SOAR Student Profiles
- SOAR Position: Member
- Major: Biology (Organismal and Ecology)
- Faculty Mentor(s): Dr. Cole Easson
Current Focus: Genetic Sequencing of Freshwater Sponges in Tennessee
Additional Interests: Ecology, Conservation Biology, Genetics, Phylogeny, Evolutionary Biology, Taxonomy, Vertebrate Zoology
Project DescriptionSo far, 14 species of freshwater sponges have been discovered to reside here in Tennessee. However, there has been no extensive genetic research on these organisms to date. My project uses genetic sequencing to confirm species identity and which will aid me in creating the first genetic database for freshwater sponges in Tennessee.
Why does this topic interest you?Despite how many people perceive biology, I believe that biology is a largely integrative study. While some people are more drawn to specific areas of research, I am drawn to broadening my experience with multiple disciplines. This project has given me the opportunity to improve on biotech lab work and genetics in addition to my evolutionary biology and ecology background that I work in frequently.
What are your professional aspirations?My dream profession is to be a wildlife conservation biologist and researcher. Once I finish my bachelor's degree, I am going to continue my education with a master's in conservation biology and possibly pursue a Ph.D. someday. I would love to work with or start my own non-profit conservation research organization that uses an interdisciplinary approach to meet current conservation needs. This approach would include aspects of genetics, habitat ecology, evolutionary history, and conservation/environmental policy to generate an all-inclusive conservation plan for species threatened by climate change and anthropogenic habitat loss.
Do you have any advice for future researchers?Ask questions!!! There are no stupid questions, no matter what anyone tells you. To enter the world of undergraduate research, you must take the initiative and approach professors you are interested in working with. Look at what professors work with, become familiar with their work, and then simply ask if they have any available projects for a URECA grant (which I also highly recommend looking into). It might seem difficult but all it takes is the guts to ask.