FLI Hosts Finger Lakes Conference – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

FLI Hosts Finger Lakes Conference

The Finger Lakes Institute hosted its 7th Annual Finger Lakes Research Conference this semester with more than 60 attendees interested in learning about the ongoing scientific investigations of the Finger Lakes region. The agenda included nine oral presenters and 13 poster presentations with representation from more than 10 colleges and universities, including Rochester Institute of Technology, Finger Lakes Community College (FLCC), Cornell University, SUNY Brockport, Elmira College, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, SUNY Oneonta, SUNY Binghamton, Cayuga Community College, Wells College and Alfred University.

The keynote address, provided by videographer David Owen Brown, emphasized the possibilities of using multimedia to extend research analysis and offer alternative methods of explaining findings and educating the public. In addition to specific times set aside for networking and interacting with presenters, the Finger Lakes Institute coordinated a panel discussion with Bruce Gilman, director of Muller Field Station and professor of environmental conservation at FLCC, Meghan Brown, assistant professor of biology at HWS, and Roxanna Johnston, of the City of Ithaca, to discuss management of invasive species and how to prioritize research and education efforts in the Finger Lakes region.

It was the magnitude of student interest that truly resonated with Finger Lakes Institute Director Lisa Cleckner. “Student participation in our research conference is a hallmark of the event and underscores the importance of the role that our regional Colleges play in helping to understand and interpret what is happening in the Finger Lakes ecosystem,” remarks Cleckner.

Each year, the Finger Lakes Institute recognizes the best student – graduate or undergraduate – oral presentation with a $100 award. This year’s recipient was Eleanor Milano ’12, a double major in biology and environmental studies at Hobart and William Smith Colleges.

Milano’s presentation, The Effects of Seiche Activity and Sediment Loading on Daphnia retrocurva in Cayuga Lake, co-authored with Brown and Professor of Environmental Science Nelson Hairston and Research Support Specialist Lindsay Schaffner of Cornell University, examined whether sediment loading caused by storm events decreases zooplankton growth rates and if Daphnia populations move due to large-scale water movement in Cayuga Lake. Her conclusions state that though sediment influx from rain events does not appear to impact Cayuga Lake’s resident Daphnia populations, seiche activity has the potential to transport Daphnia from the north to the south end of the lake.

Following graduation, Milano hopes to pursue a job pertaining to her interests in conservation biology, restoration and environmentalism. Eventually, Milano hopes to pursue her studies further in a graduate program.  

“I grew up in Pittsfield, Mass., a small town in the Berkshire Hills, and have spent much of my time during summers at my family’s lake cottage in a rural part of Ontario, Canada,” explains Milano. “These experiences, in addition to this research project, have allowed me to fully appreciate the outdoors and wildlife, as well as the importance of preserving natural systems. I am honored and so excited to receive this award!”

To complement the oral presentations, the Finger Lakes Research Conference agenda had an array of posters pertaining to specific research projects on display throughout the conference. New this year, the Finger Lakes Institute recognized its first best student – graduate or undergraduate – poster presentation by awarding Alyssa Johnson, an undergraduate student at Finger Lakes Community College who is studying environmental studies and natural resource conservation, with a $100 award. 

Johnson’s poster, “A Preliminary Study of Black Bear Trails and Sign,” co-authored with John VanNeil, explained the research of the Black Bear Management class which investigated the behavior, trails and specific markings of black bear. Measured stride and straddle implied that bears may employ a deliberately altered gait at times when forming a trail.

With a passion for wildlife biology, Johnson hopes to pursue a career that allows her to encourage children to interact with nature. Her immediate goal for the spring semester is to conduct research at Finger Lakes Community College’s Muller Field Station, and eventually communicate her findings to K-12 students visiting the site. After graduation in May, she hopes to transfer to SUNY Cobleskill to continue her studies in wildlife management. She currently maintains a blog, “Bearly Alyssa,” (http://bearlyalyssa.blogspot.com/) about her studies and adventures in natural resource conservation and environmental studies.

In response to receiving the recognition, Johnson says, “It means a lot to be recognized for hard work, and I appreciate the honor.”

“It is always thrilling to recognize student projects that creatively investigate our natural world,” says Gilman. A partner in multiple Finger Lakes Institute projects, Gilman is an annual attendee of the Research Conference and is a supportive faculty of Johnson’s research. “This year’s winners are astute observers, curious about behaviors and processes, traits that will serve them well as they further their education.”

The full conference agenda and extended abstract can be obtained at http://fli.hws.edu/conference.asp