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Unity Students Win Best Undergraduate Research Presentation at NSF 2012 Maine EPSCoR State Conference

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Unity, Maine – September, 2012 – Unity College students Elizabeth Orcutt ’15 (left) and Taylor Follette ’15 won “best undergraduate poster” (research presentation) at the National Science Foundation (NSF) 2012 Maine EPSCoR State Conference. The presentation, entitled “Building Partnerships for Sustainability Solutions”, was awarded on September 24, 2012 at the Wells Conference Center of the University of Maine, Orono.

Orcutt and Follette, both double majors in Wildlife Biology and Biology, are student researchers with faculty at Unity College and study the impact of logging on hemlock-dominated forests. The students collected invertebrate diversity and environmental data during the summer for their project.

“We used the data to find the presence or absence of ant genera,” noted Orcutt.  The data was used to compare ant richness and ant abundance in logged and unlogged plots.  They also examined photosynthetically active radiation, also known as PAR, or the light that comes through the canopy and can be used for photosynthesis.

Additionally, the student researchers examined coarse wood, fine woody debris, and leaf litter.

“Comparing the data gathered at logged and unlogged plots was important because all four of these factors (coarse wood, fine woody debris, and leaf litter) influence the ant population,” explained Follette.  “We learned that there is a definite shift in the ant genera in the unlogged to logged plots in Waldo County.  This gives us information about how the ecosystem changes when hemlocks are gone.”

The hemlock study at Unity College is a long-term research project investigating the socioeconomic and ecological changes associated with the logging of hemlock in Maine and the invasive forest pest, hemlock woolly adelgid. Entering the fourth year of NSF-EPSCoR funding through the University of Maine, the hemlock study is addressing socioeconomic, wildlife and environmental issues around forest management. Unity faculty working on this project are Professor Amy Arnett, Associate Professor Erika Latty, Associate Professor Alysa Remsburg, Instructor Kathleen Dunckel, and Assistant Professor Brent Bibles.

Unity College is a private college in rural Maine that provides dedicated, engaged students with a liberal arts education which emphasizes the environment and natural resources. Unity College graduates are prepared to be environmental stewards, effective leaders, and responsible citizens through active learning experiences within a supportive community.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012