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Dr. Peter Minchin

Alumni

If you are a former member of the Minchin Lab and would like to appear on this page, please contact Dr. Minchin and send him your information.

Aaron Alexander, M.S.

Aaron joined the lab as an undergraduate in spring 2014 and his Senior Assignment research focused on estimating the population density of white-tailed deer on SIUE campus. Three different census methods were used: nocturnal spotlight surveys, daylight transect counts, and scat surveys. Aaron presented his findings at the Illinois State Academy of Sciences conference in April, 2015 (his talk won 1st prize in the zoology section) and graduated summa cum laude with his B.S. in May 2015.

Aaron entered the graduate program in fall, 2015 and began a Master's project in the lab that examined the success of tall-grass prairie restorations in southwest Illinois in providing suitable habitat for grassland birds. He successfully defended his thesis in spring 2017 and graduated with a M.S. degree. Aaron is currently seeking a position in conservation or resource management and plans to pursue a career in wildlife management.

Portrait of Aaron Alexander

Noah Dell, M.S.

Noah joined the lab in spring 2013. Together with Francesca Stockton and with the occasional assistance of other lab members, Noah undertook a major redesign and extension of the network of sampling plots in the SIUE Nature Preserve that was originally established by Drs. Minchin and Essner in 2006. Plots were enlarged from 750 m2 to 1000 m2 and some plots that Adam Fritzgerald's Master's research had shown to fall on the borderline between forest of two different ages were moved to fall entirely within uniform-aged forest. In addition, Noah and co-workers completed the establishment of plots within the bluff corridor region of the Nature Preserve, which has been commenced by Chay Leinweber and Cassidy Miles. Tree data were collected on all plots and shrub/sapling data were collected for all plots that were relocated or newly established.

In summer 2014, Noah participated in a Travel Study in Panama, during which he further developed his skills in vegetation analysis and description. For his Senior Assignment project in spring 2015, Noah analyzed the tree and shrub data from the redesigned plot network to examine successional patterns in species composition and diversity in oak-hickory forest. He presented his results at the Illinois State Academy of Sciences conference in April, 2015 (his talk won 1st prize in the botany section) and graduated with his B.S. in May. In fall 2015 he entered the graduate program and and developed a research project that used simulated and real plant community data to assess the robustness of clustering methods for the classification of vegetation. Noah attended the 59th Annual Symposium of the International Association for Vegetation Science (IAVS), which was held in Pirenópolis, Brazil from 12-17 June, 2016 and presented a talk on his research. He defended his thesis and graduated with a M.S. degree in spring 2017. Noah is currently working in short-term positions in vegetation survey and plans to obtain a Ph.D. degree and pursue a career in research.

Portrait of Noah Dell

Annalise Ankney

Annalise joined the lab in fall 2015. She is a biomedical science major and plans to attend medical school after graduating from SIUE. Annalise enjoys spending her time outdoors hiking and kayaking. She is interested in ecology and is excited to gain experience in the field.  Annalise's undergraduate research tested the hypothesis that bush honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii) is increasing in density in the SIUE Nature Preserve by resampling plots in different aged forests that were originally surveyed in 2008. She presented her findings as a poster at the 2017 annual conference of the Illinois State Academy of Sciences and won first prize in the Botany section. Annalise is currently completing her B.S. degree at SIUE.

Portrait of Annalise Ankney

Matt Hunsaker, B.S.

As an undergraduate, Matt was a biology major with a concentration in Ecology, Evolution, and Environment. He was an active member of the Wildlife Conservation Biology Club and interested in wildlife management and conservation, especially in game species and their habitat, as well as the conservation and sustainability of our natural resources. Matt was awarded an URCA Assistantship for fall 2016 and joined the lab. His research project examined the impact of browsing by white-tailed deer on the growth and survival of tree seedlings in the SIUE Nature Preserve by comparing seedling performance between fenced deer exclosures and adjacent control plots. For his senior project in spring 2017, Matt analyzed bird point count data collected in old-growth and regrowth forest on SIUE campus and in the Bohm Woods state nature preserve. He tested the hypothesis that the bird communities differ between regrowth and old-growth oak-hickory forest. They did and Matt was able to identify indicator species for the two forest types. Matt graduated with his B.S. in May 2017. In the future he hopes to find a job working in the field, restoring habitat and managing game species.

Portrait of Matt Hunsaker

Lindley Ballen, M.S.

Lindley joined the Minchin lab in spring, 2013. She successfully defended her M.S. thesis, entitled "Evaluating the success of bottomland forest restoration in the Upper Mississippi Valley" in fall 2014. Lindley's research involved a lot of field work, using a chronosequence of nine bottomland forest restoration sites and two mature reference sites, followed by a lot of number crunching. She became very experienced in fitting generalized linear models in SAS and graphing in SigmaPlot.

