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Faculty Research Spotlight

Dr. Megan Donaldson: The Fortune is the Follow-Up

Collaboration is the Key to Enhancing Adherence to Physical Therapy Home Exercise Programs

PT CollaborationFrustrated by some of her experiences as an orthopedic clinician, Walsh's Assistant Professor of Physical Therapy Dr. Megan Donaldson began to question her role in developing a patient's adherence, or commitment, to physical therapy.

"So much of what we do in orthopedics is home prescription. I saw a lot of issues with home exercise programs and patients giving up before they even start to experience the benefits. As clinicians, we aren't programmed to follow-up," said Dr. Donaldson. "It was just too easy to accept that patients weren't committed to their home therapy, write them off as no-shows and move on to the next. Rarely would we ask the simple question 'Why?' That one question could make all the difference. And personally, I believe the fortune is in the follow-up."

In May 2012, Walsh University was awarded an OhioPACE (Partnership for Adherence through Collaborative Education) Grant for $20,000 that launched a cross-discipline collaborative research study led by Dr. Donaldson. The research study was created to overcome and identify the emotional barriers to a patient's recovery and increase adherence to physical therapy exercises at home. The study was designed by Dr. Donaldson in collaboration with Walsh's Assistant Professor of Counseling & Human Development Dr. Carrie Van Meter, Assistant Professor of Psychology Dr. Melisa Barden, Clinical Assistant Professor Jennifer Reneker and Walsh DPT graduate Katherine Long '13. In addition, the Walsh team partnered with both Mercy Medical Center Physical Therapy Services and Aultman Hospital Physical Therapy Services. In total, the one-year research study included over 100 patients, 40 clinicians and eight satellite locations throughout Stark, Tuscarawas and Carroll counties.

The study began in July 2012 and focused on a repeated measures design. "What makes our research project unique is that the therapists themselves were the control measures, not the patients," said Dr. Donaldson.

For the first two months of the study, the Walsh team asked that the participating PT clinicians continue to work with their patients as they normally would and provide an assessment of each patient's commitment to their home prescription. "We then provided a training session for 16 hours on the adherence strategies we had developed with our counseling and psychology experts. Working in a small group setting, we created a workshop where we conducted several role-playing exercises with each clinician so that they could have experience interacting with patients," explained Dr. Donaldson. "Before we resumed the study again, we gave the participating clinicians an opportunity to try their new skills out in their clinics. We followed with an on-site booster course and then we started the study again."

The research will be concluded in July, but the outcomes are encouraging. "We discovered that a lot of the therapists had not talked about barriers before with their patients regarding attending visits or doing exercises. As clinicians, we are trained to interview but not necessarily identify what barriers might exist to road-block therapy. Examples of patient barriers to adherence could be time restraints, finances, emotional stress to a clinical exercise setting (if they are overweight), or even a socio-economic biases on the part of the patient and/or the clinician. The therapists learned how to talk to their patients, address those personal barriers and really engage them with a home program tailored to their needs," said Dr. Donaldson. "So far, the clinician response has been strong and positive. We are trained to work in a tight half-hour consultation window, but we found that, with the right questions, time wasn't an issue. Overall, we are learning to use our time more efficiently."

This year, the team's preliminary survey study was accepted for publication by the Physical Therapy Journal of Education. The survey study focused on the question "Do therapists believe they can affect a patient's adherence and behavior change?" The article identified seven strategically significant items that prove therapists can effect positive change in their patient attitudes towards home therapy.

"What is surprising is that no one has looked at this before in Physical Therapy. I teach motivational interviewing with a collaborative spirit. When I hear a patient say 'I want to get better,' but, on the other hand, they aren't doing anything about it, I step back and let them tell me what they need. If I can get them to help identify those barriers, we can work together to find a way around them. The patient will buy-in to the therapy, and it's not just me telling them what to do. That's when we will see the results we need."

