Franklin & Marshall College Franklin & Marshall College

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Lacawac Sanctuary

by Jennifer Everhart and Jennifer Payne

Lacawac Sanctuary Gives Undergraduates A New Appreciation for Field Research

The opportunity to gain intensive research experience with professors has been one of the most unique aspects of our undergraduate education at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, PA. By spending 10 days at the Lacawac Sanctuary at the end of June, we experienced the rewards and challenges of field research first hand. During our time at the Sanctuary, we worked closely with our professor, Dr. Mark Olson to investigate the effects of UV radiation and temperature on bluegill spawning at the nearby Lake Giles. By building on previous results, this study aims to determine how environmental conditions (specifically temperature and UV radiation) affect spawning.

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We monitored five colonies of bluegill nests by placing sensors used to measure UV damage and temperature in the fish’s nests. At each colony we also swam with the bluegill, making visual observations of each nests’ condition. Our job was to determine whether the nests contained eggs, larvae, or nothing at all. Daily monitoring allowed us to determine when the eggs were laid and how long it took the offspring to develop and leave the nest. One of the most exciting moments of our time in Lake Giles was actually seeing a male and female spawning.

Our research at Lake Giles provided us with a great opportunity to gain research experience in the field. We learned new techniques for collecting data and how to manage when conditions in the field deviate from the plan, as well as a lot of new information about the bluegill and other species of fish that live in Lake Giles.

Although much of our time revolved around data collection at Lake Giles, we were also able to enjoy many benefits that the Lacawac Sanctuary has to offer. We spent a morning exploring the trails and Heron Pond while searching for newts in the woods and at the edge of the lake. We enjoyed rowing around the lake and relaxing on the dock in the evenings.

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We also had the chance to participate in the 3rd annual Nature Fest. We talked to visitors about the spawning cycle of the various sunfish that live in Lake Lacawac, such as the pumpkinseed (also known as sunfish). We described what the nests looked like and how the male fish act as guardian until all the larvae have left. The visitors then had the opportunity to use underwater viewing scopes to observe the fish nests from a boat. We enjoyed sharing the knowledge we had gained over the previous week with the public and hearing the excitement in the childrens' voices when they told us about the fish they had seen.

Overall, our time at Lacawac Sanctuary was a wonderful experience and one that definitely enhanced our appreciation for the ecology and field research.

Both are students at Franklin and Marshall College: Jennifer Everhart (’11) is majoring in Environmental Science and Spanish and Jennifer Payne (’10) is majoring in Biology. Jennifer Payne's housing expenses at Lacawac were supported by the Watres Student Research Fund.