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Ohio Wesleyan University Students Present Posters at National Ornithological Conference

May 6, 2008

DELAWARE, OHIO – Five Ohio Wesleyan University students were selected to present posters of original zoological research at the 2008 joint scientific meeting of The Wilson Ornithological Society and the Association of Field Ornithologists held April 17-20 in Mobile, Ala.

Students presenting research were:

  • Kristen M. Lear, “Bacterial Degradation of Flight and Body Contour Feathers by B. Licheniformis.” A freshman from Cincinnati, Lear examined whether bird feathers used for flying degrade, or break down, differently than other feathers. She is a pre-professional zoology major and plans to become a veterinarian specializing in wildlife rehabilitation.
  • Meredith Palmer, “Resistance of Turaco Feathers to Bacterial Degradation.” A freshman from Scottsdale, Ariz., Palmer researched copper-containing pigments in feathers of brightly colored African birds called Turacos. She studied how the copper-based pigments affected the rate at which the feathers broke down and whether these unique pigments provided any antibacterial protection. Palmer is pursuing a double major in zoology and neurology, and she is planning a career in conservation research.
  • Jack M. Stenger, “Bacterial Degradation of Eumelanic and Phaeomelanic Feathers.” A sophomore from Cincinnati, Stenger studied how pigments that give feathers their black, brown, and rust colors affected the rate at which the feathers broke down in response to feather-degrading bacteria. He earned the Nancy Klamm Award for the Best Undergraduate Student Poster at the conference. A zoology major, Stenger plans to earn a doctorate and become a zoology professor.
  • Sean M. Williams, “Physical Differences of Albinistic and Melanic Frigatebird Feathers.” A freshman from Boston, Williams concluded that albino feathers—those with no pigments—tended to be weaker and abrade faster than colored feathers. A pre-professional zoology major, Williams anticipates a career as either a museum curator or a bird researcher. He is especially interested in studying whether Brewer’s Sparrows are, in fact, several species of closely related birds.
  • Meredith P. Wilson, “Dynamics of Staphylococcus aureus on Bird Feathers.” A junior from Beavercreek, Ohio, Wilson studied whether feathers from different types of birds carried different concentrations of a specific bacterium capable of infecting both birds and humans. Wilson, who is majoring in zoology and minoring in black world studies, anticipates a career spent researching animal behavior in Africa.

All of the student research presented at the scientific meeting was conducted in conjunction with Ohio Wesleyan zoology professor Edward H. Burtt Jr., Ph.D., president-elect of the prestigious American Ornithologists’ Union.

Burtt, a professor at Ohio Wesleyan since 1977, said it is important for students to meet and learn from professionals in the field. Ohio Wesleyan was one of only a handful of undergraduate universities nationwide whose students presented posters at the event.

“A conference like this allows students to begin to build a network of contacts with shared interests,” Burtt said. “They begin to put faces with names. It is also is a self-confidence booster, giving them an opportunity to see themselves as researchers and scientists and to picture themselves in their chosen careers.”

The Wilson Ornithological Society, founded in 1888, is a worldwide organization of people who share a curiosity about birds. Named in honor of Alexander Wilson, the Father of American Ornithology, the society publishes The Wilson Journal of Ornithology.

The Association of Field Ornithologists, founded in 1922 as the New England Bird Banding Association, is one of the world’s major societies of professional and amateur ornithologists dedicated to the scientific study and dissemination of information about birds in their natural habitats. The association publishes the Journal of Field Ornithology.

Ohio Wesleyan University is an undergraduate liberal arts college that transforms the lives of its students through a combination of rigorous academics, mentoring relationships, and real-world experiences. Featured in the book “Colleges That Change Lives,” the private university’s 1,850 students come from 40 states and 45 countries. Visit www.owu.edu for more information.