Studies have proven that adherence is a huge factor when it comes to the success of any rehabilitation program. Dr. Donaldson and her team believe it takes a holistic approach to therapy...mind, body, spirit...to get the life changing results clinicians want for their patients.

"If you take someone and cut their therapy off at the physical aliment, then their mind isn't committed to it, their spirit isn't engaged in the program. So you follow-up, encourage, and adjust as needed," said Dr. Donaldson. "We are doing some really cool grass roots things here at Walsh. It is amazing to see how Walsh is extending its reach across the miles, to help change lives for the better."

Dr. Megan Donaldson

Walsh University Assistant Professor of Physical Therapy

Dr. Donaldson joined Walsh in 2008.

Level of Education: BS, MS D'Youville College; PhD, Nova Southeastern University; FAAOMPT

Phone: 330-490-7224

Email: mdonaldson@walsh.edu

What I love about teaching: The physical therapy profession is evolving so much with research and evidence to support what we are doing. Working with our Walsh University DPT students allows me to connect service, research, and teaching in novel ways to engage my students in being change agents our profession and the patients we serve. It is a blessing to work with students that are excited and passionate about making a positive difference for others during their rehabilitation from injury/trauma.

Dr. Michael Dunphy
Our Common Waters: Unique Collaboration on Watershed Research

Photo of Dr. Michael DunphyIn June 2012, an unprecedented collaboration among the science minds of five Stark County college research teams set out to discover the answer to a basic question that should concern us all: "What exactly is in our local water?"

"We believe that this is the first time the five universities in Stark County have joined together on a project of this caliber," said Dr. Michael Dunphy, Chair of the Division of Math and Sciences. "Our collaboration is an example to the entire community that our water quality impacts each and every one of us. We must work together to ensure that the future of our water environment is safe. Our findings will be an important resource for the entire community."

Through a grant from the Herbert W. Hoover Foundation, students and faculty members from Walsh University, Stark State College, Kent State Stark, the University of Mount Union and Malone University recently teamed up to study the various organisms and chemicals that are present in Stark County's Nimishillen Creek waterways.

The project called "Making the Invisible Visible: Water Quality in Stark County" began in June 2012, and researchers wrapped up their final reports in February 2013. The project included the collection and analysis of water samples from almost 50 sites along Stark County's Nimishillen Creek watershed. Initiated by Kent State Stark Campus, the project grant funding brought Ocean Research and Conservation Association (ORCA) to Stark County to lead the research project. The group also worked closely with government and nonprofit experts on the area's watersheds to help make recommendations based on the research samples.

In early June, the team began by collecting baseline samples and working in collaboration with ORCA. Some of the sediment samples were also sent to an EPA lab in Florida for further testing

The teams then set out to assess the chemical and biological health of the sampling sites that included Alliance, Canton, and all over Stark County.

Sites were selected with the help of the local EPA Officials, and ORCA provided a standardized means of sediment testing which helped identify potential risk areas. In most locations, the chemical and biological testing done over the summer indicated that the water and biological habitats were in good shape. But in some instances, the tests revealed areas that contained elements such as chromium, arsenic or barium. It is currently being assessed whether the levels found are an issue.

"Some of these elements can show up at old mining sites like those found within Stark County," said Dr. Dunphy. "Initially, we used a color coding system developed by ORCA which used red circles indicating the areas where the sediment under the water in streams tested toxic with their bioassay. We knew that there could be any number of things found in the sediment that would produce a 'toxic' result but might not necessarily be harmful to our water environment. Basically, the red circles signified the need for further research and testing."

About two dozen biology and environmental health students from the county's five universities were a part of the project. In addition, students in Kent Stark's environmental media class recorded the research for the Our Water Webs website and for a documentary created about the study.

"What made this project unique was the way we all worked together and interacted between schools in the field," said Dr. Dunphy. "Our student research teams rotated between the professors of each school to expand their field experience in all three collection analyses."

