Bitten by botany bug: Environmental major researches 'scars'

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State offers a wide variety of summer internship opportunities to its students. For senior Dylan Kubina, one of the most important guidelines for her research is a simple one -- don’t forget the bug spray.

Kubina, an Environmental Resource Management major in the College of Agricultural Sciences from State College is conducting a botanical survey of central Pennsylvania's pingo scar regions.

Today, pingo scars are swamp-like geological features left behind from Pennsylvania's last glacial period, around 15,000 years ago. During this era, the scars developed in patches of permafrost that were at least 5 meters thick, creating ecosystems that aren't found anywhere else in the state. Kubina is the first to conduct a botanical survey of these unique environments.

"I submitted a research proposal with the help of my mentor in the Environmental Resource Management program," Kubina said. "Since then she has helped me a lot with learning how to identify the different kinds of plants we have been observing in the pingo scar regions."

Locations where pingo scarring has been found include R.B. Winter State Park and Rothrock State Forest. Kubina spoke about some of the challenges her research has presented.

"The hardest thing probably has been learning the Latin names of all of the plants we are identifying. Also, since the regions are so swampy, there are bugs everywhere. Even when I use the strongest bug spray, it's impossible not to get bitten."

Despite the challenges, Kubina is excited to be doing research that never has been conducted before.

"The best part about the research is finding plants that never have been identified anywhere else in the state," she said. "Discoveries like that show just how unique these ecosystems are and how important it is to study them carefully."

After graduation, Kubina plans to move to the West Coast for graduate school, continuing her studies in botany and the environment.

"I hope I can find a job in a botany-related field. A lot of universities are scaling back their botany departments, but the research I've done this summer has showed me just how important studying plants can be. They have a cause and effect on every aspect of our environment."

Learn more about the Environmental Resources Management major.

 

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Last Updated October 24, 2014