Where is he now? An update to our original story.
David Flagel is now a doctoral candidate in the biology program at the University of Notre Dame. He is also an Arthur J. Schmitt Presidential Fellow. His research focuses on gray wolf re-colonization in the Great Lakes Region. Flagel teaches during the school year. In the summer he serves as a mentor for undergraduate researchers at the University of Notre Dame Environmental Research Center (UNDERC). This program is similar to the UW Oshkosh student/faculty collaborative grant program. He said, “The experiences I had under the Oshkosh program were definitely key to my success moving into grad school and my career, and I am happy to give back in this way.”
Original StoryBy Tracy Rusch, journalism, May 2008 graduate
When humans chop down acre after acre of tropical forests every day, they threaten the forests’ ecosystems. Luckily, plants and animals “fix” these areas by dispersing seeds. Many studies exist on the rates of this seed dispersal, but cover only seeds that are already on the ground not the lives of the seeds before they have dropped.
David Flagel, a May 2008 biology graduate, spent several months studying the influence of height on seed removal by small rodents in the Central Panama Soberanian National Park. He conducted research in the summer of 2007 as a part of the UW Oshkosh Undergraduate Student/Faculty Collaborative Research program.
To conduct research, Flagel created 10 stations in the forest with live trap exclosures, which were protected areas that allowed entrance by only small rodents. Each station had an exclosure at the ground, subcanopy and canopy levels, and fresh fruit at each level.
Flagel recorded data on fruit removal by rodents, living on the ground and in the trees, rotting fruit and replacement of fruit over a period of 60 days. He discovered that many seeds were removed from the ground, but because rodents also removed the seeds at other levels, seed removal from those levels could be important in determining seed fate.
“This project allowed me to work with seed predators and helped to spark my current interests in how pred-prey systems affect plant communities,” Flagel said. “It also gave me the opportunity to work in an environment which I will not likely be able to [work in] again for quite some time.”
Flagel worked with adviser Dr. Gregory Adler, a UW Oshkosh Biology and Microbiology professor, during this summer 2007 project. But this wasn’t his first research project.
He also participated in the Summer 2006 UW Oshkosh Undergraduate Student/Faculty Collaborative Research program with associate biology and microbiology professor Dr. Robert Stelzer, and geology professor Dr. Maureen Muldoon, on his project titled “Nitrogen Dynamics and Processing in a Wisconsin Stream.”
Flagel learned valuable lessons from his advisers during these research projects, whether he was doing simple maintenance work or working with them closely.
“They taught me well that patience in scientific research is a virtue, and that one must be careful to follow protocol,” Flagel said. “There is not disappointment in a project that doesn’t work, but only the opportunity to learn more.”
Now graduated, Flagel looks back on his undergraduate work with gratitude. He juggled everything from working as a lab assistant and volunteering for UW Oshkosh Solar Olympics, to being the Microbiology Club’s secretary and treasurer.
Flagel said that Adler’s and Stelzer’s classes were beneficial in preparing him for research, as well as classes he took in high school.
“Nothing prepares you more than experience, which I even had at the high school level,” Flagel said. “Thanks to Mr. Burbach of Markesan High School, who got our CAPP class involved in several research endeavors throughout the year.”
As he attends the University of Notre Dame and works toward his goal of becoming tenured faculty at a university, he encourages students to get involved. “Experience is everything if you want to get ahead in science,” Flagel said. “Working at Dairy Queen or the canning factory over the summer may pay more, but it won’t do you nearly as much good in the end.”
As a UW Oshkosh undergraduate student, David Flagel was involved in: Celebration of Scholarship 2007 and 2008, Posters in the Rotunda 2007 and 2008, Summer 2006 and Summer 2007 Undergraduate Student/Faculty Collaborative Research program.