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Environmental Symposium award winners announced

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Posted on Saturday, December 16, 2023

Regional college and high school students earned top awards for their project entries in Westminster College’s 16th annual Student Symposium on the Environment held Dec. 7.

More than 130 attended the symposium that featured environment-focused projects, research, service work, internships and artwork of students from Westminster College, Chatham University, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Saint Vincent College, Thiel College, the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg, Butler Senior High School, Central Valley High School, Neshannock High School and Wilmington Area High School.

Seventy-four projects were presented among seven main categories at this year’s symposium: Environmental Project Posters, Environmental Research Posters, Oral Presentations, High School Presentations, Photography, Painting and other Creative Works.

Saint Vincent College student Bridgette Gorg earned the top prize for her Environmental Project poster presentation “Alaskan Fisheries Internship.” Gorg also won first place in the Photography category for her photograph “Historic Kijik VIllage as Viewed from Floatplane.”

Westminster student Noah Gray won for her Research Poster presentation on “Utilization of Under-road Culverts by Wildlife in Riparian Corridors.”

Gillian Revenis from Chatham University won the Oral Presentation category for her research “Are Deer Exclosures Really Doing Any Good? Exploring Native Plant Abundance and the Legacy of White-Tailed Deer Overbrowsing.”

First place for the Painting Category went to Joshua Glaser from Westminster College for his painting “Lazarus Species: Costa Rica Golden Toads.”

The Creative Works category winners were Amelia Mason, Kathryn Rankin and Aaron Snyder from Westminster College for their work “The Words of Westminster.”

The winners in the High School category were Wilmington Area High School students in Chris Cassano’s Advanced Scientific Research class for their works-in-progress:

•    Paige Buckwalter, Colin Hill and Ellie Cullen for their work “Horizontal Gene Transfer of GMO-associated DNA Sequences (Cauliflower Mosiac Virus and Agrobacterium tumefaciens) to Soybeans from GMO-contaminated Water and Soil.”
•    Linnea Funari, Emily Fuchs and Ellie Postema for their work “The Agricultural Impact of Using Natural and Synthetic Soil Buffers (Sodium Acetate Acetic Acid, Humic Acid, and Earthworms) as a Means of Reducing Ammonia Volatilization and Nitrate Leaching from Urea-based Fertilizers.”
•    Casey Lukacs, Sonya Merz and William Huff for their work “The Effects of Visible LED Light on the Rate of Respiration of Saccharomyces cerevisiae as a Measure of the Environmental Impact of Artificial Light at Night (ALAN).”

Honorable mentions went to:

•    Westminster College students Zachary Burghgraef, Ellian Ascencio, Charles Moller and Lucas Whitcomb for their Environmental Project “DIY Raman Spectrophotometer”
•    Aislinn Andrews of Westminster College for her Research Poster “Variation in Offspring Sex Ratio in American Kestrels (Falco sparverius)”
•    Sara A. Parker of Chatham University for her talk “It’s an Acquired Taste: Annotation, Phylogeny and Expression of Gustatory Receptors in Culex quinquefasciatus Provides Insight to Mosquito Host Preference”
•    Sarah Maloney of Neshannock High School for her talk “Integrating Place-Based Education into the Classroom Through Bird By Bird”
•    Amelia Lenz of Neshannock High School for her photograph “Busy Bee”
•    Hannah Piccirilli of Westminster College for her painting “Field Guide: Cantharellus”
•    Olivia Hodil, Kevin Wright and Connor Hutchison of Westminster College for their creative work “Ingesting Toxins.”

Hannah Plowman, a junior strategic communication and social media major at Westminster, was also recognized at the event for designing the new logo for the Student Symposium on the Environment. Plowman was a student in Kandice Hartner’s Corporate Identity and Branding Class, in which students  were tasked with designing and submitting potential logo designs.

Winners selected in the symposium’s seven main categories were awarded cash prizes sponsored by BioMost, Inc. and Stream Restoration Inc. All awardees received a certificate.

The 17th Annual Student Symposium on the Environment will be held on Thursday, Dec. 5, 2024. The annual event is sponsored by the Center for the Environment at Westminster College and the Slippery Rock Watershed Coalition.

For more information about the symposium, please contact Dr. Helen Boylan, professor of chemistry, at or 724-946-6293.