At Eckerd our freshmen do real research.

Select a 2010 Freshman Research Associateship project below to see the full description.

Coastal Management: Seabird and Beach Research

Field: Coastal Management (Biology / Environmental Studies / Marine Science/ Social Science)
Title:Coastal Management: Seabird and Beach Research
Supervisors: Dr. Beth Forys and Dr. Paul Hindsley

Eckerd College is located a few miles from a variety of undeveloped and developed beaches. This Freshman Research Associate Program would involve students doing applied research to study either sea and shorebirds or multidisciplinary studies of natural beach features and beach recreational users. The Research Associates would have some group meetings where they would learn about sample design, data analysis, and how to present data. Both groups of students would help create academic posters in the spring and participate in Eckerd College's research symposium. In addition to the scholarship, students will receive academic credit.

The beaches near Eckerd are some of North America's most important habitats for migratory and wintering shore and seabirds. For the sea and shorebird research, we will compare the numbers and behavior of endangered species in a bird refuge to those on a busy tourist beach through weekly field research surveys.

Beaches near Eckerd College are also popular destinations for beach recreation. People choose locations to recreate for a host of reasons, including manmade and natural amenities. For the beach recreation research, we will collect information on the natural environment of Pinellas County beaches as well as the behavior, attitudes, and preferences of beach users. These types of data can be used to guide coastal management efforts that attempt to balance beach users' experiences with environmental protection.

Please specify in your application which project you would prefer.

About the Supervisors:
Beth Forys teaches courses in Environmental Studies and Biology, including Environmental Biology, Conservation Biology, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Field Ornithology. Her research interests center on how to preserve declining and rare species. Much of her current research focuses on beach-nesting birds and the use of GIS to better understand and manage these threatened species.
Paul Hindsley teaches courses in Environmental Studies and Coastal Management, including Introduction to Environmental Studies, Introduction to Coastal Management, Statistics for the Sciences, and Coastal Hazards: Science and Management. His research interests focus on the management of coastal and marine resources. Currently, his research agenda includes the analysis of coastal and marine recreation as well as the human dimensions of natural hazards in coastal regions.

Automated glare removal in dorsal fin images

Field: Computer Science with a Marine Science Application
Title: Automated glare removal in dorsal fin images
Supervisor: Dr. Kelly Debure

Biologists studying the behavior and ecology of various marine mammals often employ photo identification as a means of associating observational data with individual animals. The researchers locate a group of animals in the wild and attempt to photograph each individual in the group. After the researchers return from the field, the best photograph of each individual is compared to a catalog of previously observed and identified photographs. For some species of dolphins and whales, characteristic nicks and notches in the dorsal fins are used for the purpose of identification. Developed at Eckerd College, DARWIN is a computer program that simplifies photo-identification of bottlenose dolphins by applying computer vision and signal processing techniques to automate much of the tedious manual photo-id process. Although quite effective, certain artifacts in field photographs complicate the extraction of the outline which is used for comparison. The purpose of this project is to explore various techniques for removing glare features from digital photographs. The student would investigate pertinent literature, implement appropriate algorithms to remove the glare artifacts, identify sample images for development and testing, and evaluate the performance of the resulting software with a test set of images.

About the supervisor
Kelly Debure teaches courses in Computer Science and Environmental Studies, including Computer Graphics, Image Processing, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Remote Sensing. Her research interests center on image processing, specifically providing automated tools for marine scientists to identify individual animals from photographs.

Cross-Cultural Training for Hospitality and Tourism: Improving Service Encounters through Industry-Targeted Critical Incidents

Field: International Business, Management/Business Administration, or Anthropology
Title: Cross-Cultural Training for Hospitality and Tourism: Improving Service Encounters through Industry-Targeted Critical Incidents
Supervisor: Professor Morris Shapero

Hospitality and travel combined have become one of the world's largest industries. The World Travel and Tourism Council states that these two sectors will contribute about $9.3 trillion in economic activity by 2011. This significant growth in international travel over the next decade will heighten the importance of cross-cultural service encounters and reward companies who have trained their workers to a higher level of intercultural sensitivity. Training programs that use critical incidents specifically designed for hospitality and travel-related businesses will improve service delivery and reduce cultural misunderstandings between the organizations' employees and the customers they serve. Multinational firms in all industries have included cross-cultural training and critical incidents in their training programs for middle and upper-level managers in the past. However, front-line employees who actually make contact with the firm's customers are seldom prepared for encounters with customers from other cultures. The purpose of this study is to suggest ways that firms in the hospitality and travel industry can better prepare their front-line employees for successful service encounters with people from foreign cultures.

