the effects that an event like this can have on a student’s academic and professional development. As a Psychology major, I conducted a study that looked at how people perceive interracial couples in comparison to same-race couples. Every time someone came up to me I had to give a three-minute spiel explaining my strenuous four months of hard work. It seemed redundant and cumbersome at times, but the more I interacted with spectators interested in my research, the more comfortable and fluid I became in presenting.

Another plus to presenting at the session is when questions are asked and you are the only one that can answer them. Being solid in your approach and strong in your knowledge of the topic you studied increases the feeling of accomplishment. Conducting individual research is a difficult task, but when you have the opportunity to share all you have done with people who are genuinely interested, you know your late nights in the library have not gone in vain.

Events such as Science-Palooza enable students of different majors and academic interests to see first-hand what their peers are doing on campus. The only improvement to the event that I might suggest is hosting it in a larger venue in order to accommodate the large number of attendees!

Pegasus Creative is pleased to welcome Allyson Terry ’14 as the campus reporter intern for summer 2013!

 

 

Oglethorpe Alumni Excel in Medical Illustration Field

Nobles Green '03

Are you a biology major with an artistic touch, or an art major with an appreciation for science? Did you know about the career of medical illustration? Within the last decade, three Oglethorpe students have chosen to pursue this challenging career, and the rewards have been well worth the hard work.

Nobles Green ’03, an award-winning senior medical animator for Nucleus Medical Media, creates medical animations for a variety of clients, including pharmaceutical companies and TV shows like Dr. Oz and Oprah.

“I’ve always liked art and science growing up,” he said. “For a while I just wanted to pursue an art career, but the more I learned about biology… there was something that made me interested…There’s a lot of problem solving, so far as knowing what your client wants and knowing how to visualize what they’re saying, what scientific theories they want to express.”

Sarah Duff ’12 also works for Nucleus Medical Media, as the Production Assistant for Legal Medical Art at Nucleus Medical Media.  Nobles was integral in Sarah’s decision to enter the medical illustration field.

“He visited my senior year [at Oglethorpe] and I asked him what he did,” she said. “He gave me a chance to tour the company, to look around and see what it was like. Then in August, Nobles emailed me to tell me there was a job opening.”

Similarly, Katie Dale ’10 who was a double major in biology and art, found Nobles to be of great assistance in her quest to work for Nucleus Medical Media.

“All I did was contact Nobles,” she said, “and he was helpful and so nice, and he got me an internship… I always knew I wanted to be in the medical field though I wasn’t sure specifically what. I didn’t actually declare a major until the end of my junior year… one of my [golf] teammates was looking into [medical illustration] because she was an art major, and she told me I should look into it and I thought it was perfect for me. I didn’t have to give up my love of art, and I could still be in a science field!”

Nobles himself credits the decision to pursue medical illustration largely to Associate Professor of Art Alan Loehle.

“He’s been very encouraging, very helpful all throughout Oglethorpe,” said Nobles, “so I did all the mandatory classes with him as well as some individualized [classes]… I like to help OU students out, [and] every time Loehle tells me about someone I try to help them out, give them a tour.”

Thanks to faculty and alumni, these graduates have found a place in the competitive world of medical illustration. As Sarah advises, “Don’t be scared around alumni because they’re going to want to help you succeed..I’m so lucky to have this job because I absolutely love it.”