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Meet Emily Ostrow

Drexel BS/MS in Environmental Science Student Emily Ostrow

Degree: BS + MS Environmental Science ’18, Concentration in Ecology and Conservation
Research Interests: Ornithology, parasitology
Co-ops: Student Research Associate/Jim Stewart Memorial Co-op at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University (three co-op cycles in this role)
Extracurricular activities: Drexel Naturalists Association, Undergraduate Research Leaders
Awards: National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, STAR (Students Tackling Advanced Research) Scholarship, Drexel Fellowships Ambassador, Goldwater Scholarship honorable mention, Fulbright Scholarship alternate

Environmental Science major Emily Ostrow has taken her passion for birds from the classroom to the field, conducting advanced research through Drexel’s partnership with the Academy of Natural Sciences.

How did you get involved with research at Drexel?

While my classes have provided me with a strong background of knowledge, I feel that the best learning comes from hands-on experiences. I started research at Drexel by working with a PhD student who was looking for help with his research on snake ecology. He challenged me to think critically about science and gave me a chance to use my skills outside of class. Once I was accepted to the accelerated BS + MS program, I switched labs to focus on my first passion — birds — in the ornithology department at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University. I worked in the department for all three of my co-op positions.

What specific research have you conducted?

Through a combination of work in the field and the lab, I have worked on two major projects as a student research associate, one on Lyme disease and one on the biogeography of toucans. The Philadelphia area is important in Lyme disease research, because it is located within a region that has the highest amount of human Lyme disease cases. I work with the Willistown Conservation Trust at Rushton Farm to band birds and collect blood/parasite samples for my research. I collected over 1,200 blood samples from various species during spring and fall migration seasons and the summer MAPS (Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship) program. I plan to assess these samples for disease infection and bird immune response. My thesis focuses on a toucan phylogenetics project in the ornithology department. We plan to use genomic-scale data to look at how the biogeographic history of toucans in the Americas has affected their current distributions.

In addition to working on my own research, I assist with curation in the ornithology department. I have participated in collecting trips, field specimen preparation and specimen databasing. Research gives me the ability to challenge myself and apply concepts that I have learned in classes, while also interacting with experts in the field, who provide invaluable guidance. My adviser, Jason Weckstein, is associate curator of the ornithology department and an associate professor in the Department of Biodiversity, Earth and Environmental Science. He and the BEES department have given me many opportunities to learn and pursue my interests, both in classes and through my independent research.

Post-graduation Update: Emily Ostrow is a recipient of a National Science Foundation Research Fellowship, and is currently working toward her Doctorate at the University of Kansas.


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