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A Tale of Two Juniors

It’s a cold day in Buffalo, typical for this industrial city, which is dusted with a fine coat of snow. Traversing the numerous buildings and animal habitats at the Buffalo Zoo, but sporting warm and cheerful smiles, are Ashley Hager and Megan Hilsdorf, junior biochemistry majors at Keuka College.

Both put in 8-hour-a-day, 6-day work weeks for three weeks in January to conduct 140-hour, Field Period internships at the zoo. While Hager spent most of her time in the Reptile House, working in the Hellbendar (salamander) acquatics lab, Hilsdorf worked with primates, birds and other animals in the M&T Rainforest Falls exhibit. Both were exposed to sections of the zoo the public never sees,  such as where specialized meals are prepared for each exhibit, animals receive any needed veterinary care, and babies are are kept until they are old enough to venture out into the display habitats.

Thanks to a relative of Hilsdorf’s who offered use of his Buffalo apartment for three weeks when he wasn’t going to be there, both girls were able to stay in the city and commute to the zoo each day for the internship, which is an annual part of every Keuka student’s graduation requirements.

“They’re so short-staffed, and they told us we’ve been a big help,” said Hager.

White-faced Saki monkeys at Buffalo Zoo's rainforest exhibit


Scientists in the Making

Chemist Dmitri Mendeleev is credited with developing the first periodic table of the elements, the most important reference in chemistry because it arranges all the elements in an easy-to-read chart.

This table was key for the nearly two dozen St. Michael’s School (Penn Yan) and Penn Yan Elementary School students who visited the Keuka College campus Nov. 19 for the Chemistry Club’s Kids’ Day, held in Jephson Science Center.

Chemistry Club member Richelle Coons adds food coloring to 'elephant toothpaste' as St. Michael's School fourth-grader Sarah Loucks looks on.

The elementary school students used the table to find the atomic numbers of such ingredients as potassium and iodine before creating “elephant” toothpaste, a foam that looks like “human” toothpaste.

Conducted once a semester, Kids’ Day shows elementary school students “how much fun science is,” said Club Secretary Janelle Davidson. “We want to get the kids interested in science at a young age and [Kids’ Day] gives them the opportunity to conduct experiments in a fun and safe way.”

Davidson, a senior biology major from Cortland, showed the youngsters how to use cabbage juice as a pH indicator.

“Acids and bases will make the cabbage juice turn different colors, depending on the pH in the acid or base,” she said.

Chemistry Club president Katie Barnhart, a senior biochemistry major from Warsaw, showed the youngsters what happens to marshmallows, a glove filled with air, and a hard-boiled egg inside a vacuum. The children also dipped cotton swabs in different salts and club member Jason Troutman, a senior biology major from Kirkville, placed the end in a Bunsen burner and, depending on the salt, a different color flame was produced.

Several elementary schoolers poke the 'ooblek' to feel its properties.

Club members also showed their young friends how to make ‘ooblek,’ a type of slime that has properties of both liquids and solids; conducted experiments by combining sugar and fire; and created fireworks with gummy bears.

The highlight of the event was watching Assistant Professor of Chemistry Andy Robak, Chemistry Club adviser, create bubbles by placing a gas-filled hose under water and dish soap. He got his hands and arms wet under the gas bubbles, scooped up the bubbles, and Barnhart set the bubbles on fire.

Other members of the Chemistry Club who took part included: Kyle Morgan, a sophomore biochemistry major from Alfred Station; Steve Stout (treasurer), a senior environmental science major from Locke; Brian DelPineo, a sophomore biochemistry major from Oneida; Ashley Hager, a sophomore biochemistry major from Chemung; Sonya Decker, a freshman occupational science major from Chemung; Kathlyn Parrish, a freshman biochemistry major from Cincinnatus; Caitlin Adams, a sophomore biology major from Redwood; Andrea Burgess, a senior management major from Hemlock; Alex Jones, a senior biology major from Conklin; Chelsea George, a freshman biomedical major from Strykersville; Krystal Russell, a freshman medical technician major from Berkshire; and Richelle Coons, a freshman adolescent biology major from Lyons.