Undergraduate Research

Olivia Smith '21

OUR Featured Researcher: Olivia Smith '21

Portrait of Olivia Smith
Photo credit: Tanya Rosen-Jones

Olivia Smith (she/her) is an Oberlin College Research Fellow (OCRF) and a Biology major conducting mentored research under Professor Roger Laushman. Her project is titled "Non-Random Distribution and Abundance of the Invasive Species Rosa multiflora in the Chance Creek Preserve". 

Please describe your project: 

Rosa multiflora is an aggressive invasive species that has the ability to overcrowd native species and dominate an ecosystem. The increase of R. multiflora has been observed in the Chance Creek Preserve following the major ash tree (Fraxinus americana) die-off due to another invasive species - the Emerald Ash Borer. Our first step in documenting the multiflora rose problem was to determine the distribution and abundance of the plants. We used GPS and GIS technology to map the location of roses throughout the 8-hectare study site, including which plants produced flowers. The mapping methods allowed us to correlate rose abundance with the various habitats within the study area, such as soils, disturbance, and light levels. Roses are concentrated in significantly non-random patterns in disturbed areas: along Peasley Road and in areas of high ash loss, and throughout the floodplain. Flowering plants are also highly non- random in their distribution, occurring in high-light environments. Our understanding of the distribution patterns allows us to propose methods for removal and control of future spread.

Why is your research important?

With the current climate changing rapidly it is important to document the change in our local environment. This research is important to my greater field to document the change in the Ohio Northeast ecosystem. It will fit into the larger story of what is changing in similar ecosystem across the United States.

In what ways have you showcased your research?

I had the opportunity to present my research at the Summer Symposium. After my second summer of research I will be heading to the Ecological Society of America conference during the summer of 2020 to display my work to a wider audience.

How did you get involved in research? What drove you to want to seek out research
experiences in college?

It was always been one of my goals to be able to conduct field research. My research has given me an opportunity to do hands on work in the field. It has also allowed me to explore how different parts of biology connect in a real time experiment.

How has working with your mentor impacted the development of your research project? How has it impacted you as a researcher?

I have been able to take the time to explore my own questions. With the help of Professor Laushman I am able to come up with a question and create methods that could answer that question. He is an essential part of my research project. I am always able to go to him for help when I hit a roadblock. It is also extremely beneficial to hear about his own expriences to get ready for my future within the biological field.

What advice would you give to a younger student wanting to get involved in research in
your field?

Start a research project on whatever topic interests you! You never know where it will go or what questions and answers will come from it!

Read about more of OUR featured researchers