For wildlife, fisheries and aquaculture senior Ethan Woodyard, the best part about his major and research opportunities in the College of Forest Resources is doing hands-on work.
"We're out in the field all of the time, and I really like that about the major," said Woodyard, who now has had two first-author manuscripts published on his parasitology research.
As a student worker with the MSU College of Veterinary Medicine's Department of Basic Science, Woodyard has participated in several studies. His first project involved researching the lifecycle of parasites within owls. The second project with a focus on internal parasites of American alligators and spotted gar is being carried out under the direction of Graham Rosser, assistant research professor in CVM, and Scott Rush, associate professor in Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture.
"I was not initially interested in parasitology, but became interested through my participation as a student worker, which involved washing dishes and caring for research animals in the aquatic parasitology lab in the vet school," Woodyard said. "The longer I worked in the lab, the more parasitology techniques I picked up until I knew enough to do my own projects and write papers about them."
He presented a paper on alligators at a 2018 Southeastern Society of Parasitologists regional meeting hosted by the College of Veterinary Medicine. He also received the 2018 Snieszko Student Travel Award and will use the funds to present his project at the 8th International Symposium on Aquatic Animal Health at Prince Edward Island in Canada in September.
Woodyard said presenting his alligator research was a defining moment. "It was exciting to have a room full of people listening to a presentation on what I think is a pretty weird and obscure thing, and they're into it. That was cool," he said.
Woodyard recently received a grant from the IUCN Crocodile Specialist Group to continue research on alligator parasites at the College of Veterinary Medicine. The Crocodile Specialist Group is an international network focused on conservation of alligators, crocodiles, caimans and gharials. This project will focus on examining the diversity and life cycles of internal parasites of euthanized alligator specimens that have been donated to the university for research.
Woodyard plans to graduate this spring and hopes to continue his parasitology research in graduate school.
"My biggest recommendation to incoming students is to get involved with research early on," he said. "Students can pick up skills they won't get in a classroom setting. In my experience, MSU faculty are always glad to meet students who are excited about their fields and are usually happy to get students involved in research."