Wildlife biologists turn learning inside out

HANDS-ON: Whitney Priesmeyer, graduate biology student, holds a rat during a trapping at Cross Bar study site. Photo by Whitney Priesmeyer.

Andrea Findley
Prairie Editor

After lecture ends in the classroom, students in the wildlife biology program take their learning outside.

Even as an undergrad, students are invited to participate in field research conducted throughout the semester.

Through field research, Whitney Priesmeyer, graduate biology student, has developed skills to better prepare her for a career in biology.

Currently, Priesmeyer is working on a project that shows the effects that fire frequency has on small mammals in short grass prairie at the Cross Bar study site.

“You don’t really understand something until you actually do it,” Priesmeyer said. “Sometimes you have to improvise.”

To determine which small mammals are occupying each burn plot, Priesmeyer and her collegues use Sherman live traps to capture the animals. Each trap is checked after a 24-hour period and has cotton and oats inside.

Hands-on experience and access to research opportunities are strengths of the program, Priesmeyer said.

“We get our students involved,” Dr. Ray Matlack, professor said. “If students are really interested they can be involved in every part of science from collecting data to presenting and publishing their data.”

Students learn everything from sampling methods, marking small mammals and even how to drive a 4-wheel drive vehicle.

“Overall the program is challenging academically,” Matlack said. “We have fun in the classroom and during field work because we enjoy what we do.”

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