Saturday, November 9, 2019

STIP Student Kim Mai Studies Carrion Insect Communities During Postmortem Decomposition.

My goal after my Junior year was to pursue research at Mason. I really wanted to gain hands on experience and expand my knowledge to help me pursue a higher education past my undergraduate studies. I found that opportunity through OSCAR’s Summer Team Impact Project. With my knowledge as a Biology major and having read Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, I joined Dr. van der Ham’s Ecology meets Forensic Entomology project. This project allowed me to study carrion insect communities during postmortem decomposition.

The first few weeks consisted of fieldwork were my teammates and I collected samples of carrion insects from decomposing rats, mice, and rabbit carcasses. The following weeks consisted of us identifying carrion and analyzing the data to test our hypothesizes. My hypothesis was on whether carcasses of different sizes have different carrion communities. This relates to how pig carcasses are often used in forensic entomology studies to emulate human carcasses, but pigs and cadavers are different in size. By analyzing the data, we collected, it was found that there was correlation.

What I found very impactful when working on this project was the importance of teamwork. While my teammates and I all had our different hypothesizes to study, we were all collecting data together and helping each other during this project. What I enjoyed most was hearing everyone’s point of view on the project, as most of us were pursing different majors and had a lot of different insight. I also got to learn so much from Dr. van der Ham, and his enthusiasm for this project made it a great experience. Overall, I can confidently say that I could not have had a better summer experience.