Thursday, December 19, 2019

STIP Student Brian Kochan Studies Ecology and Forensic Entomology

I was initially interested in the summer impact project “Ecology meets Forensic Entomology” because a staff member I work with during the school year on a native grasses and bee research project suggested I apply. Given my general interest in entomology and succession community dynamics, I felt the project would give me great research experience and improve my ability to identify, organize, and analyze entomology samples. Although I did not have direct interest in forensic science, medical entomology and public health have always been of interest to me, and this summer seemed like an opportunity to widen my horizons in interdisciplinary work. The skills I would learn this summer about how to conduct research will be important as I begin graduate school after graduating this Fall 2019. I would also like to continue working on projects involving invertebrates and their conservation and applications in ecology in the future, and this project gave me great experience with identification and general knowledge of forensically significant taxa such as Calliphoridae, Sarcophagidae, Muscidae and Fannidae flies and Staphylyndae and Silphidae beetles.

During the first 2 weeks of the OSCAR summer impact program we spent almost all of our time in the field at the Clifton Institute, placing 48 carcasses under emergence tents to collect samples. We returned daily to check on the samples, record observations and collect samples to be stored in ethanol and brought back to the lab. Once the initial collection was completed, we spent our following weeks in the lab working together to identify the forensically significant members of the samples, pinning specimen for collections, and discussing our hypothesis.

During this experience I discovered my strengths and weaknesses regarding research and made a plan for this coming semester to improve certain research skills during my internship such as grant application, budgeting grant money, writing proposals, and general science communication skills. By setting these objectives, I will improve my chances of being successful in graduate school and beyond.