Make The Connection

Theory-to-Practice Grant, ‘Understanding the Global Prevalence of Plumage Microbes’

January 14, 2016 – by Ohio Wesleyan University

Larynn Cutshaw ’17 counts bacterial and fungal colonies on microbiology plates during a research project in Australia. Work on the Theory-to-Practice-Grant-supported project continues at Ohio Wesleyan. (Photo courtesy of Nadya Sotnychuk ’17)

Name: Nadya Sotnychuk ’17
Majors: Zoology and Psychology
Minor: Theatre
Hometown: Vineland, New Jersey
Experience: Theory-to-Practice Grant, ‘Understanding the Global Prevalence of Plumage Microbes’

In summer 2015, Sotnychuk and Larynn Cutshaw ’17 of Marietta, Ohio, traveled to Australia as part of a study that includes comparing the prevalence of feather-degrading bacteria in birds in Australia and North America.

Lessons Learned: “It is extremely difficult to put into words all the things I have learned, and continue to learn, from this experience. Long before I left for Australia, I began my education on the process and preparation required to conduct biological research outside of the United States.

“By professional networking, Larynn Cutshaw and I found an ornithologist willing to provide us lab space and to work with us while we were in Australia. We also needed safe, reliable, and affordable housing during our stay, and were fortunate to secure that through Deakin University. We needed to obtain permits to export feathers out of Australia and import them into the United States. This was a crucial part of our study as we are currently working to extract bacteria from these feathers to add to Ohio Wesleyan University’s Bacillus collection.

“Once in Australia, I learned a great deal more as I prepared for both field work and lab work in such an amazing country. ... I handled exotic wild birds, including the famous Superb Fairy Wren of Australia and even some wild parrots.

Nadya Sotnychuk ’17 holds a Crimson Rosella (parrot) sampled for plumage microbes for research conducted in Australia.

“I am excited to say we are also working on submitting our results to prestigious microbiological and ornithological journals. I am so very grateful to all the OWU faculty and staff that have helped us and who continue to help with our research including Dr. Laura Tuhela-Reuning and Dr. Edward H. Burtt Jr.

“The educational and experiential opportunities provided to me by the Theory-to-Practice Grant are immeasurable. It is amazing that now I can call myself an international researcher and I hope to inspire and enlighten others with the results of our work in Australia.”