Southeast Students Explore Climate Change on Small Animals in Manitoba

A team of biology students and faculty from Southeast Missouri State University recently traveled to Churchill, Manitoba, to study and see first-hand the effects of climate change.

Dr. Jon Davenport, assistant professor of biology, led the annual trip this past May 29-June 13. His graduate assistant, Kenzi Stemp of Winston Salem, North Carolina, and six undergraduate students — Job Berbling of Sikeston, Missouri; Nathan Sullivan of Cape Girardeau; Megan Manzo of Imperial, Missouri; Mahala Landeros of Sullivan, Missouri; Jessica Schmidt, of Sikeston; and Mackenzie Albers of Glencoe, Missouri — all participated.

Davenport has made this trip many times before to observe the sites of wood frogs’ egg masses. He was first introduced to this region as an undergraduate student, and he was able to participate when he became a graduate student.

Southeast Biology Student Stories from Around the World:

“I fell in love with it,” he said. He has returned to Manitoba for the past seven years and plans to continue in the future.

Southeast students Jon Berbling and Megan Manzo.

The goal of the course was for students to study wood frog reproduction from designated ponds while staying at the Churchill Northern Study Centre, a Canadian field station. From there, they observed and maintained the egg masses in a controlled temperature lab until they hatched.

“Once hatched, our experiment was to allow the tadpoles to grow to maturity in different mesocosms we set up to understand how different environmental variables (in this case, temperature) would affect the growth of juvenile wood frogs,” said Berbling, a biology major, wildlife and conservation option. “This data would be incorporated into Dr. Davenport’s research about the effects of climate change on wood frogs in a sub-arctic environment.”

Southeast student Megan Manzo.

During the 15-day trek, the Southeast group spent time in the field, attended seminars with current researchers in the field and experienced the local culture of Churchill.

“Although the trip wasn’t very long, I learned an incredible amount about what it means to be a researcher in the field, how to work alongside new people, and the importance of the research being done when it comes to the effects of climate change,” Berbling said.

The students also observed ring seals living on coastal ice sheets and recorded data on arctic foxes in the tundra.

“The students get the chance to go to another country and experience the different ecosystems with so many different creatures,” Davenport said. “They learn the importance of communicating science with other professionals, and they get to see first-hand the effects of climate change that we learn about in the classroom.”

Southeast students Jon Berbling, Kenzi Stemp and MacKenzie Albers.

“I feel that Dr. Davenport is now a friend in addition to being one of my professors, and I’ve become friends with all of the students I went on the trip with. It was definitely one of the coolest experiences of my life so far, and I would encourage any biology students interested in field work to join Dr. Davenport on trips to come,” Berbling said.

To learn more about future trips to Manitoba, contact Dr. Jon Davenport in the Southeast Department of Biology at (573) 651-2366 or at jdavenport@semo.edu.