an e-newsletter for students and alumni of saint michael's biology department

Student Spotlight
Q & A with a biology major





Erin Doyle '09

Penfield, NY

Career Interests:
A position with the National Park service


What has your Saint Michael's experience been like, in particular your experience as a biology major?

Saint Michael's has been the perfect place for me to pursue an education. The combination of an Edmundite tradition and diversity of programs cemented my decision to attend and has influenced my happiness since. As a double major in history and biology I have always had the support of my professors who demonstrate that anything's possible with hard work.

Within the Biology department, I've been able to both focus in on the environmental biology track while still being exposed to other avenues within biology. Having a minor in environmental studies has added depth to my experience. Everything we study here is interrelated, which is a microcosm for the liberal arts environment of the college overall. I am energized by making links between disciplines and ideas.

Explain your research project.

This past summer was exciting, rewarding, and fun. I received a grant funded by the National Science Foundation from the Vermont Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) to work with Professor McCabe and five other Saint Michael's students on the Streams Project. We took samples of macroinvertebrates from Vermont streams in the Lake Champlain watershed and identified the organisms using taxonomic keys. We mastered valuable skills. Our results will serve as an indication of the streams' health because invertebrate groups can only live in certain conditions; dissolved oxygen, pollution levels, suspended sediment, and particles in the water all contribute to the livability of the stream. The sites vary due to land use classifications of agricultural, urban, or forested. Each member of the team will produce an original research project from our work, to be presented in April 2009. We are eager to contribute to expanding the involvement in undergraduate research at Saint Michaelís.

I know that the skills I learned on this project will influence my future work; attention to detail and determination play a huge role in the keying process. Simply having experience of identifying macroinvertebrates is marketable. It can definitely be an intimidating or frustrating task, especially for someone just starting out. The really unique element of this internship was that we taught students and teachers from 12 area schools the techniques that the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation uses in their Biomonitoring efforts. We've also built a website from photos of the macroinvertebrates we collected to be used as a teaching tool.

What are you planning to do after you graduate?

There are many ways to combine my passions of history and biology in an enthusiastic and informed environment to participate in a larger social context. Working with high school students and teachers on the Streams Project gave me hands-on experience with non-traditional teaching opportunities similar to those I would like to have in my career. The Streams Project internship was vital in narrowing the field of study to pursue on the graduate level that would fit my experience and interest.



Go Back