Student-driven studies of bean beetles and wildlife navigation are part of the Science Department’s initiative to advance undergraduate research opportunities at Cochise College.
Ricardo Martinez during the colloquium’s student poster session.
“We’ve learned that this is an experience that’s extremely rare for community colleges,” said science student Ricardo Martinez. “We feel like we’re getting in on the ground floor of community college research. It’s important to us because we have such ambitious goals that we’re trying to elevate ourselves above other candidates.”
Both the bean beetle and wildlife navigation research projects are primarily funded by CCURI and students earn credit through the Cochise College Honors Program. Students showcase their research annually at the college’s Honors Colloquium, but presenting at CCURI’s spring colloquium offered a chance to network with students and faculty from colleges from across the country.
Blake Suarez, Oscar Diaz and Martinez, accompanied by Cochise College Science Department chair Tasneem Ashraf and biology instructor Edmund Priddis, were not only included in the colloquium’s overall student poster session, but they also presented their bean beetle research to a captive audience during the all-day colloquium on Feb. 22.
“This kind of research really crystallizes everything you learn in class,” Diaz said. “We can spend a week on something in class, but when you’re out doing it, there’s a level of mastery you achieve that only comes with practical application. If you want to keep going with any science-related field, you can’t just get an A on the test; you have to master the material.”
Blake Suarez stands with the students’ poster detailing their bean beetle research.
Ashraf and Priddis said this unique opportunity might not have come to fruition without the support of Bubba Hall, Cochise College’s Dean of Math, Sciences and Health Sciences, and Hannah Jones, who provided lab support.
“This was great exposure for the students and reflects the college’s mission to promote learning beyond the classroom,” Ashraf said. “Following the colloquium event, these students have been contacted by other college students who were also at the event to collaborate on future research projects.”
According to its website, CCURI “uses an inquiry-based teaching model where students are exposed to real world science through a case study in an introductory course followed by a hands-on research experience resulting from questions about or related to the case.” As one of CCURI’s 26 institutional partners, Cochise College has received funding for resources to further the research of both the bean beetle and wildlife navigation projects.
Oscar Diaz learns about research done by other schools.
One of those resources is a set of motion-activated “camera traps,” set up at Gray Hawk Nature Center owned by Sandy Anderson, to use for mapping the navigational habits of the roughly 80 species of mammals in the area of the San Pedro River.
The bean beetle research project examined different protein extraction techniques to learn more about the “agricultural pest” that feeds and develops “entirely on the seed of legumes,” according to the students’ research poster.
“For me, the biggest thing about these projects is discovery,” Suarez said. “I got into this expecting an outcome, but when you get into the nitty gritty, you realize things can go in many different directions. I also think the interaction between student and teacher is very important. You form an academic and research relationship that gets you to the next level and will help you in the future with your career.”
From left, Tasneem Ashraf, Edmund Priddis, Blake Suarez, Oscar Diaz and Ricardo Martinez in Mesa for the CCURI SpringStudent Colloquium.