2011 Undergraduate Laerm Award Winners
One of the recipients of the 2011-12 Joshua Laerm Academic Support Award for Undergraduate Students is Todd Pierson, a junior majoring in Ecology. Todd was nominated by Dr. John Maerz, Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources. Todd will use the Laerm funds to develop the protocol for using environmental DNA (eDNA) to survey for patch-nose salamanders (Urspelerpes brucei). He will collect small water samples from a stream, extract the small amounts of DNA that are present (from shed skin cells, etc.), amplify the DNA sequences, and determine presence or absence of the species. This is a more cost-effective and timely method for surveying for salamanders and will allow him to determine if Urspelerpes occurs outside of its currently known range. Environmental DNA has the potential to revolutionize the way that herpetological surveys are done.
The other recipient of the 2011-12 Joshua Laerm Academic Support Award for Undergraduate Students is Luben Raytchev, a sophomore majoring in Biology. Luben was nominated by Dr. Michael Yabsley, Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources and the College of Veterinary Medicine. Lubenís study investigates associations between Haemogregarine (a leech-borne protozoan parasite) and the behaviorial ecology of bottom-dwelling and basking turtles in Georgia and other locations in this country and in Brazil. Funds will be used for field expenses and genetic characterization of the parasites.