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Members of BEES Department Present at Academy of Natural Sciences Research Day

PhD student Kamila Kuabara

January 10, 2024

The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University recently hosted its annual Research Day, where Academy scientists shared brief, engaging summaries of their research and discoveries from throughout 2023. Several members of the Department of Biodiversity, Earth and Environmental Science who work closely with the Academy presented their work, including PhD students, postdoctoral researchers and recent alumni.

BEES alum Akilah Chatman presents their research 

PhD student Kamila Kuabara presented “Lice and their role in understanding evolutionary patterns in parasitism.” She explained that parasites like lice comprise a large percentage of life on earth and are a useful tool for understanding how species have evolved over time. 

Robert Conrow, a PhD student in the Gelhaus Lab, followed with a presentation titled, “A first look at the evolution of crane flies (Tipulidae) and how climate may have driven the diversity of their larval habitats.” With over 4000 species, crane flies are important to biodiversity and conservation efforts. “Unlike many other families of insects, Tipulids span a big range of larval habitats, from fully aquatic to fully terrestrial, but we don’t know how they got there and how they transition between them,” Conrow explained. “That’s what I’m trying to find out.” 

Lukas Musher, a post-doctoral researcher in the Weckstein Lab, presented research on how new bird species form in the Amazon rainforest. He explained that the Amazon contains 10 percent of the world’s species and is so large that each of its regions has its own unique biodiversity.

“Populations of organisms, including birds, get isolated on opposite sides of really long, large rivers,” Musher shared. “When that happens, over time they begin to accumulate differences and evolve into new species. My research uses DNA sequences to understand how changes to these rivers are affecting biodiversity accumulation.” 

Emma Guelzow, a recent graduate from the Ecology, Evolution and Earth Systems master’s program, joined with Noelle Raezer to present “Freshwater snail inventory of the Upper Delaware.” Previously, there was not a good understanding of the snail community in this region. Guelzow and Raezer discovered an invasive “mystery snail” species at certain sites and are working to identify it.

“Identifying snails using morphological, or physical, features doesn’t always lead to identifying the species. We are currently working on a genetic analysis using snail tissues in order to lead to a more informative species list and gain a better understanding of the dynamics between native and non-native snails.” 

Akilah Chatman, BS environmental science '22, presented with Andrew Kleiner about their project “Science Shop: A model for participatory methods in scientific research.” Science Shop is a model for community-based participatory research that was developed in Europe in the 1970s, but never took off in the United States. Their goal is to bring this model to Philadelphia to engage with local communities in a novel way. The project is in its early stages, but the research team is collaborating with resources across Drexel to get it off the ground.

“The really big point that I want to drive in about Science Shop is that it really focuses on building the adaptive capacity of the community, which is any community’s ability to believe that their local knowledge is valued by the government around them,” Chatman explained.

“This is a wholistic Drexel approach to do direct work in the communities here in the city of Philadelphia for positive change, partnerships and relationship building and the empowerment of individuals to affect change in their community in a really positive way,” Kleiner added.

Photos by Michael Servedio for the Academy of Natural Sciences