Biology student presents undergraduate research at Georgia Water Resources Conference

Biology student Zachary Gordon ’23 recently presented the culmination of his undergraduate research at the Georgia Water Resources Conference, a biennial scholarly event that brings together students and top environmental professionals for discussions, panels and presentations on water conservation.

Zachary Gordon at the Georgia Water Resources Conference

Zachary Gordon (left) presents his research

Gordon’s research — which he had previously presented at Oglethorpe University’s Posters of Research In Sciences and Mathematics (PRISM) last fall — investigates how increasing levels of salt in freshwater can have adverse affects on organisms that break down fallen leaves. His research revealed that large amounts of salt can be toxic to freshwater organisms and disrupts decomposition processes necessary to sustain certain species.

“The event was a lot of fun! I learned new things, met new people, and I got a lot of cool swag. I’d recommend for anyone to present their research at a conference,” says Gordon.

Last summer, Gordon received a unique undergraduate research opportunity through the Research Experiences in Southeastern Coastal Plain Ecosystem, a 10-week interdisciplinary science fellowship through the Georgia Southern University Biology department.

In addition to attending professional development workshops and lectures from preeminent biologists, Gordon worked closely with Georgia State Professor of Biology Dr. Checo Colón-Gaud on a field study on Sapelo Island, one of the islands that comprise Georgia’s coastal barrier. Together, Gordon and Dr. Colón-Gaud monitored the decomposition of dead leaves in streams with varying salt levels and monitored changes. Gordon’s research presentation was derived from this experience.

“This research experience definitely helped me prepare as I was essentially conducting research that a master’s student would be,” said Gordon, “However, the skills we learned are also provided in Oglethorpe’s biology classes, such as literature review, statistics, figure design, experiment design, PowerPoint “elevator” talks, and poster creation and presentation.”

Gordon intends to pursue deep-sea marine biology, ecology and conservation. He intends to enroll in a master’s program after graduation and has already received several acceptances.


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