River Study Expands Research Vistas for Susquehanna Students
By Victoria Kidd - Assistant Director of Advancement Communications
For science students at Susquehanna University, the river presents a smorgasbord of research opportunities typically unavailable to undergraduate students.
Such opportunities opened the door to a whole new life for Amanda Janicki '08, of Pittsford, N.Y. Her work with Assistant Professor of Biology Carlos Iudica monitoring mammals living along the river led to an invitation to attend the American Society of Mammalogists conference in 2006.
"All my life, I had planned to attend veterinary school because I love working with animals," Janicki explains.
"I thought the only way I could make a difference in the world was by being a veterinarian. But at this meeting, Dr. Iudica opened my eyes to the endless possibilities of making a living by working with wildlife."
Janicki used her experiences with The River Group to springboard into related research in Costa Rica and North Carolina. Before beginning her senior year, Janicki had already received several invitations to apply to graduate school. She ultimately plans to earn a Ph.D. in zoology or wildlife ecology and conservation. "I absolutely love my research, and I now know that I can make a bigger difference in the world by working directly in the field with the animals I love," she says.
Nathan Moore '08, a Selinsgrove native, researches aquatic life along Penns Creek, a tributary of the Susquehanna River, with Jack Holt, professor of biology and director of the ecology program. He says Mike Bilger, in particular, an environmental scientist who is a Selinsgrove native, has left a lasting impression on him.
"Working with Mr. Bilger is quite a blessing," Moore says. "He has a vast knowledge of aquatic species in the creek. Having that knowledge at my disposal has been excellent in terms of questions that arise during sampling, and I'm certain it will be priceless when we begin to examine the samples we are collecting."
Iudica says these interactions help students understand the collaborative nature of science. "They are not going to do research in an isolated bubble the rest of their lives. Research is usually done in teams, and the results of research have connections to other researchers, other labs and even other subjects in a way that expands the body of knowledge," he says.
Brian Tanis '10, of Oakland, N.J., is seeing this firsthand as he's coached by Janicki on the research she currently does with Iudica. "Being a part of a continuing research project is an empowering thing," he says. "Working on a long-term project, you come away with the sense that you are carrying on with the legacy of an important undertaking by many students before and after you. The sense of pride in the work and the hope of shedding important light on your research topics is something that stays with you for a long time."
The research Daniel Eltringham '08, of Kearny, N.J., is doing with Holt on the algal and bacterial communities of Shamokin Creek, another Susquehanna tributary, has had a similar effect. "I am thrilled to be conducting research that is acquiring new knowledge on how human beings have impacted an ecological system, and I am an active participant in determining if we currently have the capacity to clean up the mess that industry has made in past decades," he says.