School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences wildlife ecology and management undergraduate student, Seth Rankins, of Cusseta, Alabama, was recently nominated by the Auburn University Honors College as one of four Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship nominees.
The prestigious Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship Program was established to provide scholarships to outstanding students who intend to pursue careers in mathematics, the natural sciences, and engineering.
In awarding scholarships, the foundation of trustees considers the nominee’s field of study and career objectives along with the extent to which that individual has the commitment and potential to make a significant contribution to the field of science or engineering.
SFWS Professor Stephen Ditchkoff nominated Rankins in recognition of his outstanding commitment to his research with the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences Deer Lab.
“There are a large number of undergraduates that assist with our research in the Wildlife Program, but very few students are interested in conducting their own research,” said Ditchkoff. “Seth made it very clear at our initial meeting that he very much wanted to conduct his own research, in addition to publishing and presenting his findings.”
With the guidance of the Deer Lab research team, Rankin’s research project was designed to analyze the feeding patterns of white-tailed deer at baited sites, and examine whether sex or age may influence the time that individual deer spend at these sites. Because baited sites are the foundation for camera surveys that are used for estimating population parameters of white-tailed deer, these data have the potential to highlight biases and study design flaws that could undermine the validity of camera surveys.
Rankins has presented the findings in a professional setting at the Annual Meeting of the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and the manuscript that was developed using the same data, where Seth is listed as second author, was recently accepted for publication by the Journal of the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.
“Without question, it is a rare individual that is informed of acceptance of his first publication in a peer-reviewed outlet during the fall of his junior year,” stated Ditchkoff. “Given his intellectual ability, work ethic, and problem-solving skills, Seth has no ceiling regarding what he could accomplish in the future.”
More recently, Rankins has begun working with both Ditchkoff and SFWS Assistant Professor Sarah Zohdy to study tick borne diseases in white-tailed deer. This research includes extracting genomic DNA from over 200 white-tailed deer from a marked population of deer at the Auburn University Deer Lab in an effort to quickly diagnose anaplasmosis and erlichiosis and prevent its spread.
“I believe that this nomination is a reflection of the research professionals that I have had the opportunity to work with here at Auburn,” said Rankins. “Being awarded this scholarship will help me to achieve my goal of going to graduate school in wildlife biology.”
If awarded, Rankins will receive up to a maximum of $7,500 annually for undergraduate tuition, fees, books, and housing.