Devon Flaherty didn’t know that it was possible to do undergraduate research until Dr Heather Griscom invited him to work with her when he was taking her Ecology and Evolution class. “I asked her a bunch of questions about one of the topics,” he remembers, “and she said that there was something related to that going on in her lab.”

After joining Dr Griscom’s research group, Devon started to see opportunities for research everywhere, especially after attending the Biology Department’s Spring Biosymposium and seeing just how much research was going on all the time. While still working with Dr Griscom, Devon approached Dr Kevin Minbiole in the Chemistry Department, and asked if he could do research with him too.

“They are two very different labs,” says Devon, “but I like different aspects of each of them. With Dr Griscom, I love being outside. My favorite part, though, is experimental design – and that is central to both projects.”

With Dr Minbiole, Devon has spent two years working on a microbiology project, in collaboration with Dr Reid Harris in Biology. With Dr Griscom, he has worked on two different projects over three years.

One of these projects collects data on the timing of annual biological events, like flowering, in theJMU arboretum. The information they collect contributes to a worldwide database that will enable a long-term study of the effects of temperature and climate change.

The other project with Dr Griscom is a forest restoration project. The goal is to restore a former loblolly pine plantation to its natural state. They have been cataloging and tagging native tree species and identifying native seeds they find to help them develop a restoration plan to bring the area back to a native forest.

It comes as no surprise that Devon loves doing research. Besides all the things he has learnt, he has also made some great friends in the process, and appreciates the unusual experience he has had of working alongside professors and students in a professional manner. “I really love how easy it is to interact with undergrads, grad students and professors,” he says, “It’s definitely something unique to being part of the undergraduate research program here.”

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