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  April 23, 2001

Biology Grad Students Organize
Day-Long Research Symposium

Eighteen graduate students spent a Saturday last month sharing their research with fellow classmates, faculty and the community at the 11th Annual Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Graduate Student Symposium.

The day-long symposium organized by graduate students in ecology and evolutionary biology has become a well established tradition in the department. It offers an opportunity for students to present research projects and papers to their peers and faculty, and provides a venue for faculty to learn more about students' research.

Modeled after national programs, the symposium has moderators and strict time schedules: each speaker has a 15-minute slot; 12 minutes for the talk, and three for questions.

Greg Anderson, professor and department head of ecology and evolutionary biology, says the event has been "very professional and successful over the years, and this one was no exception."

Michael Wall says the symposium is a welcome opportunity for students. "For many students, this might be the first time they've ever presented in front of a group of their peers," says Wall, a second-year graduate student working on his Ph.D., who was one of this year's organizers. "It's good practice for students who will eventually present at national meetings, and it's a friendly audience."

Presenters ranged from first-year graduate students to those completing their doctorates. The projects they presented were at a variety of stages, ranging from research they were thinking about doing, to work completed over the course of the summer, to thesis-related papers with results and conclusions.

Topics included "Ethnobotanical Uses of Plants Among Creoles of North Central Belize" and "The Effects of Feeding on the Territorial Behavior of the Green Frog."

Rob Dunn, a third-year Ph.D. candidate, says the symposium has given him a broader range of feedback than he would otherwise have. "Usually I get feedback from a few other students or my committee members," Dunn adds. "This gives me a chance to hear from 30 other faculty members, who may not know about my research."

Students also get a chance to learn about each other's research. "Despite the fact that we talk to each other all the time, we often don't know a lot about what other students are doing," he says.

Janine Caira, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology who has attended many of these symposiums, is impressed with the competency of the students. "The students do the entire event. All we have to do is show up," she says.

Faculty also use the symposium to showcase the department. Top prospective graduate students are invited to visit the campus that weekend and are encouraged to attend. "It gives them a chance to meet our students and see what kind of research they're doing," Anderson says. Eight prospective students attended this year.

The event is sponsored by the Graduate Student Senate, the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and the department's graduate student association.

Sherry Fisher

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