After initial baseline testing by ORCA, the next phase of sampling collection was broken into three groups designed to allow for data gathering that could be handled by students and didn't require sophisticated and costly work. Each university and research team was assigned a different type analysis, which included:

  • Water chemical analysis
  • QHEI - Assessment of the toxicity index
  • Macrovertebrate studies

All three analyses were conducted at the targeted sites and then down-stream from the "ORCA-red" indicated areas.

"We were careful not to stir up the sediment," said Dr. Dunphy. "At each site, we took a pH reading and used a temperature probe before we collected our water samples and returned to the lab immediately for analysis."

Working in collaboration with the regular monitoring done by the EPA, the project was able to provide supplemental sampling to assess the health of water. The Stark County Engineers office and the EPA also provided additional information including a spreadsheet map with the longitude and latitude coordinates for each red zone marked for further research. The students were able to plot the coordinates on their cell phone GPS to reach the targeted sampling site.

"Overall, our initial analysis of the whole system did not show anything unusual from the water surface, sediment and organisms living in the water. All the water samples we collected indicated that at the water level, it was relatively safe," said Dr. Dunphy.

With the first phase of the project completed, the team is now waiting for an ORCA Ecotoxicologist to analyze all of the data collected. The next steps will be determined by their conclusions. For the team at Walsh, anticipation is high for future collaborations among the universities and continued research this summer on the watershed study.

"I'm a chemist," said Dr. Dunphy. "I'm at home in a lab. Personally, I learned a lot since I don't typically do that kind of field work. When we would arrive at a location, we didn't know exactly what we would be facing. How deep is the water? How strong is the current? What critters will we be encountering? And rarely would we find an easily accessible, clear path down the bank to the river. It was a great experience that took us all out of our regular comfort zones – which for me is the lab! But I would gladly do it all again."

Dr. Michael Dunphy

Walsh University Chair of Math & Sciences

Dr. Dunphy joined Walsh in 1981.

Level of Education:B.S., Walsh University; M.S., Youngstown State University; Ph.D., The University of Akron

Phone: 330-490-7201

Email: mdunphy@walsh.edu

Quote: In science, the real learning starts when an unexpected result begs the question…why did we get that?


Dr. Jennifer Clevinger: Environmental Field Center Benefits Community and Campus

Photo of Walsh University Outreach ProgramDr. Jennifer Clevinger, associate chair of the division of math and sciences and professor of biology, has no problem getting her hands dirty. In fact, for Dr. Clevinger and the students in her field botany class, the outdoors is where science comes alive.

Two grants – one from Marathon Petroleum Corporation for $50,000 and another from the Herbert W. Hoover Foundation for $35,000 – were used to renovate and convert a kitchen at Walsh's Hoover Park into a four-season Environmental Field Center with a pavilion for an outdoor classroom. The federally protected wetlands are an ideal setting for the Walsh laboratory.

"It is very rare for a university to have access to this kind of field study in such close proximity to campus," said Dr. Clevinger. "With this unique classroom only a short walk away, we hope to attract more undergraduate students interested in organismal biology and the environmental field studies."

The new environmental field center is home to the first service learning course in the division of science. One ongoing class service project includes the removal of invasive plants such as garlic mustard and multiflora rose that are not indigenous to Ohio and overcrowding native Ohio wildflowers. Also, Honors students are currently compiling a checklist of the plants that inhabit the Hoover Park while conducting an analysis of the water quality of the Hoover Park wetlands and stream.

"This checklist and water quality study will prove to be an important tool in monitoring any future changes that signal if there is a problem in our local natural habitats," said Dr. Clevinger.

An outreach program has also been established to serve local students and the community. Elementary school children travel to the Environmental Field Center to learn about habitats, and sample the stream for invertebrate diversity. Walsh students teach the children to identify insects and to explore feeding adaptations of insects. Local garden clubs travel to the Environmental Field Center to hear a lecture on People and Plants. In addition, Boy Scouts from Troop 135 in Uniontown have built a native plant garden surrounding the center that can be enjoyed by all groups visiting Hoover Park.

