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Students to participate in research communication competition

March 30, 2017

Nicholls students will compete in Coastal Connections on April 3, 2017 in the Carnival Room of the Donald G. Bollinger Memorial Student Union.

Coastal Connections is a coastal research communication competition sponsored by the Louisiana Sea Grant. It is a modified version of the Three Minute Thesis developed by the University of Queensland. The competition is designed to showcase a student’s ability to explain his or her research topic to the general public.

“It’s really easy to talk to other ornithologists about what’s going on with seabirds, but it’s hard to talk to people who aren’t biologists and get them to care,” Megan Nepshinsky, graduate student from West Kingston, R.I., said. “We’re putting so much time and effort into our research because we want the public to be made aware of what’s going on.”

Students will have three minutes to effectively present their research topic and explain its significance using no more than two slides. Before the March 10 deadline, currently enrolled Nicholls graduate and undergraduate students conducting research relating to coastal issues were eligible for the competition.

Eleven students were chosen as finalists for Coastal Connections. Alexa Ballinger, Emily Bodin, Justin Brockmann, Kristen Chatelain, Kellyn LaCour-Conant, Ashleigh Lambiotte, Megan Nepshinsky, Drew Prejean, Alexis Rixner and Seth van Dexter are among the Nicholls undergraduate and graduate students set to present their research on Monday.

“I feel honored to be chosen for the competition,” Ashleigh Lambiotte, marine and environmental biology senior from Hoover, Ala., said. “I believe this is the first year we’ve had Coastal Connections, so I’m glad I could be a part of it, especially since I’m a senior and I won’t be here next year. I’m excited to participate.”

Lambiotte will be presenting her work on apple snails and their salinity tolerance.

“I’m specifically working with the species Pomacea maculate,” Lambiotte said. “If you go along the bayou or in the canals, you might see the actual snail. They lay their bright, pink eggs on the sides of ditches.”

After graduating from Nicholls, she’d like to take a year off and travel before heading out to Southern California for graduate school.

Nepshinsky is focusing her research on seabirds and hopes to contribute to the field of ornithology.

“I’m really passionate about birds, especially seabirds,” she said. “I want to contribute to the field by adding research that will hopefully influence their protection. I want to know more about them.”

Richard Grabert, graduate student from Thibodaux, is observing the effects tetracycline, an antibiotic, has on bacteria and the nitrogen cycle in sewage treatments.

“Sewage treatments remove excess nitrogen and carbon from sewage waste using bacteria,” Grabert said. “I’m looking at how antibiotics that might be in sewage are affecting that bacteria.”

Nepshinsky, Lambiotte and Grabert are no strangers to presenting their research at conferences. However, for Justin Brockmann, environmental biology senior from Ama, this will be his first time presenting his research to others.

“I feel like the baby beside everyone else,” Brockmann said. “Everyone else has presented their projects somewhere else, so I feel like I have the least amount of preparation. It’s my very first time presenting my work. I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to do research, but I’m glad I’m doing it.”

Brockmann is using frog call surveys from 2005 and the last two years to determine if species of frogs have declined in the past 12 years.

“Dr. LaFleur has been conducting this since 2005,” Brockmann said. “I’m compiling all of his data from 2005, the last two years and the data we’re collecting this year. I listen to the surveys and record the amount of frog species we hear during the surveys. It’ll help us determine if species are declining and give us insight as to why it may be happening.”

Bruce Murphy, Nicholls president, will work with Craig McCain, director of the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium, and Simone Maloz, director of Restore or Retreat, to judge the students research presentations.

The presenters will be judged based on their communication style, comprehension and how well they engage their audience. Three students will be awarded $500 for travel expenses. Although research can seem overwhelming for many, Nepshinsky encourages many to take part in research that involves anything they’re passionate about.

“Someone once told me that researching science is like a marathon, not a sprint,” she said. “You’re in it for the long hall. Obviously, you’re going to get tired, but you’ll just have to keep going. Know that every setback you have and every presentation that doesn’t go your way, you’re learning something from it.”

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