Samantha Steele

Students’ Perceptions of the Societal and Personal Implications of Education Regarding Concepts of Evolution

My experience in the EBIO honors program was very enriching. I had the opportunity to gain direct mentorship and insight from EBIO professors while maintaining agency over my own project.  This program helped me develop confidence and many skills pertinent to academia and research, and I am very proud of what I was able to produce.

Rachel Rigden

The Effect of Experimental habit Fragmentation on the Generalist Predator, the Funnel-web Spider Atrax sutherlandi

I am an EBIO honors student graduating this spring. Spending the latter part of my college career on my honors thesis in the Davies Lab has been an incredibly fulfilling experience. Broadly, I looked at the effects of habitat fragmentation on (1) abundance and distribution, (2) trophic position, and (3) stable isotopic niche of the funnel-web spider, Atrax sutherlandi, in a large-scale, long-term habitat fragmentation experiment in southeastern Australia. Working with Dr. Kendi Davies, as well as other collaborators in the Davies Lab, has been such a unique, amazing opportunity. This research, including super cool fieldwork in Australia, has sparked my passion for ecology, and I hope to continue working in this field post-graduation!

Michael Procko

Quantitative Conservation of the Gray Wolf (Canis lupus): Implications of Monitoring and Modeling the Yellowstone Wolves

I am most interested in quantitative conservation biology as it relates to apex carnivores. I am not officially associated with any lab in particular, but much of my work has been done under the supervision of Dr. Dan Doak of the Environmental Studies department.

I was hesitant to affiliate myself with honors upon my admission to CU, because my high school career was plagued with AP classes and I just wanted to relax and enjoy my time here. However, I think it’s really important that we recognize doing an honors thesis and enjoying your time at CU are not mutually exclusive. Sure, you’ll have to sacrifice a weekend or two of going out to get the necessary work done. But if you find something you’re really passionate about, and you’re even slightly interested in making that into a thesis, I would encourage you to greatly consider this. I didn’t give in to the thought of doing a thesis until the summer before my senior year, so if you’re still questioning it, that’s totally fine. But I think a lot of people will over-emphasize the struggles of the thesis more than is realistic. Not to mention the benefits of graduating with honors are immense, and will certainly highlight your strength in the department.

Max Wasser

Using High-Resolution Snowpack Models to Explain Patterns of Habitat Loss for the American Pika

I'm Max and I love pikas! Pursuing research has been an integral part of my college education for the past 3 1/2 years. My research has focused on changes in the distribution of climatically suitable habitat available to the American pika. I have worked closely with Dr. Chris Ray for this research, and cannot express enough gratitude to her, the EBIO department, and the various other institutions that have come together to provide me with the opportunities to do field research in Colorado's beautiful alpine settings. 

Kelsey Beckrich

Thesis Title: Pollination ecology in Penstemon: mechanisms of reproductive isolation in Penstemon virens and Penstemon secundiflorus

Going into the Honors program, I expected a very difficult, rigorous experience with lots of stress, sleep deprivation, and public speaking. Consequently, 90% of me didn't want to enroll in the Honors program. But I received a lot of support from my mentor and strongly believe college is a time to challenge ourselves: as one of my professors told her class, "You don't grow in your comfort zone." Once the program began, I quickly realized that the process of writing and defending a thesis wasn't a tear-down experience; we all struggled with the same anxieties and challenges, and the program really exists to build students up. It was an incredibly rewarding and humbling experience to hear about my peers' research and defend my thesis. Really, learning about the work other students were invested in was my favorite part.

For other people who are considering the Honors program, it is challenging but very constructive. If you're like me and think "I hate public speaking; I can't do that," it's not insurmountable. The public speaking portions of the program is only a small part and, in exchange, I got to meet some exceptional students and defend my thesis to eminent scientists from whom I have learned so much beyond the thesis writing and defense process itself.

Johanne Albrigtsen

Thesis Title: A Stable Isotopic Study of Gnamma Hydrology in the Colorado Rocky Mountains

Conducting an independent research project that culminated in a departmental honors thesis for EBIO was the most valuable experience in my undergraduate education at CU. An honors thesis is a great glimpse into the world of original research!

Dylan Rose

Thesis Title: Infection patterns and pathology of cymothoid parasite Olencira praegustator in its primary host, the commercially important Atlantic menhaden

The undergraduate honors thesis is an incredible opportunity that allows students to collaborate with experts on campus and engage in data collection/field work outside of the classroom setting. Completing my thesis in the Johnson Laboratory was a stimulating and engaging process that provided me with the necessary tools to move forward in ecological research after graduation. My research questions brought me to the beautiful salt marshes of South Carolina to study a crustacean parasite in the family Cymothoidae. There over 380 species of cymothoid parasites that infect fish, skates, and rays in freshwater and saltwater habitats all over the world. Pictured above is an Atlantic menhaden infected with obligate parasite Olencira praegustator. I spent the summer of 2017 collecting data on these species' interactions, contributing to the growing pool of cymothiod data. Understanding more about this pervasive parasite's effect on its hosts fitness could inform future management decisions of the Atlantic Menhaden fish stock--the most important fishery in the American Atlantic.

Daniel Bergholz

Thesis Title: A Fresh Coat of Paint on Evolution Education Graffiti as a Model System for Observing Natural Selection in the Classroom

Completing an honors thesis was the most rewarding and beneficial work I've done at CU. The training wheels come off so that learning and doing could become one. This academic freedom was exciting, and creating something unique is an experience truly worth the effort.

Audrey Oweimrin

Thesis Title: Toxoplasma gondii: Antibody Prevalence and Risk Factors in CU Boulder Students

Conducting primary research and writing an honors thesis was one of the hardest things I did in college, but it was definitely the most rewarding. Seeing a project through from the earliest stages of study design to experimentation and results was extremely challenging but very satisfying. Doing an honors thesis taught me that perseverance and hard work pays off, and has given me skills that are applicable to any career. 

Alix Knight

Thesis Title: Composition of Cultivatable Methylotrophic Communities Through a Soil Depth Profile

The EBIO honors program helped me get my foot in the door to explore my options in becoming a scientist. Without it, I would not have been able to find my place in a lab to gain the knowledge and experiences needed to go further in my field of choice. It's more than just completing a course; it gives you a feel for graduate studies and helps you develop useful and marketable skills for starting a career.

Emily Monk

Thesis Title: Pika Response to Microhabitats on Niwot Ridge

Completing an honors thesis has been the best decision I made in my college career. I was so lucky to be able to be mentored by Dr. Chris Ray, and have learned so much about how science works in fieldwork, data analysis, and communicating results. I was able to spend a summer doing fieldwork on Niwot Ridge assisting Dr. Ray with her research and conducting my own project on pikas. For me, this fieldwork was the perfect way to combine my passions for biology and the mountains, and has inspired me to pursue this type of work in the future. I have also appreciated all that I have learned in analyzing my data from the field, and writing and defending the thesis itself. I never knew how cool it could be to turn a series of numbers or measurements into a graph that shows relationships in a meaningful way, and have came to love reading different papers about what other researchers have found. This project has given me the opportunity to apply my knowledge of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and experience science in a way not possible in my coursework, and I would do it again in a heartbeat. The process took a lot of hard work and determination, but was not as scary a thing as I imagined it would be; I even had a lot of fun and enjoyed myself along the way. I may be a bit biased, but I think pikas are the cutest study subjects in the world - what's not to love?

Published: June 13, 2018