Dr. Clevinger continues to design more outreach experiences for community children led by Walsh undergraduates. Undergraduate classes in Ecology, Botany and Environmental Science have joined the Field Botany class in adding laboratory components utilizing the center too. A grand opening for the community to visit the center is planned for Spring 2013 that will include environmental talks and hands-on activities.

"With the input of our faculty, North Canton neighbors and grant partners, we have had the unique opportunity to create something special that is also in line with the University's mission of service," said Dr. Clevinger. "The Field Center is a useful resource that will not only benefit our students but also the entire North Canton community."

Dr. Jennifer Clevinger

Walsh University Associate Chair of Math & Sciences; Professor of Biology

Dr. Clevinger joined Walsh in 2005.

Level of Education:B.A., Hiram College; Ph.D., University of Texas at Austin

Phone: 330-490-7331

Email: jclevinger@walsh.edu

Quote: I love to teach in the outdoors and watch students come to appreciate the complexity and diversity of the flora and fauna found in Ohio!  They will be the ones to make a difference in the future to protect our natural resources for generations to come.


 Dr. Jackie Mumford: Transforming Education through Collaboration

Education Classroom Photo

In classrooms across the country, chalkboards are being replaced by Smart Boards, and iPads are quickly replacing a No. 2 pencil and wide-ruled paper. The world of education continues to change at a rapid pace, and Walsh University is leading the way in preparing educators for the 21st Century through transformative learning practices and new technologies.

Walsh University's Dr. Jacqueline Mumford, Associate Professor of Educational Technology, believes that collaboration is necessary to advance 21st Century teaching and learning skills in the classroom.

In 2011, Dr. Mumford was instrumental in securing an eTech Ohio Teacher Planning Grant in the amount of $100,000 awarded to Walsh's Division of Education. Walsh was one of only 11 colleges in the state to be awarded this competitive grant.

"The grant formally ended this past June," said Dr. Mumford. "But it has already proven to be a catalyst for several new programs and initiatives both on campus and within the community that will continue long after our funding has ended."

Inspired by outcomes from the eTech grant collaboration, Walsh University Visiting Instructor of Education Lisa Baylor hosted a technology themed professional development seminar for Stark County teachers in the Youngstown Diocese in July.

"We originally planned to present our iPad Workshop to 15 teachers," said Baylor. "But it quickly evolved and we decided to open it up to all Stark County parochial schools. We ended up with over 80 teachers, from elementary to high school, with different levels of technology expertise."

As a former parochial teacher with over 20 years of experience at Regina Coeli Elementary School in Alliance, Baylor hopes to establish an ongoing collaboration among the Diocese teachers that will continue the dialogue started at that first seminar.

"Through our parochial schools, we have a unique product that sets us apart from other schools," said Baylor. "We must stay competitive and up-to-date with the needs of the 21st Century. We need to pay attention to what is happening in the public school districts and understand that things like value-added data and technology will play a big part in training our future teachers and providing an education that parents seek out."

According to Dr. Mumford, one critical competency for future teachers will be the utilization of education technologies to ensure K-12 students have the technological skills required to be career and college-ready by graduation. The grant funded the purchase of equipment for Walsh University, including iPads, Kindles, SMART Pens, document cameras, and other devices. As a result, these teaching technologies are being used in many of the Division's education course offerings.

In addition to the eTech focus on 21st Century technology tools, the grant promoted the establishment of close collaboration teams of local teachers, higher education faculty members, administrators and K-12 students. In securing grant funding,
Walsh partnered with three local districts -- the Canton City School District, the North Canton City School District and West Branch Local School District in Mahoning County.

"One of the greatest outcomes of this grant has been the formation of local partnerships," said Dr. Mumford. "We are all learning a great deal more about our local students, teachers and what we need to do in order to prepare future teachers."

