September 25, 2018

For Savannah Rhoads ’18, transferring to Susquehanna in spring 2016 opened up a world of opportunities to be more engaged in her field and a chance to get her hands dirty.

The Selinsgrove native quickly realized during a summer 2015 internship here that Susquehanna offered more chances for hands-on experience. She interned with John Niles, Mellon Grant Program director, and Mike Bilger, aquatic ecology research scientist, in the university’s Freshwater Research Initiative (FRI). FRI is partnering with the Chesapeake Conservancy and others on research to make the Susquehanna River a cleaner waterway.

“I knew there were great opportunities available, and all of the faculty and staff are so pleasant and helpful,” she says. “I’m so thankful that I made the decision to transfer to Susquehanna.”

In summer 2016, she received another position with the FRI, working with a Penn State graduate student on a telemetry study. They collected 105 brook trout; took samples of blood, gills, and fins to observe genetic patterns; and inserted GPS tags to allow them to track their movement and observe their migration patterns.

Rhoads’ work retagging about 60 more trout also were featured on WNEP TV’s Pennsylvania Outdoor Life.

“The final goal is to assist with the conservation of brook trout, and understand more about a species that hasn’t been a huge focus in the ecology field,” Rhoads says.

The ecology major and psychology minor wants to focus her career in animal behavior and find work at a zoo or conservation agency. She also wants to attend graduate school to focus her education on her lifelong interest—marine studies.

“Our oceans are still very unexplored today, and are becoming very polluted as time goes on” she says. “Focusing research in that field is essential to making progress on conserving wildlife, and cleaning the ecosystems we need to survive.”

Rhoads is now an environmental intern at the Susquehanna River Basin Commission in Harrisburg Pa. She has helped with the U.S. Geological Survey’s sediment and nutrient assessment program by collecting water samples throughout New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Delaware.

She has also helped with the national river and streams assessment surveys for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency—collecting fish population data, benthic macroinvertebrates, periphyton, and water samples to look for any indicators of excess nutrients or toxic contamination.