Biology Symposium Spring 2024

Biology Symposium Spring 2024

Govs biology students had a unique opportunity to showcase their scientific research and presentation skills at a recent biology symposium hosted at the Bill '67 and Peter '71 Alfond Coastal Research Center on campus. The Alfond Center, which opened in the fall of 2023, provided a unique setting for the event. Its location on the banks of the Parker River, aquatic laboratory, and classrooms serve as a perfect base for the students, faculty, and community organizations to conduct their research and academic work. The Bass Institute at the Alfond Center, which serves as the intellectual center of experiential teaching and research initiatives at Govs, goes beyond science. The Alfond Center and Bass Institute generate innovative intellectual experiences across the Governor's curriculum and for scientific research partners along the eastern seaboard.

For their year-end project, Governor's Biology and Honors Biology students took the initiative to select a biological topic of interest and conduct an in-depth study in preparation for the biology symposium. They then created a research poster that detailed their understanding of the subject and citations from published scientific studies to support their thesis. Honors Biology students went a step further, presenting websites (Wiki pages) summarizing their conclusions from fieldwork and data collected from the culvert near the Alfond Center in the Great Marsh in its pre-removal state last spring. The students were thrilled to learn that the data from their research will help inform a scientific assessment of the culvert removal's success.

The Academy's biology faculty team, Erika Mitkus, Bert McLain P'07, '09, and Louise Nelson P'26, recruited faculty and staff volunteers to play a crucial role in the symposium. Volunteers interviewed students about their projects and assessed them based on a rubric of questions to gauge their expertise in their chosen research topic.

Volunteers were impressed by the students' range of research topics, depth of knowledge and investigation, and presentation skills.

"This is my second year as an interviewer for the Biology Symposium," said the Academy's Environmental and Safety Manager, Wendy Reed. "I'm happy to volunteer for this event because I find the breadth and depth of topics covered by these first-year students to be pretty remarkable, as well as interesting science in its own right. It's also a wonderful opportunity for students to learn how to share and defend their ideas to adults, and I find it rewarding to support that process."

It was evident that students also enjoyed the experience of researching a topic, testing their knowledge, and sharing it with an engaged and curious audience. 

The range of topics was truly impressive. More than 60 posters filled the aquatic lab, lobby, workshop, deck, and classrooms of the Alfond Center, several of which will remain on display through Reunion Weekend for alumni to enjoy.


Examples of place-based projects include: 

How do purple crabs affect the ecology of New England marshes?

The effects of tides on invertebrates in the marsh

Examples of other research projects:

How do trees communicate?

Ecological impacts of honeybee decline

Reviving and reintroducing extinct species

How do whales evolve?

How can jellyfish thrive on the surface and depths of the ocean floor?

The genetics of blue chicken eggs

Possibility of silicon-based life

How do nuclear explosions impact the genetics of a population and their offspring?

Do marine protected areas work?