Each K-12 school in the partnership received classroom sets of iPads, netbooks, and Kindles. Teams worked together to identify classroom technology needs for the creation of professional development activities and collaboration opportunities. Their research produced two series of professional development courses, an April K-12 student tech fair and a May symposium for teachers, higher education faculty and students.

Dr. Mumford's and Lisa Baylor's research work also led to the development of a new Master of Arts in Education (MAED) track in 21st Century Technologies and an enhanced undergraduate course offering in Instructional Technology.

"We are very excited about what the future holds as we continue our work and research into new methods of applying technology in the classroom," said Dr. Mumford. "We are confident that the benefits of this grant will last for years to come."

Dr. Jackie Novak: Fighting a "Man's Disease" with the Female Hormone Relaxin

Relaxin could be the Key to Fighting Heart Disease in Women


Jackie NovakFirst Federally Funded Grant For Walsh

Dr. Jackie Novak, associate professor of biology, recently discovered that her scientific research and her personal life have something in common - the heart. With the aid of her husband, Dr. Rolando Ramirez, Dr. Novak is conducting a research study on the hormone relaxin that could potentially prevent women from developing cardiovascular heart disease

Historically labeled as a "man's disease", women were often excluded from medical research specific to heart disease. According to the American Heart Association more woman than men will die this year from cardiovascular disease. Though they may develop cardiovascular disease 10 years later in life than men, heart disease is the No. 1 killer of American women, and claims the lives of 1 in 3 women, or 500,000 women a year.

Dr. Jackie Novak is hoping to reverse those statistics and provide a valuable research opportunity for her students at the same time. Through a three-year grant for more than $350,000 from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Dr. Novak's team will research the effects of the ovarian hormone relaxin in the treatment of post-menopausal coronary artery dysfunction. The NIH award was the first major federally funded grant for Walsh University and for Dr. Novak.

The research funded by the NIH grant and conducted by Dr. Novak and her team is the only national study focusing on relaxin as it relates to coronary function after menopause.

Relaxin which has been referred to as the "forgotten hormone" is a polypeptide hormone belonging to the insulin family and was first discovered in the United States in 1926. Dr. Novak and her husband Dr. Ramirez began their initial studies of relaxin years ago in Pittsburgh at the Magee-Women's Hospital of UPMC.

"We studied the hormone Relaxin in other body systems but never focused specifically on its relation to coronary function," said Dr. Novak. "When the estrogen replacement therapy trial failed around 2002, I began to wonder 'if not estrogen, maybe relaxin.'"

It is commonly known that women have a lower risk of heart disease than men. But as a woman ages, her chance of heart risk increases, an elevated risk that coincides with declining levels of estrogen after menopause. During the 1980s and 1990s medical experts began to advise older women to take estrogen and other hormones to help reduce the risk of heart disease after menopause. Unfortunately, the hoped-for benefits did not materialize and in 2002, a large-scale research study, the Women's Health Initiative (WHI), revealed a slight increase in heart disease, blood clots and strokes in postmenopausal women using hormone therapy.

Relaxin, like estrogen, is produced by the ovaries and also significantly decreases in women after menopause. "I began to wonder if there was a connection with coronary disease. We conducted a pilot study on rats and the results were promising. Results showed that relaxin could be a viable option. An added benefit is that relaxin is not a feminizing hormone like estrogen – so it could also become an option for men. "

Drs. Novak and Ramirez, a faculty member at The University of Akron, will collaborate with a team of senior investigators from major universities in the United States including the University of Florida and the University of Mississippi. The grant will also provide an opportunity for Walsh undergraduate students to join in the research and collaborate with graduate students from The University of Akron.

"This grant will give our students an amazing opportunity to be exposed to research with real world applications," said Dr. Novak, a former Walsh biology student herself and Walsh alum. "Their work will have the potential to save lives. You can't get a more real-world experience than that in my book."

Dr. Jacqueline Novak

Walsh University Associate Professor Biology

Dr. Novak joined Walsh in 2005 from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine where she served as an assistant professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences and Magee-Womens Research Institute.

