Press-Republican

January 24, 2013

Area researchers gather to discuss their work

By ASHLEIGH LIVINGSTON
Press-Republican

---- — PLATTSBURGH — For many, the Adirondack region serves as a venue for outdoor recreation and sightseeing, but for others, it’s a laboratory. 

Scientific researchers from throughout the region gathered recently at SUNY Plattsburgh, where they shared with one another some of the research being conducted in the area.

The Adirondack Research Symposium was open to individuals who wished to attend or speak on a topic of research and included presenters from the University of Vermont, SUNY Plattsburgh, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the Adirondack Park Agency and other institutions. 

CASUAL ATMOSPHERE

Eileen Allen, secretary of the Adirondack Research Consortium and Geographic Information Systems coordinator at SUNY Plattsburgh’s Center for Earth and Environmental Science, organized the symposium with the intent of providing researchers the opportunity to make professional connections and share their study interests. 

“By having a mix of people, we can start seeing potential collaborations that we might not see otherwise,” Allen told the Press-Republican. “It also gets us kind of pumped up about what’s going on in the area.”

The idea for the event, Allen said, was born out of a small lunch-time seminar at which Rachel Schultz, assistant professor of earth and environmental science at SUNY Plattsburgh, shared some of her research with colleagues, generating much discussion among them. 

Those who attended Schultz’s seminar wished to create a similar, relaxed atmosphere for other researchers to come together and discuss their work, as opposed to the more formal atmosphere that can be found at many research conferences. 

“What we wanted to do was something just a little more casual,” Allen said. 

CITIZEN SCIENCE

Among the first to present at the symposium was Danielle Garneau, Ph.D, also an associate professor of earth and environmental science at SUNY Plattsburgh, who told attendees about three smart-phone applications she’s created to bolster her efforts to collect data on roadkill and live wildlife sightings. 

Using the application platform EpiCollect, Garneau launched RoadkillGarneau, WildlifeBlitzGarneau and TrackingWildlifeGarneau, which allow users to upload photos of wildlife and roadkill they come across and input information about the location of their finds from their mobile device. EpiCollect then compiles the submitted data and allows users to download it into tables and maps for analysis.

Garneau’s projects are an example of a field known as citizen science, which encourages non-scientists to get involved in and contribute to research. 

”It really is a pretty neat field that’s growing,” Garneau told the audience. 

More information about Garneau’s applications, including how to install them on one’s smart phone, is available at sites.google.com/site/daniellegarneau/.

’SPECIAL EVENT’

Other presenters included the director of SUNY Plattsburgh’s Lake Champlain Research Institute, Dr. Timothy Mihuc, who spoke about his studies of plankton and invasive species in Lake Champlain, and Dana Allen, a graduate student at the University of Vermont, who talked about his efforts to remove phosphorous from the waste-water stream of a Vermont cheese factory. 

In addition, Schultz told symposium attendees about her study of the effects plants have on the ecosystem functions of freshwater wetlands, as well as an experiment on decomposition being conducted at SUNY Plattsburgh and across the nation. 

“The participants really made this a special event,” Allen told the Press-Republican, adding that she has received positive feedback from those who attended. 

“I think there were a lot of really neat, new connections made.”

Email Ashleigh Livingston:

alivingston@pressrepublican.com