School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences students win awards at this year’s This is Research: Student Symposium

Four students from the Auburn University School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences received awards at this year’s This is Research: Student Symposium.

The This is Research: Student Symposium provides a venue for graduate and undergraduate students from Auburn University and Auburn University at Montgomery to present research and creative projects to the broader academic community.

Two SFWS graduate students, Diego Maldonado and Benjamin McKenzie, received awards for their presentations on the development of new materials for water remediation utilizing wood-derived products and the ability of the Asian Tiger Mosquito to carry and transmit Zika virus, respectively.

Maldonado, graduate research assistant for the Forest Products Development Center, was the poster presentation winner for the SFWS. He presented research on how he and other members of his lab, advised by SFWS Assistant Professor Maria Soledad Peresin, used a nanocellulose-based system to capture microcystin, a toxin related to liver cancer that is found in many water sources.

McKenzie, a graduate research assistant in the Disease Ecology Lab, said winning the oral presentation award highlights the significance of studying the Asian Tiger Mosquito’s ability to transmit Zika virus. “Winning this award meant a lot to my lab and me, as it highlights the importance of our work to public health both in the state of Alabama and globally,” he said.

Also, two SFWS undergraduate students majoring in wildlife ecology and management, Hannah Short and Alisia Diamond, received awards for their presentations on Toxoplasmosis gondii, a common parasite found in cat feces. Short gave a poster presentation evaluating the parasite’s presence in wild pigs and Diamond gave an oral presentation on the prevalence of Toxoplasmosis gondii in resident and migratory songbirds in the southeastern United States.

Each of the students appreciate the significance of receiving awards at the symposium. “As I have only been here around nine months, this first award showed me that the research I am doing is appreciated and useful, and is a reminder that there is still much more to do,” said Maldonado.

McKenzie’s advisor, SFWS Associate Professor of Disease Ecology Sarah Zohdy, believes the This is Research: Student Symposium is one of the best ways for both undergraduate and graduate students to gain experience presenting research. “I always encourage my students who are doing research to present. It’s a very good opportunity to get good feedback,” she said.

SFWS students received approximately one-third of the awards presented at the 2018 This is Research: Student Symposium.

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