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Westminster biology student, professor visit U.S. fish hatcheries for research project

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Posted on Wednesday, August 23, 2023

A Westminster College student-faculty pair traveled to fish hatcheries around the U.S. this summer collecting tissue samples for studies supported by the Dietz-Sullivan Summer Research Experience award.

The award enabled Max Furimsky, a senior biology major from New Wilmington, Pa., and Dr. John Robertson, associate professor of biology, to acquire necessary samples for Furimsky’s senior capstone project of quantifying and describing the pigmentation in gills of sturgeons and paddlefish, two endangered species of Acipenseriformes fish order.

At Bear’s Bluff National Fish Hatchery in coastal South Carolina, samples from Atlantic sturgeon—presently listed as endangered under federal statute—were obtained. Samples from paddlefish, classified as a vulnerable species, were collected at Blind Pony State Fish Hatchery in Missouri, and tissues from pallid sturgeon—also listed as endangered—were sampled at Gavin’s Point National Fish Hatchery in Yankton, S.D.

“The opportunity to work with this group of fascinating and threatened fishes provides a chance to investigate a previously undescribed aspect of their biology and is a wonderful undergraduate research experience,” said Robertson.

Upon completion of his undergraduate degree, Furimsky plans to attend graduate school and is interested in a career in biology research.

Fred Sullivan has supported faculty-student collaborative summer research in the Department of Biology for many years. His generosity and promotion of quality undergraduate educational experiences honors his late wife, 1959 Westminster alumna Carol Dietz Sullivan.