Owen Edwards

As a Senior in the biological sciences at Eckerd College, I have found myself interested in the ecology and evolution of vertebrates, specifically reptiles and amphibians. Although my passion for herps began at an early age, the classroom experiences and research training while at Eckerd have allowed me to grow as a field herpetologist in particular and research biologist in general.

Since arriving at Eckerd College in 2017, I have been continuously engaged in undergraduate research. As a freshman, I served as a research assistant for Dr. Peter Meylan’s long-term mark-recapture study of turtles from Rainbow River of south-central Florida. The primary objective of this ongoing project is to monitor changes in turtle populations from this heavily used recreational site. Several times during the semester, I assisted in collecting turtles from sites along this spring-fed river and obtained life history data for all turtles that were captured.

As a sophomore, I joined Jeffrey Goessling’s research lab, with an interest in addressing the causes and consequences of environmental perturbations on various species of reptiles. I worked with Dr. Goessling and other students on a long-term demographic study of gopher tortoises living in a local nature preserve. I collected tortoises in the field and marked captured individuals with PIT Tags. In addition, I collected blood samples and compiled life history data from captured tortoises.

My experience and commitment to this project led to my involvement in a gopher tortoise research project under the guidance of Dr. Goessling and his colleague, Dr. Craig Guyer, from Auburn University during Summer 2019. I spent part of the summer in Conecuh National Forest in Alabama collecting morphometric data and blood samples from captured tortoises. Later, I worked in the lab performing white blood cell counts, bacterial assays, and subsequently analyzing data that were collected.

During the summer of 2020, I worked on an independent research project addressing parasite diversity among green treefrogs from their historical and expanded ranges in southern Illinois. I plan on using the results of this research as part of my senior thesis project this spring.

When I complete my undergraduate studies at Eckerd College, I plan on attending a graduate program in ecology and evolution. My choice of a career after completing graduate school is less certain at this time. Given the myriad of ecological and environmental challenges that we are facing now, and will continue to face in the future, I envision pursuing a professional career that will integrate my knowledge and understanding of evolutionary ecology with any number of other sectors, including but not limited to business, politics, or human health. Regardless of the path I choose, I know that the liberal education I received at Eckerd College, along with my research training, will be integral to becoming a professional evolutionary ecologist and advocate for the natural world.