Students reflect on Amazonian adventure at RARE symposium

Senior Chelsey Dietzel with a sculpture of a stingray she created as part of her RARE research project.
Senior Chelsey Dietzel with a sculpture of a stingray she created as part of her RARE research project.

Students who participated in this summer’s Radford Amazonian Research Expedition (RARE) to Peru presented their research and shared their many adventures during the Sept. 28 RARE Symposium.

The student-researchers lined the first level of the Center for the Sciences with informative research posters and supplemental materials that documented their three-week study abroad experience.

As part of her research, senior Chelsey Dietzel, a biology and art major, is creating a freshwater stingray sculpture. She displayed a preliminary model of the fish at the symposium.

“I’m pretty proud of this little guy,” Dietzel said.

Dietzel spent countless hours fishing the Las Piedras River in an attempt to capture a live stingray. Unfortunately, she said, it was the dry season, and not many stingrays could be found.

In fact, Dietzel had just one thrilling chance during the three-week trip to document one. She was in the jungle, climbing a tree, when she heard someone yell they’d caught a stingray. She rushed to the water’s edge where she found a RARE guide holding the fish.

“My adrenaline was rushing,” DIetzel said.

She carefully measured the stingray and took photographs, then released it back into the river.

Dietzel plans to create another stingray out of sculpting clay, along with two other species, and an informational plaque about each one. She will present them next semester at an art exhibit.

“Biology helps you get the research, and art can help bring that science to life,” Dietzel explained. “I hope more majors will continue to participate in RARE, because it can have such a huge impact.”

Dietzel rated her RARE experience “over 110 percent.”

“Going on this trip, it was a real life-changer,” she said.

Junior Drew Wolford studied a strange fungus in ants, called cordyceps.
Junior Drew Wolford studied an unusual fungus called cordyceps.

Drew Wolford, a junior biology major, researched an unusual fungus called cordyceps that “turns ants into zombies,” he said.

“The fungus creates spores that take over the ants,” Wolford explained. “But don’t worry, it can’t infect humans, only invertebrates.”

A highlight for Wolford was finding a mass grave of ants to better study this phenomena.

“Overall, RARE was the best adventure I’ve ever had,” he said.

A McGlothlin Foundation and Scholar-Citizen Initiative (SCI) award helped fund his trip. Wolford said he plans to go to graduate school to continue his cordyceps research.

RARE is a three-week trip to Peru during which Radford University students not only conduct original research, but develop new knowledge, build strong relationships with each other and faculty, explore the exotic terrain and serve those who call the jungle home.

Due to the increased number of participants, the expedition was split into two trips this year. The first group, led by professors Jay Caughron and Stockton Maxwell, left May 15 and arrived back in the United States on June 4. The second team, led by professors Cassady Urista and Jason Davis, departed July 16 and returned Aug. 6.

Oct 11, 2017
Mary Hardbarger
(540) 831-5150