Olivet zoology majors recognized for outstanding research

Woodpeckers and bumble bees continue to fascinate Honors Program students Kim Zralka and McKenna Conforti.

June 14, 2018 Uncategorized

Representing Olivet Nazarene University at the 2018 Illinois State Academy of Science annual meeting was an honor and an achievement for Honors Program students Kim Zralka and McKenna Conforti. The results of their first entries into the undergraduate zoology research poster competition were the best possible.

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Kim Zralka, now a senior zoology major, received the first place honor for the presentation of findings in her study of red-headed woodpeckers. The focus of her project is twofold: 1) investigate what factors are important in maintaining high populations of these birds; and 2) contribute to the success of conservation initiatives. In 2017, she received Olivet’s Pence-Boyce research grant for this study: “The effects of imperiled bur and black oak savanna habitat on red-headed woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus L.) population density and nest success.” She is continuing her research in summer 2018.

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McKenna Conforti, now a senior zoology major, placed second for her research on grazers and bumble bees at nearby Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. The focus of her work is to determine how different grassland management methods impact bumble bee communities, particularly those of conservation concern, like the declining American bumble bee and the endangered rusty-patched bumble bee. Her project was funded by Olivet’s Hippenhammer Grant and the Honors Program. She began her research in summer 2017 and is continuing her research in summer 2018. 

Dr. Derek Rosenberger, zoology professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, is the faculty mentor for both students. 

In August 2018, Kim and McKenna will present their research at the National Meeting of the Ecological Society of America, to be held in New Orleans. Olivet’s Mayhugh Travel Grant covers travel expenses for Kim, McKenna and Dr. Rosenberger to attend these meetings. Opportunities to connect with many science, research and education professionals, as well as other science students, are valuable for them.

“Olivet’s zoology program seeks to train students to conduct the best possible research in zoology,” says Dr. Rosenberger. “Our location in a region with critically endangered tallgrass prairie and oak savanna ecosystems provides access to many opportunities for research and observation of the fauna inhabiting these communities. The work Kim and McKenna are doing is important for effective care and conservation of God’s creation.”

To learn more about areas of study in zoology and the sciences at Olivet, contact the Office of Admissions at admissions@olivet.edu or 800-648-1463.

Photos submitted by Dr. Derek Rosenberger. Used with permission.

Published: 6/14/2018

Student on main campus wearing pink sweater and holding water bottle.

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