RSU Students, Faculty Present Research at Oklahoma Academy of Science

Rogers State University students, former students and faculty presented their biology research at the 101st Annual Technical Meeting of the Oklahoma Academy of Science.

Dr. Craig Zimmermann, assistant professor of biology, mentored the two current students who presented their capstone research projects at the Nov. 9 conference at the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond.

Melinda Cheek, an biology/environmental conservation senior from Owasso, presented research on the effect of urbanization on sex ratios in freshwater turtle populations in northeastern Oklahoma. Tabitha Lowe, a biology/environmental conservation senior from Skiatook, presented research on the influence of controlled fire on habitat edge vegetation in Shortleaf pine forests.

This marked only the second time that RSU students have presented at the OAS Fall Technical Meeting, which includes oral and poster presentations of scientific research and Academy business by academic, professional, industrial and lay persons with an interest in science.

In addition to the student presentations, Dr. Zimmermann gave two presentations on his personal research projects, which involved four RSU graduates who have assisted his research as students and alumni.

Zimmermann’s first presentation explored the influence of historical coffee cultivation on terrestrial snail communities in Puerto Rican rainforests. Renee Heenan-Morse, a 2010 medical/molecular biology graduate from Foyil, and Nadiya Kyrylova, a 2011 biology-environmental conservation graduate from Claremore, traveled to Puerto Rico during the past three summers to assist in this project. Both served as co-authors on the presentation.

His second project investigated the paleovegetation of degraded desert grasslands in Big Bend National Park, Texas. Bryan Noblitt, a 2010 biology-environmental conservation graduate from Claremore, and Richard Hart, a 2011 medical/molecular biology graduate from Claremore, assisted on this project and were co-authors.

Kyrylova is pursuing a master’s degree in environmental science at OSU Tulsa, while Noblitt is working for the Army Corps of Engineers. Heenan-Morse and Hart both are serving as lab instructors for the RSU Department of Biology this semester, with Hart planning to attend medical school and Heenan-Morse is planning to attend graduate school.

Heenan-Morse holds the distinction as being the university’s first student to present at OAS when she appeared there two years ago. That same year, she earned a research award at the 2010 Research Day at the Oklahoma Capitol for her ecology research related to Puerto Rican snails. OAS sponsors state scientific meetings, recognizes scientists and organizations for scientific endeavors within the state, supports various collegiate student research programs, including student awards for outstanding scientific research, and promotes high school student research with cash awards. For more information, visit

More information about RSU’s biology programs.