Like any new parent, the expectant monarch butterfly is particular about its offspring’s nursery. It prefers to lay its eggs on a certain kind of milkweed plant. But which one? Cris Hochwender is leading a group of students searching for the answer, which could help to save the rapidly declining monarch population in Indiana.
This is just one of the many hands-on opportunities available to biology students studying under Hochwender. The on-campus Native Plant Garden, an 1,100-acre Conservation Park on the Wabash River, and the local Wesselman Woods Nature Preserve serve as readily available research sites for UE students.
Hochwender works with many students who have research funded through the UExplore program at UE. During the summer of 2018, a group of students are researching the Paw Paw tree, an invasive species overtaking much of the land inside Wesselman Woods Nature Preserve in Evansville.
“Deer and other animals don’t eat the Paw Paw tree, but they will eat saplings of other native plants as they grow, allowing the Paw Paw to overtake other species,” said Hochwender. “The fact that the nature preserve is allowing us to come onto the property and perform this research says a lot about the importance of the project.”
“We teach students about the entire research process from funding to publication,” said Hochwender. “They not only conduct the hands-on portion of the research, but they put together an extensive grant proposal and put in all the leg work to set up the study. Many go on to graduate as published professionals in their fields.”