After graduating, Lindley moved to Oregon, where she is currently the Learning Garden Coordinator for the Woolley Center (an extension of Umpqua Community College). She also teaches a class in physical science at the Woolley Center. In between teaching, she spends her time getting the garden ready for planting in April. Most of the produce will be donated to students and local community centers. In her spare time Lindley fishes for steelhead, goes hiking or heads to the coast to go clamming and crabbing. Lindley is also taking classes so that she can become a certified Master Gardener. Future plans include expanding the Learning Garden and creating a network of community gardens in Douglas County.

Portrait of Lindley Ballen

Irene Weber, M.S.

Irene started her Master's in the lab in fall 2012. Her project was funded by a grant from the Illinois Center for Transportation and its objective was to improve the performance of temporary seeding operations during road construction in Illinois. Experiments were conducted at four sites that spanned the climatic zones in Illinois, with plantings done at each of four times throughout the year. The results found alternative combinations of seed mix, soil preparation, and mulch treatment that performed better than the current specifications. Irene defended her thesis entitled "Evaluating Temporary Soil Stabilization Methods for Illinois Department of Transportation Construction Sites" in spring, 2014.

After graduating, Irene was hired as a botanist at the consulting firm Amec Foster Wheeler Environment & Infrastructure. Her work takes her to many different parts of the country leading vegetation, endangered species, and wetland surveys.

Portrait of Irene Weber

Ben McGuire, M.S.

Ben joined the lab in fall 2008 and developed a project to examine the impact of white-tailed deer on the early growth and survival of planted trees in bottomland forest restoration sites. His research included an observational study of the effects of prior damage from deer rubbing (recorded by another student in 2006) on the three-year growth and survival of planted bottomland oaks and pecans and an experimental study comparing growth and survival of trees protected by metal mesh deer guards with unprotected controls. In summer 2009, Ben performed the observational study as a summer intern in the National Great Rivers Research and Education Center's internship program. In fall 2009, Ben was employed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at the Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary, Alton. He completed his field work by spring 2011 and continued to work part-time on completing the data analyses and writing up his thesis, which he successfully defended in November, 2014. The title of his M.S. thesis was "Effects of White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) on Bottomland Forest Restoration at the Confluence of the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers". Ben continues to work for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, performing conservation and restoration work on a range of species, including birds and bats.

Photo of Ben McGuire

Francesca Stockton, B.S.

Francesca joined the lab in spring 2013. Together with Noah Dell and with the occasional assistance of other lab members, Francesca undertook a major redesign and extension of the network of sampling plots in the SIUE Nature Preserve that was originally established by Drs. Minchin and Essner in 2006. Plots were enlarged from 750 m2 to 1000 m2 and some plots that Adam Fritzgerald's Master's research had shown to fall on the borderline between forest of two different ages were moved to fall entirely within uniform-aged forest. In addition, Francesca and co-workers completed the establishment of plots within the bluff corridor region of the Nature Preserve, which has been commenced by Chay Leinweber and Cassidy Miles. Tree data were collected on all plots and shrub/sapling data were collected for all plots that were relocated or newly established.

For her Senior Assignment project in fall 2014, Francesca analyzed the tree and shrub data from the redesigned plot network to examine changes in the floristic quality of oak-hickory forest with successional age. Francesca graduated with her B.S. in May 2015 and will pursue a career in resource conservation or wildlife management. In summer 2015 she will be working for the Missouri Department of Conservation as a field technician at the Otter Slough Natural Area, Missouri.

Photo of Francesca Stockton

Savanna Stabenow, B.S.

Savanna submitted a proposal to the Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (URCA) Associate Program in spring 2014 and was accepted into the program in fall 2014. Meanwhile she participated in a Travel Study in Panama in summer 2014 and increased her skills in vegetation sampling and description. Her URCA project examined the distribution and abundance of woody vines (lianas) in oak-hickory forest, using some of the existing plot network in Sweet William Woods that was redesigned by Noah Dell and co-workers, together with new plots established on the edge of the forest. The aim was to quantify patterns of liana density and abundance with forest age and distance from edge. The project contributed to knowledge of global patterns of liana abundance in temperate forests and the permanent plots with tagged lianas will facilitate future studies of changes in liana size and abundance. Savanna presented her results at the URCA Symposium and the Illinois State Academy of Science conference in April 2015 (her poster won 2nd prize in the botany section). She graduated with a B.S. in spring 2015 and will spend a year increasing her patient care experience at Anderson Hospital. Savanna then plans to undertake a Master's program to become a Physician's Assistant. In the long term, she hopes to go to medical school and pursue a career as a doctor of medicine.

Photo of Savanna Stabenow

Chay Leinweber, B.A.

Chay joined the lab in fall 2012. Together with Cassidy Miles, Chay commenced the establishment of vegetation plots within the bluff corridor region of the SIUE Nature Preserve. Tree and shrub data were collected on a total of 12 plots. For his Senior Assignment in spring 2013. Chay analyzed the data for the corridor plots, together with data from plots in the most mature sections of Sweet William Woods and from Bohm Woods State Nature Preserve to test the hypothesis that the regrowth forest in the corridor had lower conservation value than the mature forest. Mean Coefficients of Conservatism, weighted by abundance, were found to be significantly lower for the corridor plots than the mature forest plots.

