Rachel Cary

Student Research: Rachel Cary examining viruses in amphibians at Rice Creek

Video Spotlight

 March 2012 - May 2014
Screening Rice Creek amphibian populations for infectious Ranavirus

What is the focus of your research and why is it important?

My research is focused on determining whether or not the amphibians at Rice Creek are threatened by Ranavirus.  This virus has been found elsewhere in the state.  It is very deadly and it spreads rapidly.  Amphibians are useful ecological indicators that can represent how well their environments are holding up.  My research is performed alongside a project testing for another disease (chytridiomycosis) and together we have begun to create a baseline amphibian population study for future comparison. 

What have you learned about conducting research?

Research can be frustrating, taxing, and above all rewarding.  You can spend a whole day working in the lab being very precise with your measurements and the results still will not turn out the way you want them to happen.  What I have found is that there is typically a correctable reason why things do not work the way they are supposed to, and I have spent months getting the reactions to work properly for this project.  Finally, when the controls work and the stars align, things start to happen as they are supposed to.  There is nothing more rewarding than that.

Describe a memorable research experience at Rice Creek Field Station.

When we were all still somewhat new to sampling, we went to a vernal pool that is near the Orange Trail.  It was a warm night and I had already flooded my rain boots, so I went almost waist-deep into the pool we were searching.  It was dark and I had seen a pair of eyes staring back at me in the beam of my headlamp but they were no mere green frog eyes.  They were the eyes of a massive bullfrog just staring at me.  I had shuffled as close as I dared to the bullfrog and in one swift move, I had caught it!  We were all excited because it was so big and had named it Jeremiah from a song we knew.  Since then we have caught even bigger bullfrogs but this was the first really large frog I had seen at Rice Creek.  It was really exciting to have caught it.

Where did you grow up and how did you become interested in science?

I grew up in Central Square, about forty minutes southeast of Oswego. When I was younger, my family would visit my grandparents at their property on Keuka Lake, and there was a small creek nearby that drained water from the hills into the lake. Whenever we went to go visit I would always drag someone along with me, usually my dad or grandmother, to go salamander hunting. We could usually count on finding at least half a dozen salamanders and maybe some frogs. I would bring them back to the cottage and play with the little critters. I have always wanted to learn as much as I could about reptiles and amphibians. My family was somehow not very surprised when my undergraduate research involved catching frogs and salamanders.

What are your plans for the future?

After I graduate from Oswego I plan on getting my PhD somewhere in the northeast. My research interests include pathology, genetics, and herpetology, so it is likely that I will work in one of these fields in the future. Luckily this project involved all three, so I have had good practice with laboratory skills and field collection skills. I am considering becoming a professor, but I would also love to do research on the pharmaceutical applications of venom.