Every spring, the James H. Oliver, Jr. Institute for Coastal Plain Science (ICPS) invites Georgia Southern University graduate students in any scientific discipline to apply for a $4,000 summer research assistantship to support his/her thesis research efforts. Two such awards are made on a competitive basis with priority given to projects of high quality that fulfill the mission of the ICPS.
Corina is a M.S. student in the Department of Biology and is advised by Dr. Elizabeth Hunter. Corina is investigating nest predation risk in seaside sparrows, a bird that builds its nests in the grasses of salt marshes. These birds are threatened by sea level rise and encroaching urbanization, and Corina’s goal is to provide wildlife managers with information necessary for constructing effective management strategies to protect seaside sparrows and other marsh-nesting birds.
Sergio is a M.S. student in the Department of Biology and is advised by Dr. Checo Colon-Gaud. Sergio’s research is focused on fresh water wetlands, areas common in the Coastal Plain that provide important ecosystem services, such as nutrient cycling and carbon storage. Changes in the frequency and periodicity of intense storms and periods of severe drought are occurring with climate change and Sergio’s research is providing key insight into which communities of aquatic invertebrates are benefitting or suffering from these significant shifts in hydrology.
Angela is an M.S. student in the Department of Biology and is advised by Dr. Checo Colon-Gaud. Angela’s goal is to develop a framework to better understand the response of southeastern coastal plain wetlands to predicted climate change. Wetlands store large amounts of carbon, but their ability to do so in the future will be affected dramatically by a changing climate. This project will document changes in a series of experimental ponds that are manipulated by Angela to simulate different patterns of flooding and drought. In addition, this project will incorporate controlled fire regimes, a common management strategy that prevents hardwoods from invading wetlands.
Laura, an M.S. student in the Department of Biology, is being advised by Dr. Kerrie Sendall. Like Angela, Laura’s study addresses climate change effects, but focuses on three dominant pine species in the southeast. The goal is to quantify the negative effects of three interrelated factors, climate change, invasive species, and altered fire regimes, on the ability of these pine species to grow and reproduce. Ultimately, findings from this project will allow natural resource personnel to make more informed decisions when it comes to management of these important tree species.
Rebecca was an M.S. student in the Department of Biology (thesis advisor Dr. Jamie Roberts), investigating the role that environmental factors such as water velocity, channel shape, and water chemistry play in shaping fish communities in Atlantic Coastal Plain streams. Findings from this study will be incorporated into conservation biology applications that are focused on Atlantic Coastal Plain fish populations and their associated habitat. Rebecca is currently a PhD student at the University of South Florida – College of Marine Science.
Mattie was an M.S. student in the Department of Biology (thesis advisor Dr. John Carroll), studying the factors contributing to hatching success in endangered loggerhead sea turtles that nests annually along the Georgia coast. Using field survey techniques, Mattie will investigate whether nest relocation increases hatch success and will determine which combination of biological and geological factors have the largest influence on hatch success.
Lauren was an M.S. student in the Department of Biology (thesis advisor Dr. Lance McBrayer) and is currently working on her PhD at Arizona State University with Dr. Mike Anguilletta. Lauren’s thesis examined thermal sensitivity and thermal tolerance in populations of the Florida scrub lizard (Sceloporus woodi) that occupy both long-leaf pine and scrub forest habitats. Fragmentation of habitat poses a major threat to this species in the southeastern Coastal Plain and results from Lauren’s study will be used to predict how the Florida scrub lizard may fare in a globally changing climate.
Matthew was an M.S. student in the Department of Biology (thesis advisor Dr. Christine Bedore), investigating interactions between shrimp fisherman and sharks and sawfish along the Georgia coast. Specifically, Matthew will accompany shrimp fisherman to document how often shrimp nets get damaged and which fish species are causing damage. He will also develop and test a cost-effective electromagnetic deterrent system that will reduce damage to shrimp nets by repelling sharks and sawfish.
Jason was an M.S. student in the Department of Biology (thesis advisor Dr. Risa Cohen) and used field and laboratory methods to determine how antibiotics released into flowing waters, such as rivers, impact phytoplankton communities. Phytoplankton are microscopic algae that form the base of many aquatic food webs so Jason’s project aided in developing water resource protection and management strategies.
Jamie was an M.S. student in the Department of Biology (thesis advisor Dr. Tavis Anderson), who worked to determine if parasite loads in killifish can be an indicator of salt marsh health along the Georgia coast. Interestingly, he predicted that more pristine salt marshes would have more diverse and species-rich parasite communities, thus allowing parasites to be used as a bioindicator of marsh health.