Randolph-Macon College student Delaney Sheire ’16 can be found most days in a Copley Science Center lab. The biology major is participating in R-MC’s unique SURF (Schapiro Undergraduate Research Fellowship) program. SURF offers students the opportunity to conduct 10 weeks of full-time, original research under the guidance of a faculty mentor.
Sheire’s research is titled Behavioral mechanisms brook trout use to establish linear dominance hierarchies.
“These fish can determine their linear hierarchies through fighting,” explains Sheire, who is working under the mentorship of Biology and Environmental Studies Professor Chas. Gowan. “Once the hierarchy is determined, the trout can conserve energy when competing for food and space. In the wild these fish will move from pool to pool in freshwater streams. I am trying to determine what happens when a new fish enters a pool with an already determined linear hierarchy.”
A Day in the Life
A typical day of research for Sheire is packed: She arrives to the lab by 8 a.m. and begins by cleaning filters, feeding fish, checking pH levels, and adding water to tanks. She and Gowan then meet to discuss goals for the day.
“Each day is different,” says Sheire. “We have had to figure out how to mark the fish, make an automatic feeder, and create new ‘arenas’ for the fish to be in while the research is being conducted. Professor Gowan is teaching me so much about how to run a lab, and the daily challenges that fish biologists face.” Those challenges are exciting to Sheire, whose goals include graduate school and a career as an aquatic biologist.
Sheire, the COO for Kappa Alpha Theta and president of the Panhellenic Council of R-MC, plans to continue to conduct research in the aquatics field of biology.
“This summer has given me a new appreciation for brook trout and freshwater aquatics in general,” she says. “I want to continue to do research on brook trout behavior and eventually move to the west coast to study fish in high-elevation mountain streams.”
“Delaney has been a fantastic colleague,” says Gowan, the Paul H. Wornom, M.D., Professor in Biological Sciences. “She is a tireless worker, and has the mental toughness to deal with the inevitable and nearly constant trial and error it takes to conduct behavioral research. Even better, she seems to be recognizing just how fascinating trout are! We plan to continue her research during the school year, and I’m confident that she’ll be able to publish her research in a top journal.”
About Chas. Gowan
In 2008, Gowan was awarded the Paul H. Wornom, M.D., Professorship in Biological Sciences. He is the former director of the First-Year Experience program and served on the Committee on Admissions, Credits, and Academic Status of Students. He now serves on the Curriculum Committee and is chair of the Biology Department. In 2009, Gowan received a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF). The Town of Ashland supported his efforts with an additional $100,000 to help restore Mechumps Creek.
Gowan joined the faculty at Randolph-Macon College in 1996. He earned his B.S. from the State University of New York, his M.S. from Michigan State University and his Ph.D. from Colorado State University.