Two Fairmont State University seniors were selected to participate in the 12th annual Undergraduate Research Day at the Capitol on Wednesday, March 4. More than 100 students from across the state shared original research projects highlighting the importance of West Virginia higher education to the state Legislature.
Devin Heitz, a Biology and Pre-physical Therapy major from Harrison County, addressed the water quality near Marcellus shale drilling by microbial testing. His objective through his project was to discover and bring to light the impacts of water near drilling sites.
Heitz described the advantages of this experience: “Conducting summer research has been so much more beneficial for me than I ever would have expected. Not only have I gained better insight on Marcellus Shale and all that pertains to it, but I’ve been given the chance to become a better presenter, a quality I believe will help me throughout life. I’ve gained much appreciated knowledge on professionalism and some of the distinctions that come with handling situations in a professional and respectable manner.”
Elizabeth “Dannie” Arnold, an Honors student and a Biology major and Chemistry minor from Braxton County, assessed the impact of Marcellus Shale drilling on stream health using Daphnia magna and benthic macroinvertebrates.
She explained her experience with the program: “I conducted research under Professor Mark Flood funded by the Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURE) at Fairmont State University. This research was an extension of an ongoing study. Dr. Flood has allowed students to participate in monitoring stream water quality above and below Marcellus Shale drilling sites in West Virginia. This particular study is especially fitting for me, as I’m currently an intern in the corrosion division at an environmental consulting agency. As an intern, I’m involved with processes by which oil and gas pipelines’ internal corrosion is monitored. Studying the impact of drilling on stream ecology afforded insight on a different environmental aspect impacted by industry.”
Arnold also addressed the importance of this program.
“The SURE Program provided experience in environmental biology which will certainly be beneficial in future studies as well as my future career,” she said. “I was also part of a larger effort to monitor the health of local streams which is not only important for ensuring the continued health of those particular ecosystems, but may ultimately prove or disprove the need for concern regarding environmental consequences of Marcellus Shale hydraulic fracturing.”
Not only did she gain practical experience, but she also discovered and highlighted a significant and ongoing issue in West Virginia.
Dr. Mark Flood, a veteran Professor of Biology, provided opportunity for the hands-on research and advised the two seniors on their projects.
“It was a pleasure to work with such bright and talented undergraduate students on an ecologically relevant research project last summer,” Flood said. “Devin and Dannie work collaboratively with me to collect stream data and worked to analyze the final results. I was excited that they were both selected to present at the Undergraduate Research Day at the Capitol. These students deserve recognition for their hard work both in the field and in the lab.”