This fall, senior SUST major and returning adult student Lindsey Sharp was awarded the prestigious Travis Foundation Scholarship at Roosevelt University, a competitive award given to 16 students each year. We asked Lindsey to reflect on what the award means to her and how it has impacted her studies this year.
As one of the recipients of the 2015-2016 Travis Foundation Scholarship award at Roosevelt, I am both honored and humbled at the chance to continue taking advantage of the amazing opportunities offered at RU and in the Sustainability Studies program. One of the opportunities I’ve most enjoyed began as a class (SUST 330 Biodiversity) at the Field Museum of Natural History; and thanks in part to the financial assistance from the Travis Award, I’ve been able to pursue an internship to complete my work there for Spring 2016.
The Field Museum is a maze of artifacts and the stories they tell, and this is nowhere more true than the research facilities located on the upper floors. Under the direction of Dr. Julian Kerbis Peterhans, I’ve spent this semester working in the mammals lab on some original research into specimens collected from the Lolldaiga Ranch site in Laikipia, Kenya. Owl pellets collected from the site are a fantastic example of how biodiversity can be found everywhere — owl pellets are chock-full of all kinds of bones from the small rodents and mammals the owls eat!
My job is to develop a key for the identification of small rodents found at the site based on their alveoli patterns, which are the sockets in the jaw where molar roots are secured. Ideally we would be able to identify species based on their teeth; but the process of digestion and excretion can be pretty tough on such small bones, and many specimens are missing most (if not all) of their molars.
Having such an identification key allows small rodent specimens from the area to be easily classified to at least the genus level, and thus enables us to paint a picture of what types of species are active in the area. In time, I hope this information will be useful in comparison to past and future data in order to observe possible changes in the area’s diversity of species.
As a returning adult student, it isn’t always so easy to juggle a full-time job, a full course load, and family responsibilities — so something like the Travis Award that makes the process even just a little easier has been a gift that I am thankful for every day. The Travis Award has even opened up opportunities that previously I thought were closed to me, and I’ve recently considered continuing my biodiversity and conservation research by applying to graduate school to study conservation ecology.