This summer, Associate Professor of Biology Meghan Brown and Eleanor Milano ’12 traveled to Kyoto, Japan, to present their respective research projects at the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography’s (ASLO) 2012 ASLO Aquatic Sciences Meeting. The society is an organization of professional researchers and educators working to further the field of aquatic science. It promotes education and public policy, as well as opportunities for students and others in aquatic sciences.
“I have been a member of ASLO since I was an undergraduate student,” says Brown, who notes she presented at her first ASLO conference after she started graduate school and has attended meetings since then. This presentation was about the past 200 years of environmental change in Seneca and Owasco Lakes.
“Using tiny fossils in the lake sediment left by small plankton that lived in the past, we can learn things about the lake’s productivity and past fish predation pressure. This is essential in the Finger Lakes, where up until the last two decades there hasn’t been regular or wide-spread monitoring,” she explains.
Milano presented research she completed the past two summers working in The Nelson Hairston Lab in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology department at Cornell University.
“The research examined the effect of certain lake processes on the biota in Cayuga Lake, specifically whether the lake’s predominant cladoceran zooplankton species, Daphnia retrocurva, is negatively impacted by large-scale water movement and sediment loading during storm events,” explains Milano. “We’re interested in how these processes affect the species because Daphnia consume algae, and so play a critical role in water clarity within the lake.”
Milano, who completed a double major in biology and environmental studies, initially became interested in aquatic biology when she took a class on the subject with Brown.
“I’m interested in population dynamics, which is a critical part of understanding the dynamics of Daphnia retrocurva in Cayuga. My summer research was a fantastic way to get some research experience in that field and it definitely has done just that for me,” says Milano. “At some small liberal arts colleges, science students don’t have as much opportunity to get involved in research as at large universities. However, because of Professor Brown and Professor Hairston’s collaboration, through this position I have had the opportunity for several unique and invaluable experiences, such as going to ASLO and also the potential that my work may contribute to a publication within the next couple of years.”
In August, Milano will begin a master’s in conservation medicine at Tufts University and will conduct a research case study where she plans to again study population dynamics, though perhaps with a fish species as her focus, or possibly a mammal in a terrestrial system. She has already begun to research Ph.D. programs in aquatic sciences and is most likely applying for a program following her master’s.
Reflecting after the conference, Brown says, “The trip to Kyoto was a great union of scholarship and education, which highlighted the teacher-scholar model that HWS strives for. Traveling together with a recent student enhanced the professional experience for me. It also highlights a different type of global experience that students and faculty can participate in, where despite the short length of the trip, the experience can propel a research interest and expand one’s way of thinking.”