MSES students present animal-based research during Voinovich School Energy and Environmental Luncheon Series

Two master of science in environmental studies (MSES) candidates will discuss their work researching native species during the next installment of the Voinovich School Energy and Environmental Luncheon Series Friday, March 24 from 12 – 1 p.m. in Bldg. 22, Room 221 at The Ridges.

Eileen Wyza, a second-year MSES student, will present on “Space Use and Activity of Fosa (Cryptoprocta ferox) in Madagascar and Implications for Conservation.” Her work follows the fosa, Madagascar’s largest native carnivore, that faces many threats due to deforestation and population growth. This species is currently listed as vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) with only about 2,000 remaining in highly isolated populations in the wild today.

Despite evidence that fosa are sensitive to deforestation and human presence, little is known about their space use and activity patterns in close proximity to human settlements. By using GPS radio-collars, Wyza monitored the fosa inside Ankarafantsika National Park, Madagascar. These collars reveal the species’ spatial and activity patterns around many settlements inside and bordering the park.

Second-year MSES candidate, Merri Collins, will discuss her work with the mudpuppy salamander in southeastern Ohio. Her project is entitled “The common mudpuppy salamander: not so common anymore?” The mudpuppy salamander, with a wide-reaching range in the Midwest, has suffered severe population declines due to habitat degradation and human-caused pollution. Little is known about the current population of mudpuppies in southeast Ohio.

To learn more about their presence, Collins used environmental DNA, a new and innovative biological monitoring tool. This method uses only water samples and PCR polymerase chain reactions (PCR) to establish the presence or absence of aquatic organisms in lentic and lotic ecosystems. Coupled with traditional surveys, eDNA monitoring can be a useful tool for conservation of cryptic species like the mudpuppy. This research was aided by Collins’ membership to Kuchta Labs at Ohio University.

The Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs Energy and Environmental Luncheon Series runs each semester. These Friday forums include an informal lunch presentation and Q&A related to environmental topics of interest. The events are open to all Voinovich School students, as well as OHIO faculty, staff and students and the community. Free pizza will be served, and attendees are encouraged to bring their own water bottles.

Not sure how to get up to The Ridges? Check out the Red Line CATS Shuttle, the Athens Public Transit routes, walk or ride your bike.

For additional information, contact Loraine McCosker at


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