Cassie Childs, class of 2010 from Pickerington, Ohio, needed to fulfill a research requirement as well as earn credits of directed research as a biology major and marine science minor. She did both at Wittenberg, supplementing her studies on campus with a field study experience in the Bahamas and multiple opportunities to make presentations, including one at a prestigious Benthic Ecology meeting at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington during Spring Break 2010.
Childs’ research project, titled “Spiny brittle stars’ (Ophiocoma paucigranulata) movement and directional behavior in relation to light and protection,” began on a Bahamas Field Study course during the summer of 2008. Students were challenged to design and execute an experiment based off the marine setting they were studying and any organisms in that setting they would want to observe.
“Brittle stars were observed in open water to determine their reaction to daylight,” Childs said. “We set up a testing area with regions that represented shelter, shelter and protection from light, just protection from light (shade) and a control region. We observed where the brittle stars would move when we placed them in the middle of this set up. We determined that brittle stars move to protected areas to avoid light.”
“The course met for two weeks in the Bahamas,” she continued. “The data collection lasted three days, but analysis and project completion occurred throughout the 08-09 school year. The experiment was conducted with Alex Potapenko and Natalie Davidson (both class of 2009), and (Associate Professor of Biology) Kathleen Reinsel advised us and supervised our project. Natalie and I produced the final poster for presentation at the Ohio Academy of Science at Wittenberg last year.”
Childs added that the poster has since been edited and presented several times. She edited it further with Reinsel for the poster presentation at the Benthic Ecology Meeting this year.
“The meeting was wonderful. It was so great to meet professors, Ph.D. students and alumni from Wittenberg in their own element and discuss research they were working on,” Childs said. “It was especially neat to see Wittenberg alums doing the things I hope to be able to do some day and knowing that I can get to that point too. I got to meet people from all over the country and other countries as well.
“Presenting was wonderful, too, because it gave me a chance to discuss and get feedback on my own work. This was an opportunity for me to explore my options after Wittenberg as well, whether it be graduate school or apprenticeships/internships at universities or laboratories all over the country.”
Childs wants to be a marine biologist and work in the field, possibly as a researcher or professor. The meeting and opportunities it provided tied in directly with her plans for the future.
“As a researcher or professor, I will attend more of these meetings and maybe have my own undergraduate students to mentor,” she said.
Written By: Phyllis Eberts