May 28, 2015 at 1:00pm

Millikin graduate, faculty members present research

The International Urban Wildlife Conference provides a venue for researchers, practitioners and students to share the latest research on the ecology and management of urban wildlife. This year's conference, held May 17-20 at the Lincoln Park Zoo's Urban Wildlife Institute in Chicago, Ill., featured nearly 300 presenters, including scientists from Nigeria, Germany, Australia and Canada, as well as the United States.

Among the presenters were recent Millikin University graduate Elizabeth Wrobel, and Millikin faculty members Dr. David Horn, associate professor of biology, and Dr. Travis Wilcoxen, assistant professor of biology.

Wrobel, a James Millikin Scholar (JMS) who graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Biology on May 17, presented her research, conducted at the Illinois Raptor Center, entitled, "Direct and indirect effects of human activities on disease, toxicology, and injury of birds of prey."

"I really enjoyed being able to give a talk on both my Millikin undergraduate research project and the other projects being carried out by my lab mates," said Wrobel. "One interesting thing to note was that there was only one other presentation at the conference about birds of prey. I think this really showcases the uniqueness of the type of research that Millikin students get to do."

In August 2015, Wrobel will begin a research assistantship for a Ph.D. program in the Department of Poultry Science at the University of Georgia's College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

"I have been anticipating going to graduate school since my freshman year at Millikin," said Wrobel. "I believe that my education at Millikin, specifically the research opportunities I have received, have more than prepared me for the academic challenges that I will encounter as a graduate student."

Dr. Wilcoxen added, "Elizabeth's presentation at the International Urban Wildlife Conference epitomizes Performance Learning at Millikin. Not only did she present the components of the raptor research that were part of her own Millikin undergraduate research, she also combined the findings of other students into a single, cohesive story about raptor ecology in urban settings."

Dr. Horn and Dr. Wilcoxen were each invited to speak at the conference on anthropogenic food. Both provided separate discussions about different aspects of their wild bird feeding research.

Dr. Wilcoxen's discussion was entitled, "A community-level assessment of the impacts of anthropogenic food on the health of free-living birds." Dr. Horn's talk was entitled "The effects of supplemental feeding on forest bird populations in central Illinois." Current Millikin students and graduates were co-authors of both research projects.

"Through participation in the conference, we were able to demonstrate that Millikin's faculty and students are completing ecological research that has great value on an international scale," said Dr. Wilcoxen. "We had a number of positive interactions with other scientists that are likely to lead to future collaborations."

Initially organized in 1986 by Lowell Adams as the National Symposium on Urban Wildlife, the International Urban Wildlife Conference has been held under various titles and sponsors over the years. The history of the conference reflects the growing interest and relevance of wildlife in urban areas.

The conference also focuses on reducing human-wildlife conflict, planning wildlife-friendly cities, and developing strategies for effective outreach and education.

Dr. Wilcoxen noted, "I know from the immediate feedback we received from other professionals in attendance that the work we presented offered new perspectives, and sparked new ideas on both bird feeding research and research into the ecology of birds of prey."