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Kyle Froehlich ‘19 and Daniel Gerrity '19

“Using Stable Isotope Analysis to Study the Exchange of Nutrients between Myrmecophytes and their Mutualistic Ants in an Amazon Rain Forest”

Major & Minor: Environmental science 
Hometown: Quakertown, PA
Project Advisor(s): John Bevington 

Tell us about your research.

Our research involved traveling to the Peruvian Amazon to collect two species of myrmecophytes.  These species will then be sent to a lab containing an expensive machine to do stable isotope analysis.

How did it materialize? (E.g., did you pitch the idea and choose a faculty member, or did they come to you with an idea?)

I was always interested in Dr. Bevington’s research.  I was honored to be able to go with him to the Amazon.

What was the best part about working with your faculty advisor? What valuable insights did they bring to the research process?

My adviser brought patients, kindness, and wisdom to our project. I couldn’t ask for a better mentor to work with. We not only focused on our narrow path of study, but he taught us many new things about the Amazon rainforest.     

What was your biggest obstacle?

Time was the biggest obstacle. We could have used another two weeks in addition to the week we stayed at the biological station to collect.

What was your biggest takeaway from this experience?

I was able to see another ecosystem. One that is completely foreign to ours. As an environmental science major, it is important for me to grow my passion and understand earth’s different ecosystems. After this trip, I learned how vital the rainforest is for its own sake and for ours.

What was the result of your research?

At this point, we have no results until the specimens come back from the isotopic analysis. This may take some time because our specimens have to be exported from Manu National Park, Peru, to the United States and then transferred to the isotopic machine.

Now that SOAR is over, do you plan to expand upon your research? If so, where would you like to see it go?

I want to turn this project into an honors project. I have already spoken with Dr. Bevington and he is excited to continue this research with me. I will start this project my senior year. I am a second semester junior now.  

In your own words, how do you feel about being rewarded this opportunity? Why should other students take advantage of the SOAR program?

As I stated in my end report, I feel very honored to have had the opportunity to participate in a SOAR project. I not only got to live my childhood dream of going to the rainforest, I also experienced a new culture. SOAR offers students the ability to dig deeper in their studies. Any hardworking and inquisitive student must take advantage of the SOAR program because they will no doubt feel a sense of growth and accomplishment.