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Ferrum College Students Receive Research Grants from Appalachian College Association


Ferrum College Students Receive Research Grants from Appalachian College Association

One student will study jaguars in Belize, while another will measure the impact of prescribed burns on oak forests.

Ferrum, Va. (Feb. 29, 2012) – Ferrum College students Calista Fulcher, of Martinsville, and Michael Drews, of Sterling, have each been awarded a 2012 Appalachian College Association (ACA) Colonel Lee B. Ledford Award for Student Research. Drews will use the award money to study jaguars in Belize, while Fulcher will examine the impact of prescribed burns on a symbiotic fungus that grows on the roots of oak trees.

“It feels good to know I can sustain myself over the summer with a research grant,” said Drews, who found out about the award via e-mail. “I was pretty excited. I’ve always been interested in the study of big cats.”

Fulcher learned of her award from Ferrum College Associate Professor Todd Fredericksen, with whom she will work on the project.  “I said, ‘Oh great!’ when he told me I had been approved,” said Fulcher. “I had been looking for a research project that would propel me into a career in forestry after graduation and this seemed like an excellent research project.”

Fulcher will examine soil samples under a microscope to determine if fire has an impact on specific fungi that grow on the roots of oak trees beneath the earth’s surface. The trees depend upon the fungi to thrive, so understanding the impact of fire on the trees’ fungal partners is important. She will also test whether fire promotes the growth of other fungi that might be harmful to the trees. Fulcher’s work will take place in Franklin and Patrick Counties.

Drews will begin his work in May when he travels to Belize with a joint Ferrum College – Virginia Tech study abroad class taught by Ferrum College Assistant Professor Glen Stevens and Virginia Tech Associate Professor Marcella Kelly.  He will remain in Belize through August, working with Dr. Kelly.  Drews will assist Kelly in researching the impact of sustainable logging on jaguar populations. To measure this impact, they will use a wide variety of instruments including motion-activated game cameras.

A native of Harlan County, Kentucky, Colonel Lee B. Ledford was dedicated to providing Appalachian youth valuable educational opportunities outside the classroom. He established the Ledford Awards to support students enrolled at ACA member colleges studying a wide array of disciplines.

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