The student chosen for this project will be creating short vignettes (critical incidents) that relate instances where there has been a cross-cultural misunderstanding between two people of different cultures. Students will be involved in re-writing incidents as well as creating their own. These incidents are then used in the training programs of multinational companies as they put their employees through Assimilator programs to understand cultural differences in the workplace and marketplace. The student will take the Fall course Cultural Environments of International Business/IB260S which is a requirement for International Business and Anthropology. It is an 'S' class for General Education so it could be used by the student even though their major did not require the class.

About the supervisor
Morris Shapero is currently an Assistant Professor of International Business at Eckerd College. He holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Southern California, School of Business. He came to Eckerd in 2002 after nearly 30 years of corporate marketing and management experience both domestically and internationally. He was also Principal of Morris Alan Marketing, a marketing consulting service in St. Petersburg, Florida, prior to joining Eckerd College. He is specializing in international management, hospitality, and cross-cultural communications in his teaching and research efforts at Eckerd.

Exploring Animal Behavior and Cognition

Field: Psychology
Title: Exploring Animal Behavior and Cognition
Supervisor: Dr. Lauren Highfill

Throughout the history of psychology, the behavior of animals has been studied in an effort to better understand human behavior. However, over the past few decades, comparative psychologists have begun to test principles of human behavior and cognition on other species. Comparative psychologists now study a wide range of subjects such as personality, concept-formation, and problem-solving with many different species. The purpose of this project is to explore various aspects of animal behavior and cognition with different mammalian species. On-going topics of research include evaluation of environmental enrichment, animal personality, and memory. The student associate would assist the professor with these on-going research projects. Primary responsibilities would include investigating literature, conducting behavioral observations, and coding behavioral videos.

About the supervisor:
Assistant professor Lauren Highfill is a comparative psychologist with interests in animal personality and environmental enrichment. Through her research, she has studied a number of species including dolphins, elephants, lemurs and dogs.

The H1N1 Virus Concerns: A Communication Perspective

Field: Communication
Title: The H1N1 Virus Concerns: A Communication Perspective

Ever since the first cases of swine flu were detected in the Spring of 2009, many renowned pharmaceutical companies have been diligently working toward developing a vaccine that would mitigate the effects of the virus that causes swine flu – the H1N1 virus. In the meantime, the World Health Organization, concerned by the spread of the virus, has raised the emergency level to 6, which indicates a serious world-wide threat. In view of the innate capability of viruses to mutate and combine with other viruses, health officials are especially apprehensive about the general flu season when the immunity of humans normally drops and viruses gain in strength. Some health officials are even proposing a mandatory national-level vaccination.

Communication has played an important role in certain aspects of health issues. For the most part, communication has served a practical purpose – as a means of crafting messages, designing health campaigns, conveying various messages, and addressing the public. The contention undergirding this research proposal is that communication can also play a role in understanding health issues more thoroughly and, consequently, that communication can help in making prudent decisions.

The project will involve the research of communication-related literature on the H1N1 virus – articles, newspaper articles, books, and other sources – and familiarization with communication theory. The student research associate will further assist in investigating the way in which communication theory could help in understanding the issue of swine flu from a broader perspective than the one provided by the current biomedical model. Preferably, the student will write a paper and submit it to the Undergraduate Honors Conference, which is held within the Southern States Communication Association annual convention.

Marine Science

Field: Marine Science
Title: TBA
Supervisor: TBA

The entire course will be an active learning opportunity where students will be working closely with a faculty member on research projects. Students will be engaged in research throughout the course of their freshman year collecting data, analyzing and interpreting their results and eventually presenting their findings. Thus, this course will focus primarily on students doing science compared to more traditional courses that teach about science. Once a week all students in program will meet as a group with the faculty for discussions and updates on research projects. These meetings will give the entire research group a chance to exchange and develop ideas.

Previous Marine Science projects have included:

Application of laboratory culturing techniques to study the microbial ecology of ooids and microbial mats (field collecting and lab work)

Barb regeneration following predatory attack in the Atlantic stingray Dasyatis sabina (field collecting and a laboratory experiment)

Behavioral ecology of a sex-role reversed species: brood size variation in the Gulf pipefish Syngnathus scovelli (project involved field collecting and laboratory work)

Field studies and use of a catalog of dorsal fin markings to investigate social patterns in the bottlenose dolphin (field surveys and lab work with dolphin fin catalog)

Genetic markers for studies of family relationships among wild marine mammals (work in genetics lab)

Hermit crab shell selection behavior: do crabs prefer shells that have been thickened by snails exposed to predators? (field surveys and laboratory experiments)

Lactate excretion in marine crustaceans during activity and exposure to low environmental oxygen (work in physiology lab)

Mitochondrial DNA study of population structure in Gulf and Atlantic populations of the Gulf pipefish, Syngnathus scovelli (field collecting and work in genetics lab)

Physiological consequence of malaria infection in the brown anole Anolis sagrei (field collecting and work in physiology lab)

Check out previous Freshman Research Associateships.

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