All of our students build upon their classroom knowledge and field and laboratory skills to design and conduct their own research project. These research projects could range from finding more sustainable ways to raise fish in an aquaponics system to investigating owl migration with molecular markers to surveying salamander populations for globally-relevant diseases.
Here are some past student research projects:
Reilly Kobus '19 (Biology major) – Reilly is studying red-bellied turtles, a species threatened in PA. She is investigating where red-bellied turtles are nesting at Codorus State Park (Hanover, PA) using both radio telemetry to track turtle movement and educational events to involve the local community. Reilly is planning on making recommendations to Codorus State Park about steps they can take to protect these nests.
“I think it important for me as an undergraduate to explore my interests and develop skills that could prove useful in a future career. With the senior project we were allowed to think about something we are truly passionate about and I think it teaches us more about the time and effort that goes into conducting research. My favorite part of completing my senior thesis project was being able to go out into the field, collecting samples, and involving the public to help with our research," said Reilly.
Morgan Whitmer '16 (Biology major) - Morgan investigated the daily movement patterns of the juvenile American toads after metamorphosis. Toadlets are small (<2cm) and difficult to find, so they are often not included in research studies! Morgan used fluorescent powder and UV lights to track toadlets as they emerged from wetland pools. After two field seasons, she determined that toadlets near York, PA require high humidity to be able to leave the pools where they were born. This type of information will help the managers at Nixon Park maintain populations of American toad on their property.
“Now that I am currently working on my graduate thesis, I look back and I see how my undergraduate thesis at York prepared me for this undertaking. Having [experience as a field biologist], and the passion for the type of research being completed, was what set me apart from other candidates and made me a better choice for my mentor to hire,” said Morgan.
Edmund Sakyi '18 (Biology major) Edmund studied whether black locust, a native tree species, could co-occur with the non-native Tree-of-Heaven. Tree-of-Heaven is difficult to eradicate and is a frequent invasive of urban areas. A known allelopath, Tree-of_Heaven can inhibit the growth of neighboring plants by inhibiting the microbial symbionts that surround the roots of most plants. Edmund found that Tree-of-Heaven did not alter the fungal community in the soil around black locust trees, nor was the growth of black locust trees inhibited compared to controls. Edmund concluded that black locust would be a good choice of tree to grow in areas where Tree-of-Heaven cannot be successfully eradicated.
“Performing an original research project gave me the opportunity to explore my interests, which opened up time for me to learn new techniques and develop new skills in the field of biology,” said Edmund.