Students, faculty attend Ohio Naturalists’ Conference in Columbus

Whether it was a discussion on spiders, millipedes or assassin bugs, Derek Hennen ’12 (Little Hocking, Ohio) was soaking in every bit of the 2012 Ohio Naturalists’ Conference in Columbus.

Dr. Katy Lustofin, Assistant Professor of Biology, and Dr. Dave McShaffrey, Professor of Biology, joined Hennen at the Feb. 11 conference that marked the 100th anniversary for the Ohio Biological Survey.

Hennen was pleased to present research from his senior capstone project as the conference theme was “Citizen Science.” The conference also provided new insight into the importance of amateur naturalists for the development of ideas.

“It was such a rush to be presenting at the conference,” Hennen said. “I was juiced up and couldn’t sit still.”

Hennen made a poster presentation on “A Biological Survey of the Assassin Bugs (Hemiptera: Reduviidae) at the Barbara A. Beiser Field Station.” He was the lead author, while McShaffrey was the second.

“The assassin bugs are ambush predators that lie or wait, or even stalk their prey before striking at them,” said Hennen, who reported on seven species of these predatory insects found at the field station. “It’s pretty hard core.”

Hennen’s work marks the first official research to come out of the Barbara A. Beiser Field Station, which occupies 2,000 feet of riverbank on the Little Muskingum River about five miles east of campus.

McShaffrey said the station is used for a number of purposes, including classes such as Flowering Plants, Field Biology Techniques, Lower Plants and Zoology.

Lustofin also presented a poster on millipedes that fluoresce under UV light. She was the lead author, while Hennen was the second and McShaffrey the third.

McShaffrey also presented a paper on the Ohio Odonata Survey, an effort that several Marietta College students participated in during the 1990s. Marietta College was also recognized for its contribution to the Ohio Spider Survey.

The conference was a positive experience for Hennen as well as the faculty members.

“The conference allows students and faculty to interact with scientists from other institutions,” McShaffrey said. “There are also a number of potential employers there, as well as opportunities for internships.”

Undergraduate research is of particular importance to those in the Department of Biology.

“The best tools we can give our students are the skills needed to find interesting questions to investigate,” McShaffrey said. “This is critical thinking as applied in the scientific world, and a good research project is the best way to learn those skills.”

Hennen is appreciative of the undergraduate research opportunities afforded to him at Marietta.

“Participating in research as an undergraduate is the most important thing I’ve done in my college career, especially since it was research that I designed myself,” he said. “I gained an understanding of what a scientific study takes.”

Marietta College also had five other students — Megan Oxley ’14 (Clarksburg, N.J.), Alycia Kime ’14 (Sicklerville, N.J.), Christina Beltran Revilla ’13 (Pittsburgh, Pa.), MaLisa Spring ’14 (Zanesville, Ohio) and Brittany Morris ’15 (Mineral Wells, W.Va.) — attend the conference.