Past and Future
For Alumni and Future Alumni
Here is the 5-8 sentence statement about how we care for our students once they have left the "bubble." Please end with something regarding examples of alumni. There will be three links below (eventuially four with our first SUST majors leaving. The links will be "Alumni working on Genes & Cells," "Alumni working on Organisms," and "Alumni working on Ecosystems."
What have our Alumni been doing?
ORGANISMAL & ECOSYSTEMS
Cameron Rutt '08 Summa Cum Laude graduate
Biology major: On residing and working on the island of Borneo, Southeast Asia
Lions and tigers and bears? How about leeches, leopards, and pit vipers? Collecting data from bird’s nests in Borneo, Southeast Asia comes with unexpected dangers and welcome rewards for this biology alum from Messiah College.
On daily treks through the Bornean jungle, a region known for its unparalleled biodiversity, Cameron Rutt analyzes bird nests to capture data on avian lifespan, gestation periods, number of offspring, and more. His work, part of a National Science Foundation research project, is far from typical. From peeling dozens of leeches from his feet and ankles (and occasionally from his belly button), to sharing space with masses of cockroaches, and even sidestepping snakes tucked snugly in birds’ nests, Rutt finds himself in a world far removed from Grantham, yet one always close to his heart.
“Fieldwork does not go without its perils and hitches,” says Rutt. “I’ve encountered pit-vipers, skimmed by leopards and orangutans sleeping on riverside branches, and even had parasites from a nest infect my scalp.” Yet, according to Rutt, life on the world’s third largest island has its rewards: such as chasing down Bornean endemics (species found only in Borneo) like the Barbet, Blue Flycatcher, and Whitehead’s Spiderhunter. Even the unusual Rafflesias catches Rutt’s attention. The species is credited as having the largest individual weight of any flowering plant. “But the most interesting thing about the Rafflesias is that it smells like rotting flesh!” he exclaims.
On a break from work, Rutt and friends visit Gomantong Caves—limestone caves teeming with millions of bats and nesting swiftlets whose byproduct—guano—accumulates in mounds on the floors and walls. Massive populations of cockroaches scurry along the walks ways and handrails, oblivious to locals in pursuit of swiftlets nests, a culinary delicacy composed entirely of saliva. Says Rutt of the adventure, “The caves were wonderfully disgusting, absolutely filthy, and lose-your appetite intriguing.”
Photos: Cameron Rutt peering through a spotting scope (top); a female Whitehead's Trogon (middle); banding a Bornean Whistler (bottom).
Lori Price '08 Magna Cum Laude graduate
Biology: Virginia Institute of Marine Science – Graduate Student
Research in Antarctica
I'm in my second year as a graduate student at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science with Deborah Steinberg as my major advisor. My thesis title is: Microzooplankton community structure and grazing impact along the Western Antarctic Peninsula. My research is part of the Palmer Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) project (http://pal.lternet.edu/), which is a multi-disciplinary project that has been studying the marine ecosystem west of the Antarctic Peninsula since 1991. Debbie is a co-PI on the project. There is a research cruise in January every year to collect data, and a few researchers stay at Palmer Station (the US base on the Antarctic Peninsula) for the entire season (Oct-March). I went on the cruise in 2009 as a technician, then became a grad student on the project. I collected data for my thesis research on the cruise in 2010, and this year I'll be going back for the cruise and then staying at Palmer Station until the end of March to finish my data collection.