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QCNR Undergrad Researchers among Aggies Headed to Utah's Capitol Hill

Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017

Killer whale research team

USU undergrad researcher Rylee Jensen, far right, with research mentor Bob Otis and student colleagues at Washington's Lime Kiln Lighthouse State Park on San Juan Island. Jensen is among Aggies presenting on Utah’s Capitol Hill Jan. 24.

Researcher in greenhouse

Undergrad researcher Gabriela Judd at work in a USU greenhouse. Judd presents research on the native wetlands plant Alkali bulrush to state legislators at the 2017 Undergraduate Research Day on Utah's Capitol Hill Jan. 24, in Salt Lake City.

Utah State University scholars Rylee Jensen and Gabriela Judd are among about 30 Aggies selected to present projects during 2017 Undergraduate Research Day Tuesday, Jan. 24, in Salt Lake City. The student researchers, both from the Quinney College of Natural Resources, will discuss their research posters, set up in the Capitol Rotunda, with state legislators and guests.

The annual event, initiated by USU, coincides with the opening week of the 2017 Utah Legislative Session. The gathering is designed to highlight the benefits of undergraduate research to state lawmakers.

A Quinney Scholar and USU Honors student, Jensen became fascinated with killer whales as a high school student during a family vacation on Washington’s San Juan Island. She met retired college professor Bob Otis, who studies orcas at the island’s Lime Kiln State Park and agreed to mentor the Clinton, Utah native with whale research.

With additional guidance from Julie Young, associate professor in USU’s Department of Wildland Resources, the wildlife science major is investigating killer whale behaviors such as breaching, tail slapping and pec slapping.

“I’m examining behavioral preferences among individuals in the Southern Resident killer whale population of Washington state,” says Jensen, a USU Undergraduate Research Fellow. “I’m grateful for the grant and scholarship support I’ve received from USU that have helped me immensely in carrying out the research and pursuing presentation opportunities.”

Judd, a conservation and restoration ecology major, is studying a pesky, invasive plant known as phragmites with Watershed Sciences faculty mentor Karin Kettenring. The wetlands plant has spread throughout the Great Salt Lake and surrounding areas, where it crowds out native plants critical to migratory birds for nesting and sustenance.

“Phragmites make it difficult for Alkali bulrush and other native wetland species to thrive, which has made removal of phragmites and re-vegetation of native species a priority for Utah’s wetland managers,” Judd says

The Provo, Utah native is scouting geographical locations of Alkali bulrush with the most effective seedling performance to provide wetland managers with information on where to find the best seeds for remedial planting.

“Phragmites present a challenge throughout Utah’s wetlands and throughout the nation,” Judd says. “We hope our research will support the state’s conservation efforts.”

Related Links
Undergraduate Research at USU 
USU Department of Wildland Resources 
USU Department of Watershed Sciences 
USU Quinney College of Natural Resources 

Contact: Rylee Jensen,
Contact: Gabriela Judd,
Writer: Mary-Ann Muffoletto, 435-797-3517,

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