Luther College students Shannon Meehan, senior; Elizabeth Glennon, junior; and Anna Li Holey, senior; and alumni Laurie Adrian, Luther class of 2016; and Brian Gerike, Luther class of 2012; won second place in the undergraduate student ecology poster competition at the national meeting of the Entomological Society of America in Denver, Colorado, in November.
Kirk Larsen, Luther professor of biology, aided the students in revising poster drafts and improving presentation quality. He is also credited on the poster as a coauthor for his work and guidance with the research.
The group's collaboration was funded through a grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and this project was affiliated with the Iowa Monarch Conservation Consortium, of which Luther is a member. Collaborative research projects such as this one study topics of interest alongside Luther faculty. This program is one of a wide selection of experiential learning opportunities at Luther intended to deepen the learning process and that are part of Luther's academic core.
The students traveled to Denver with their poster to enter the competition in November. For an hour, judges, professors and students observed the different projects being presented and asked questions about the research.
Meehan, a biology and environmental policy double major of Gurnee, Illinois, along with Holey, an environmental studies major from Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and Glennon, a biology major from St. Louis Park, Minnesota, conducted research on adult monarch abundance in tallgrass prairies around Decorah. Every two weeks, they would survey butterflies at nine prairie sites. Additionally, every week they would monitor Monarch eggs and caterpillars one five species of milkweeds common in northeastern Iowa and record what they found.
Adrian and Gerike, two Luther alumni and both teachers, also participated in the research process and assisted in assembling the poster.
The group's research poster, "Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus) oviposition and larval feeding preferences on five species of milkweed (Asclepias sp.) in Northeast Iowa" is the culmination of research efforts completed during the summers of 2016 and 2017.
A national liberal arts college with an enrollment of 2,050, Luther offers an academic curriculum that leads to the Bachelor of Arts degree in more than 60 majors and pre-professional programs. For more information about Luther visit the college's website: http://luther.edu.