Forestry, Fisheries, & Wildlife ‘22
The Gray Lab: Aquatic Physiological Ecology
Katherine is currently a senior majoring in Forestry, Fisheries, & Wildlife with a specialization in Fisheries & Wildlife. During her time in SENR, she has been involved in the Best Food Forward organization, the OSU chapter of the Fish and Wildlife Society, and the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation. She also participated in research focused on how increasing nutrient inputs in water affected the foraging success of Ohio Sunfish by reducing water clarity. After graduation, Katherine is interested in pursuing a career focusing on research, specifically aquatic animals.
Read the full interview with Katherine:
A Glance at Katherine’s Research
What research were you involved in?
I am currently a member of Dr. Suzanne Gray’s aquatic physiology ecology lab, which focuses on the taxonomy and behavior of fish. My project focused on how increasing nutrient inputs in water, whether algal or sedimentary, affected the foraging success of Ohio Sunfish by reducing water clarity. During last autumn I drafted a project proposal and researched different funding options. I then began refining my project outline while also applying to funding sources through the university, such as the Undergraduate Research Apprentice Program (URAP) and the STEP program. Once I began to conduct my project over the summer, I had two people (a first-year graduate student and an instructional aide of the school) helping me. As the lead person I needed to look for materials and supplies along with coordinating with the others in conducting experimentation and in fish capture.
How did you hear about this opportunity?
After my freshman year I wanted to explore my professional interests in the environmental community, so I enrolled in the SENR Honors program research track my sophomore year and began contacting professors to see what type of work they were involved in. Dr. Gray’s work was the one that enticed me the most, so I began to get introduced to the operations of the lab and look into what my project could be.
What aspect of your research do you feel was most valuable in your professional development?
Undoubtedly the assistance of my fellow lab members was invaluable to me while completing my first ever research project, especially during these times. Being able to coordinate with other people, even those with the same experience as you, allows for any project issues or ideas to be looked at from different perspectives and a solution to be found.
Were there any challenges you faced in getting involved in research and how did you overcome them?
Originally, the plan was to focus on the invasive vs. native species reaction distance response to turbidity increases between Lake Erie Round Goby (Neogobius melanostomus) and Bluegill Sunfish (Lepomis macrochirus) respectively in clear, sediment, and algal conditions. However, the OSU Stone Lab facility in Put-In-Bay was closed to researchers for the summer due to COVID restrictions. Therefore, the focus shifted to measuring the differences in reaction distance between Bluegill and Green Sunfish (Lepomis cyanellus) in sediment and clear conditions in Columbus, Ohio. The experiment was conducted at the mesocosm site at the OSU Schiermer Olentangy River Wetland Research Park. We used the outdoor tanks there to hold the fish we needed for the experiment and trials were done in a shed on the site. The process was nerve wracking, as I was worried I wouldn't be able to do my project, but I needed to be flexible and kept communicating with my advisor for any alternative options I could do. We were able to pivot to my current project.
What advice would you give to someone who is hoping to get involved in research?
For those wanting to pursue research, especially during unique circumstances such as this, it would be advisable to be flexible and keep an open mind with your project. When completing a research project of any sort anything can happen, you may have an original idea you are excited about and want to do but then you may have to change it due to outside influences or while troubleshooting the layout of the experiment. Doing research work requires a lot of trial and error and it’s why having people to work with is invaluable.
College Life and Beyond
What else have you been involved in during college?
I was also a participant in the Second-Year Transformational Experience (STEP) program. I am also a member of the Best Food Forward organization as its Director of Funding and a member of the OSU chapter of the Fish & Wildlife Society. Finally, I am part of the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation, a scholars group for STEM students belonging to underrepresented groups.
What are your career aspirations?
I feel as if pursuing a career focusing on research, specifically aquatic animals, may be a part of my future. However, I would still like to explore other options such as pursuing internship opportunities with the EPA, ODNR, or the US Fish & Wildlife Service as I begin to work on my thesis and complete my undergraduate degree next spring. I hope that if I do decide to pursue research in the future either as a Master or PhD student, I will be able to do the project I originally intended to pursue up at Lake Erie.
What skills are you learning now that you could transfer to those career aspirations?
My time working on my project and in the lab helped to strengthen my critical thinking, communication, time management, and organization skills which will translate well towards my career aspirations. In terms of more technical skills, I am learning how to utilize the R and R studio statistical programing software system for data analysis and in graphing design, a skill that is becoming increasingly relevant in the professional environmental field. As for animal handling skills, I am learning vital fish care techniques and fish identification.
How to connect with Katherine:
Post created November 2021