Student Research

Biology majors have the opportunity to conduct in-depth research with individual faculty members.  Students work closely with faculty and present their findings at regional and national meetings. “PC provides the opportunity to work through the scientific process in an easily accessible, closely knit community, contributing greatly to the educational experience of students,” states PC student Luke Gillam. “If students take the first step forward, the sky’s the limit for the valuable scientific endeavors obtainable in all of our science departments.” Biology students and faculty also participate in the PC Summer Fellows (PCSF) program where funds are available to support research in June and July.

Research Highlight: Rachael Parks

Rachael Parks conducted research on the differences between fish in the port of Charleston and their related species in Antarctica. She used DNA sequences to identify bacteria found in the intestines of fish from the continental shelf of the Southern Ocean (Antarctica) and compared them with the microbial communities in the guts of fish from Charleston. Rachael and fellow undergraduate Mariana Anderson were chosen to present their research at the National Conference of Undergraduate Research. Their work was done in collaboration with fellow undergraduate students William Moore and Jessica Cole and PC faculty member, Dr. Stuart Gordon.

Research Highlight: Luke Gillam

As a student who loves the outdoors, as well as animals, Luke chose to combine two of his interests in a research project on the implications of wolf reintroduction in Yellowstone National Park. Luke focused on the Trophic Cascade Theory – an ecological theory that establishes a basic food pyramid with carnivores on top, followed by herbivores and then plants. In Yellowstone’s ecosystem, the carnivores who occupy the top of the food systems are wolves. “According to the theory, wolves indirectly control the trees and plants, specifically aspen and willow trees, by changing the way elk behave or by changing elk population density. I was trying to evaluate whether that is actually occurring – whether the reintroduction of wolves is releasing plants from the pressure of constantly being eaten by the elk.” Luke took advantage of many opportunities available within the department and appreciates the close relationships with his professors.