Students present at 24th Annual Blue Ridge Undergraduate Research Conference

April 12, 2017

Wildlife biology majors Shelby Reynolds and Christopher “Ryan” Hill presented their senior research projects on Friday, April 7, during the 24th Annual Blue Ridge Undergraduate Research Conference at Union College in Barbourville, Kentucky.

Undergraduate students from throughout the region submitted brief abstracts and were selected to present their scholarly work in either oral or poster presentations. Institutions represented at this year’s conference included Davis & Elkins College, King University, Lees-McRae College, Lincoln Memorial University, Milligan College, Ohio Valley University, Tusculum College, Union College and the University of Virginia–Wise.

Hill’s presentation titled, “Fish behavior influenced by light color and cover type”, was part of an independent research project under the mentorship of Lees-McRae Assistant Professor of Biology and Assistant Dean of National and Behavioral Sciences, Sean Collins.

His study centered on whether local freshwater fish species exhibited various behaviors when exposed to different light and plant colors. Hill discovered that both redbreast sunfish and bluegill sunfish spent more time in red light than blue light. According to Hill, this could potentially be explained by behavior while spawning, hunting or in avoiding predators.

Reynolds’ talk titled, “Monitoring the environmental response to a chemical spill on two rivers in North Carolina”, required Reynolds to collect small, freshwater macroinvertebrates and monitor dissolved oxygen levels in the French Broad and Laurel rivers to determine whether the overall health of the rivers was affected by the accidental release of a chemical contaminant in late 2016.

According to Reynolds’ research, no lasting effects were noted in the waterways.

Similar to Hill’s research, Reynolds’ project was also carried out under the mentorship of Collins.

During the conference, Assistant Professor of Biology and Dean of Natural and Behavioral Sciences, Billy Carver, moderated a discussion panel that addressed projects in biology and chemistry.

“I thought the conference was incredible,” Carver said. “It was clear from the quality of the talks and poster presentations that students from all over the region had put a lot of effort into their research.”

Of course, Carver was especially proud of Hill and Reynolds’ work.

“They were very knowledgeable about their field, and it was clear that they had worked closely with Dr. Collins to present their data professionally,” he said. 

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