After graduating with his B.A. in May 2013, Chay participated in a travel study to the northern Rockies led by Dr. Rick Essner, on which he increased his skills and experience in wildlife techniques. In August 2013 he took a three month position through the Student Conservation Association in Yellowstone National Park assisting with fish conservation and restoration work. In March 2014, he returned to Yellowstone to assist with the grey wolf project, tracking a wolf pack using telemetry and spotting scopes and recording kills. Chay liked this work so much that he signed on for a further three months as part of the cluster crew assigned the Junction Butte Pack, using GPS collars to track wolf movements and locate kills. He also used his time in the spectacular back country of Yellowstone to improve his photography skills. Chay is now completing a Master's degree in Biological Sciences at SIUE with the aim of pursuing a career as a wildlife biologist. The degree will also qualify him as a secondary school science teacher.

Photo of Chay Leinweber

Cassidy Miles, B.S.

Cassidy joined the lab in fall 2012. Together with Chay Leinweber, Cassidy commenced the establishment of vegetation plots within the bluff corridor region of the SIUE Nature Preserve. Tree and shrub data were collected on a total of 12 plots. For her Senior Assignment in spring 2013. Chay analyzed the data for the corridor plots, together with data from plots in the most mature sections of Sweet William Woods and from Bohm Woods State Nature Preserve to test the hypothesis that the regrowth forest in the corridor higher abundances of exotic trees and shrubs than the mature forest.

After graduating with a B.S. in May 2013, Cassidy obtained a seasonal position with the Illinois Natural History Survey at the Illinois River Biological Station in Havana, IL. As a field technician she assisted with monitoring of fish, water quality, aquatic vegetation, zooplankton, and mussels, gaining hands-on experience in the field and in the lab organizing and analyzing data. What started out as a three month position turned into a longer-term job at the station. In 2015 Cassidy accepted a position as an aquatic biologist with the consulting firm Amec Foster Wheeler Environment & Infrastructure.

Photo of Cassidy Miles

Adam Fritzgerald, M.S.

Adam joined the lab in fall 2009 and defended his Master's thesis entitled "An Analysis of the History of Development of Three Oak-hickory Forest Fragments in Southwestern Illinois as a Predictor of Current Patterns of Biodiversity" in summer 2011. Adam's research used GIS and mapping skills to analyze historic aerial photos of areas of SIUE campus from 1941 to 2010 and reconstruct the course of reforestation. He then estimated the year in which each of a network of vegetation plots established within Sweet William Woods and Bluebell Woods on campus and within Bohm Woods State Nature Preserve (adjacent to campus) became forested and built models to predict the biodiversity of the vegetation from forest age and distance from forest edge.

Since graduating Adam has been working towards his DMD degree, which he should finish in June, 2015. While in Dental School he has used the GIS mapping skills he acquired in his Master's studies in dental research for which he has won local and national awards and represented SIUE at conferences. The research used GIS and spatial analysis to determine where areas of greatest dental need are for children in southern Illinois. After Adam graduates with his DMD, he plans to undertake an Advanced Education in General Dentistry residency at SIUE.

Photo of Adam Fritzgerald

Kassie Balestrieri, M.S.

As an undergraduate researcher in the lab, Kassie compared edge zones of undisturbed and disturbed or regrowth forests. She presented her findings in a poster at the 99th annual conference of the Illinois State Academy of Sciences in April 2007. After graduating from SIUE with a B.S. in May 2007, she began working for Pfizer Inc. in the Quality Assurance Department. Her primary responsibilities were batch review and audit support for Phase I and II clinical manufacturing of biotherapeutics. While working at Pfizer, Kassie received a Master's Degree in Biology from Washington University in St. Louis. In 2014, she resigned to pursue a Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Biology at the Brody School of Medicine in North Carolina. Her current research is focused on the inflammatory microenvironment of metastatic triple negative breast cancer.

Photo of Kassie Balestrieri

Nicholas Balestrieri, M.S.

Nick joined the lab in fall 2006 and performed an undergraduate research project on the evaluation of bottomland forest restoration. He presented a poster entitled "Evaluating Bottomland Forest Restoration in the Two Rivers National Wildlife Refuge, Illinois" at the 99th annual conference of the Illinois State Academy of Sciences, held in Springfield, Illinois, April 20-21, 2007.

After graduating with a B.S. from SIUE Nick took a position as Associate Scientist at Steris Corp.in St. Louis. During his tenure there he formulated Biological and Chemical Warfare agent decontamination systems for the U.S. Army. This was followed by a short stint at Monsanto, where he worked on formulations for the BioDirect product platform, the goal of which was to formulate a biological into Round Up to provide a species specific herbicide. He then decided to return to school and graduated with a Masters's in Physiology from Georgetown University. He currently holds a residency at East Carolina University, where he studies muscle physiology.

Photo of Nick Balestrieri
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