biology projectsIf you see a student holding an antenna or walking around with a GPS unit on campus, do not panic, says Millersville University’s Dr. Aaron Haines.

The director of the Applied Conservation Lab wants the Millersville community to know that these are just signs of undergraduate biology research projects starting this semester.

girl with pheasant“All these projects will be taking place on campus,” says Haines, associate professor of conservation biology, mammalogy and ornithology. “Thus, we want people to be aware of the student activities such as radio-tracking with antennas, placement of cameras in the field and the checking of traps at night. Please be respectful of these students and the research equipment.”

Peromyscus#10Much of the project research will take place in and around Caputo Hall, Roddy Hall, Brossman Hall and the Millersville Biological Preserve. The projects are based on the following questions:

  1. What birds of prey fly over the Millersville campus during their fall migration? How do the numbers of birds of prey seen on migration over Millersville compare to those being seen at Hawk Mountain?
    2. How large of an area do ring-necked pheasants use and what type of habitat do they prefer?
    3. What is the status of the feral cat population on the Millersville campus and how do we implement an effective trap-neuter-release program?
    Boy in field4. Do small mammals show evidence of prey-switching during the winter season?  For example, will they switch from eating insects to eating mice during the winter?
    5. How does the terrestrial insect community on the Millersville Biological Preserve change during the seasons?

SmallMammalTrappingStudents Halie Parker, Jen Houtz, Rachel Davies, Rochelle Jones and Kevin Faccenda are leading the Hawk Watch effort, updated at Millersville’s Wildlife Ecology & Management class is currently tracking pheasants in the field, as well helping with the small mammal project under the leadership of student Natalie Auman. The MU student organization Helping Paws is in charge of the feral cat monitoring project. Courtland Hess will lead the insect monitoring project.

The Hawk Watch and pheasant project will conclude at the end of the semester, while the other projects will proceed into the future.

Girl with creature“Research and field projects are the ultimate forms of active learning, and they create a synergy with traditional academic coursework and service learning,” says Haines. “Students are better able to connect the dots and see how the information they are learning in the classroom is relevant to their field of study and thus their careers.”

Aside from the student leaders who may use these projects as an independent study, most of the students involved in these biology research projects are volunteers. Any Millersville University students interested in volunteering with one of these projects can contact Dr. Aaron Haines at

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