December 2, 2016

College Hosts Research Scientists’ Conference

College Hosts Research Scientists’ Conference
Photo by Chrissy McAllister
November 1, 2012

Early on the clear, mild autumn morning of Saturday, September 29, over 100 research scientists from Washington University, Saint Louis University, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, the Missouri Botanical Garden, and the St. Louis Zoo were greeted by Principia science faculty and about 15 current students who hosted the St. Louis Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation (SLEEC) Retreat on the College campus.

The conference was the second meeting of this group of researchers from the greater St. Louis area and included a full day of 15-minute talks by faculty members and graduate students, with poster presentations during breaks. Dr. Leonie Moyle from Indiana University delivered the keynote address, an overview of her research into the mechanisms of plant adaptations. Other topics included impacts of the fragmentation of deciduous forests, invasive species, seasonal changes of plant pollination, and captive breeding as a management tool for conserving endangered species.

“The focus of the day was sharing updates on research activities,” explains biology professor Chrissy McAllister, who organized the conference. “In addition, on-campus optional field trips included tours of the mammoth dig and a hike to active rattlesnake dens and hill prairie sites along the bluffs. Some also visited the College’s timber harvest plot and learned about Principia’s Forest Stewardship Council Forest Management certification.”

As reflections on the conference indicate, both professors and students valued the exchanges among participants. “Several attendees are world-renowned researchers in their fields, and they raved about the campus and the friendliness and professionalism of our students and staff,” McAllister comments. “It was a great way to emerge onto a larger stage of meaningful, collaborative ecology and conservation research. Several students have followed up with conference attendees for assistance in designing senior capstone research projects. These individuals are also terrific contacts for graduate study.”

Dr. Janis Treworgy, Principia’s geology professor, says, “I was able to speak to this group of educational researchers at a very high level during the mammoth dig presentation because they brought much scientific understanding to the tour. Showing Benny’s excavation to them and describing our mammoth class facilitated some excellent discussion.”

“The retreat was a great opportunity to meet leading scientists with interesting research ideas, and they inspired me to pursue this profession,” says senior biology major Blanda Matzenbacher, who volunteered at the welcome table. “I felt like I was being prepared for the stage after college. They were genuinely interested in Principia and asked questions about Christian Science. This small college really surprised them, and they appreciated our hospitality and kindness.”

Brent Bennett, a junior biology major, also found value in his interaction with attendees. “Being able to ask questions and talk to people directly was not only inspirational but instructive,” Brent says. “I learned a lot that will help me as I begin to plan my capstone project.”

“We’ve received glowing feedback from attendees,” says Jennifer Kidson, biology post-graduate intern. “Many participants asked if Principia would consider hosting again next year,” says McAllister. “We loved sharing the campus, and we will see as plans develop.”

  • Steve Wells

    I am so very pleased to read this report. It reflects tremendous growth in Principia’s performance, and very impressive change from the era when the Biology Department defined its role as “preparing bankers and business owners to be active subscribers to Audubon Magazine.”

  • Scott Eckert, Chair BNR Dept

    Thanks Steve, I’m very proud of the exceptional caliber of our department’s faculty.  Not only do they all maintain high levels of research, they excel at mentoring the next generation of professional biologists and environmental scientists.    Our colleagues in SLEEC consider their relationship with our department’s faculty to be one of equal peers. Hosting SLEEC at Principia was a wonderful chance for our students to interact with graduate students and faculty from other institutions, and to discover ( for some – to their amazement) that the caliber of their own projects, presentations and coursework was every bit as good as those from students and faculty at these larger graduate institutions!   I appreciate your complement. We love our students and we love the opportunity to share our wonderful campus.