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Active Learning and Research
Active Learning and Research
Husband and wife team Luis Malaret and Dianne Rocheleau bring students into the field to study the effects of forest management practice on the habitats of reptiles, amphibians and ants.

Meet the researchers: Learning to work with people

Interview with Rachel Regeczi
Rachel Regeczi '03 is a geography and studio art major with a concentration in Environment and Society. For two summers she has assisted Drs. Malaret and Rocheleau with their bioecology research in New York state's Adirondack region. She spoke about her research experience.

How did you end up doing research with Dianne and Luis?

Dianne was my professor for a freshman seminar that I really liked on Environment and Culture. It was through her that I got into geography. She was looking for undergrads to help with her research in the summer and she asked me if I wanted to participate. I was getting good enough grades and I guess seemed to know what I was doing. I thought research participation was an opportunity that only juniors and seniors got, so I immediately latched on to it.

Can you describe your work in the field?

I worked some of the time on Luis's herpetile/ant study at the Paul Smith's College plots and the rest of the time on Dianne's study. Luis's study is small geographically, but Dianne's is on a larger scale and surveys vegetation in addition to herpetiles and ants. Her study also looks at social impacts on the environment. I didn't do any of the social research part-the grad students were interviewing local residents. I was helping to inventory vegetation. I learned a bunch of tree species and organized some of the data. I did nothing glamorous. It's one of the things I learned about doing research-it's hard work!

Inventorying all the vegetation in such a wide variety of locations sounds overwhelming!

The first year (summer 1999) Dianne's research included an inventory of sedges (grasses) and smaller brush, as well as trees. But the next summer (when I started) the research was simplified to inventory only trees over a dph (circumference around the tree at breast height) of 10.

At that point, the inventorying process wasn't too bad. If you're inventorying vegetation on private property, a lot of times it's manicured and cut. We didn't run into many people who had kept their forest cover, or at least it didn't fall within our survey area. Not only did we look at stuff in the specific survey plots, but we sometimes looked at the surrounding property as well and we might also do a drawing of the whole area showing where different plants were located to provide context. Some of survey areas fell within campgrounds. To sample a large area like that we surveyed along transects, walking into forest. A lot of people put exotic stuff in their yards, like fruit trees, that you can't pick out right away in a field guide. And a lot of time people plant things just because they're pretty, but they don't necessary know what it is. In the forest, though, the type of vegetation stays pretty constant.

Do you feel that participating in research has added a valuable dimension to your studies?

Oh, absolutely. I'm expecting to complete a poster to exhibit at Fall Fest 2001 about the research project. And there's the obvious 'it looks good on your resume'. Also, the research experience actually helped me in later classes. Because I started right after my freshman year, it was of help in some of my upper level classes that dealt with field methods. It also helped me work better with people. We were working under a time limit. Some of us were new to the project while some were returning. Frustration builds and you have conflicts. If you do something wrong you have to do it over again. You have to learn to deal with it.

 

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Rachel Regeczi
Rachel Regeczi

 The advantages of participation in research
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