Feb 232011
Authors: Amy Kousch

Seth Johnson and Alyson Pillard are young scientists.

Johnson, 11, Pillard, 9, and four of their classmates presented their research at the 17th Annual Front Range Student Ecology Symposium on Wednesday.

The event, which took place in the Lory Student Center North Ballroom, featured exceptional student ecological research and included work from elementary to graduate students.  

Sarah Bisbing, who is the president of this year’s FRSES coordinating committee, said the symposium fosters student development.

“This gives students across the campus an opportunity to meet new students and collaborate,” she said. “It provides experience in planning, management and delegation.”  

There were 33 poster and 55 oral presentations, and research topics ranged from hurricane impacts on tropical forests in the Dominican Republic to mountain pine beetle tree damage in Colorado.  

“This gives students the opportunity to present research in a friendly and more casual environment and to receive feedback from peers and other research scientists,” Bisbing said.

Marion Wells, the Gifted and Talented Student Coordinator from the dual-language Irish Elementary School in Fort Collins, directed the six fifth-grade students in their presentation titled “Sea Turtles.”

“It pleased me to see the innocent yearning to change the world that kids have,” Wells said.

She said she likes the empowerment and excitement of the children while completing this project.  
During a question-and-answer session, the children handled audience inquiries with the professional demeanor of seasoned panelists.

“This was hard, we have been working on this project for half a year,” Johnson said.

FRSES also highlighted the extensive research done by students here on Colorado’s Front Range and by students from as far away as the University of Hawaii.

Jeremy Austin, a recent CSU wildlife biology graduate and poster presenter, spoke about the importance of this symposium.  

“This is just awesome. It gives researchers an opportunity to really talk with others about what we are doing,” he said. “Not every undergraduate has this opportunity, so I feel blessed.”

Anna Mangan, a recent graduate of the forestry, wildlife and natural resources program at Front Range Community College, presented a poster on her collaborative research project titled “Communities, Cameras and Conservation.”

Her team’s work involved Front Range mountain lion studies.

The first-place award for graduate student poster presentation went to CSU’s Kelly Hopping, a fellowship grant trainee. Hopping conducted her research on the Tibetan Plateau and studied climate change and alpine ecosystems.

When asked why she thinks ecological research is important, Hopping said, “We are living in a time where the environment is changing at an unprecedented rate. Understanding how it is changing and the impacts of that will be critical in maintaining not only ecological but human well-being.”   
The Irish Elementary School students echoed Hopping’s concerns.  

Cameron Kelly, 11, said, “If turtles die, this will affect the food chain. So if people can help them, they won’t die off.”  

One of Cameron’s peers, Corbin Lynn, added, “We’re all in this together. It’s not just the sea turtles that will be affected, we are all part of the food chain.”     
Staff writer Amy Kousch can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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