When Adam Cupito started his course in evolution at Stone Lab, he knew he would see real-life examples of how evolution changes animal populations, but he had no idea that he would be undergoing a form of evolution himself.
A junior at The Ohio State University majoring in Forestry, Fisheries and Wildlife, Adam was selected for Stone Laboratory’s Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Scholarship Program, which pays for students’ tuition, room and meals for one of the lab’s five-week courses.
Adam, a Cincinnati native, knew he wanted to study science in college after his first high school biology course, but until he attended Stone Lab in June and July of 2016, he hadn’t had much up-close experience with animals.
That quickly changed as he started working on his REU project with Dr. James Marshall on the survivorship rates of Lake Erie island birds and going on field trips with Marshall’s Evolution class.
“Stone Lab is a great place to see evolution in action,” Adam says, describing trips to Kelleys Island to look for fossils and hunt for salamanders. “All the field work we did was tied into the concepts we were learning. The class was a really good mixture of lecture and hands-on field work.”
For his REU project, Adam set up mist nets in an attempt to recapture birds that had been previously banded and compiled data from six years of bird observation conducted at Stone Lab. He used that data to estimate survival rates for red-winged blackbirds and American robins.
“This was the first year in the data set that it has provided usable estimates,” Adam says of the long-term research project. “We hope to come across better findings as the project goes on. Every year is equally as important as the other since it’s long-term.”
Adam says that being able to discuss his findings with an avian professor and gaining research experience was invaluable.
“The REU program is the best deal you can get. You get that really great one-on-one experience,” says Adam. “Having that scholarship and the privilege of being able to attend Stone Lab at low to no cost is incredible.”
Recently, Dr. Marshall encouraged Adam to submit the findings of the project to a conference. If it is accepted, it will be his first experience presenting research in a professional setting – an important stepping stone to a career in science for Adam, who intends to apply to grad school in the future.
“I hope to get into a master’s program that really suits my interests and accelerates my career path after that in something related to wildlife.”
In the short term, Adam is focusing on finishing up his studies and is staying connected with Stone Lab alums as secretary of Buckeye Friends of Stone Lab, a club for Ohio State students.
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