Research grant gives student chance to do fieldwork in Guyana

UMSL biology student Hannah Stowe (right) helped Gyanpriya Maharaj, a doctoral candidate in biology at UMSL, conduct field research on butterflies during a six-week research trip to Guyana this past summer. (Photo courtesy of Hannah Stowe)

For six weeks this past summer, Hannah Stowe was in her element: Hot, sweaty, covered in dirt and doing field research in a foreign country.

Such hands-on research may seem an unusual opportunity for many undergrads, but not for students at the University of Missouri–St. Louis.

Stowe, who is majoring in biology and a student in the Pierre Laclede Honors College at UMSL, was one of nine undergraduate students to receive a $1,000 research grant from UMSL’s College of Arts and Sciences in the spring.

The grant money covered her research trip to the South American country of Guyana where she worked under the supervision of Godfrey R. Bourne, her research mentor and associate professor of biology at UMSL, and Gyanpriya Maharaj, a doctoral candidate in biology at UMSL.

Their fieldwork was conducted at CEIBA Biological Center, located in a rainforest near Georgetown, the capital of Guyana. Stowe provided research support to Maharaj, who was investigating the foraging habitats and flower preferences of three species of butterflies.

Stowe said her experience of fieldwork, gathering and analyzing data, was invaluable.

“I’m very thankful to have had the opportunity because I wouldn’t have been able to afford the trip without the research grant,” she said.  “Fieldwork is something that I love, and being in Guyana was a great opportunity to get to know researchers and to know how a scientific project really works. You get down on the ground and you see what field research is and you understand fieldwork. I’ve been bragging about it to everybody.”

When she’s done with her studies, Stowe wants to go into entomology, the scientific study of insects.

“There is so much complexity in the insect world that it just makes me so excited,” she said. “I love studying insects.”

Stowe is particularly enamored of beetles.

“Beetles are so, so, important. I have to be careful here because I might start preaching about this,” she chuckled.

Of all the animal species on the planet, 25 percent are beetles, explained Stowe, noting that they impact everyday life, from agricultural projects to dyes to medicine.

The UMSL Experience

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