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Student Receives Award for Research on Australian Tree Kangaroo while Studying Abroad

by Bill Giduz
Rebecca Evans with tree kangaroo
Rebecca Evans helps feed a tree kangaroo.

The School for Field Studies (SFS) recently awarded Davidson junior Rebecca Evans its "Distinguished Student Researcher Award" for her investigation into rainforest ecology in Queensland, Australia. Evans, a biology major and pre-medical student from Due West, S.C., studied abroad in Queensland through the SFS during the past fall semester.

SFS students work with faculty to develop individual projects that relate to the organization's five-year research plan to address ecological problems in the local community. SFS presents the award to students whose research is outstanding in design, fieldwork, reporting, and contribution to the five year plan.

Her research advisor in Australia, Prof. Sigrid Heise-Pavlov said, "Based on her thorough work on her research project, her positive attitude to new challenges, her ability to interpret unexpected results and derive new avenues for future projects, I believe that Rebecca is highly qualified for a future career in scientific research."

Evans mostly studied microbiology at Davidson, and wanted to try something different while studying abroad. SFS offered her the opportunity to work with either plants, animals, or socio-economic issues, and Evans chose to conduct an animal study.

Her project involved using hair for the identification of Lumholtz's Tree-Kangaroo (Dendrolagus lumholtzi) feces. Professor Heise-Pavlov noted, "This research is essential in developing non-invasive methods to study elusive folivores in rainforest environments with particular focus on the study of the cryptic Lumholtz' tree-kangaroo. Rebecca's research is of high importance for the improvement of the method of fecal counts."

As an SFS student research winner, SFS offers Evans a stipend for travel to a conference to present her compiled research at an American institution.

Evans is planning to attend medical school and undertake a career in family practice. Before going to medical school, though, she hopes to spend a year or two conducting laboratory based research.