Level of Education:B.S., Walsh University; M.S., The University of Akron; Ph.D., University of Cincinnati School of Medicine

Phone: 330-490-7319

Email: jnovak@walsh.edu

Quote: If I had to sum up what I thought the most important aspect of my teaching philosophy was, it would be the word enthusiasm. While I suspect that my teaching style and philosophy will modify as I continue, I do not expect my passion and excitement to study and teach science to change. Enthusiasm has driven my scientific career from the beginning; therefore I hope my own enthusiasm will drive the careers of others.


Dr. Tom Freeland

Beyond the Textbook: Transforming Bioinformatics Education through Research Experience

Undergraduate Research in Microbial Genome Annotation

The students in Dr. Tom Freeland’s class are helping to redefine the national educational experience in science bioinformatics classes.

As the Walsh Director of Bioinformatics, Dr. Freeland was recently selected to participate in the prestigious U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) 2012 Joint Genome Institute (JGI) Undergraduate Research Program in Microbial Genome Annotation.  Walsh was one of only 26 teams from a full range of undergraduate bioinformatics institutions invited to the prestigious DOE Joint Genome Institute in Walnut Creek, CA.  Walsh Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Darlene Walro also attended the meeting.

Supported by the Office of Biological and Environmental Research in the DOE Office of Science, the DOE JGI enables scientists from universities and national laboratories around the world to probe the hidden world of microbes and plants for innovative solutions to the nation’s major challenges in energy, climate, and environment. 

The “Interpret a Genome” Program provides students in colleges and universities with access to recently sequenced microbial genomes, such as those of organisms from little-known branches of the Tree of Life selected as part of the DOE JGI’s Genomic Encyclopedia of Bacteria and Archaea (GEBA) project. The students analyze and annotate the genomes in the context of their own class work, gaining hands-on knowledge of genomics and bioinformatics.

While a significant portion of the DOE JGI's projects are related to the discovery of alternative fuel sources, Dr. Freeland notes that the benefits resulting from this type of research could potentially reach beyond energy.  Walsh students will focus on two genome categories. The first will be to study human pathogens which could result in new discoveries on how proteins become targets for drugs. Dr. Walro’s microbial expertise afforded students the opportunity to focus on the energy question and research microbial organisms for fuel sources.

 “Because we have access to unlimited data through the JGI Program and our students have expressed an interest in both medical pathogens and environmentally interesting organisms, I think we will study one from each category,” said Dr. Freeland.  “Every piece of information is useful in the analysis of microbial DNA sequences.  The results produced by the DOE JGI project could potentially lead to a new medical treatment for an infection or finding an alternative to the controversial process of creating ethanol fuel from food crops.”

This collaboration between JGI, undergraduate educators and students is also a response to a national call to reform undergraduate life sciences education through research experience. 

The workshop provided an opportunity for JGI scientists and participants from undergraduate institutions across the country to collaborate and discuss new ways to implement genomics and bioinformatics at their respective institutions. In addition, each participant received specialized training on how to teach the highly detailed annotation genomics/bioinformatics tools to their students.  These are tools used by “real-world” researchers, not just student tools. Armed with the knowledge he gained at the workshop, Dr. Freeland is leading Walsh students in the analysis of metabolic pathways of microbial organisms.

 “Walsh University was chosen because our application demonstrated the potential to enrich the curriculum with sequence-based research,” said Dr. Freeland. “We were told that our approach has the potential to contribute to the national model for undergraduate research that is being collectively developed.”

The goal of the program is to support the use of annotation to teach curricular standards in new ways. In turn, the undergraduate collaborators provide the JGI institute with valuable new annotation data, which assists it in filling in gaps in sequencing research.

 As their annotation platform, students will use the Integrated Microbial Genomes Annotation Collaboration Toolkit (IMG-ACT), a wiki/Web portal fusion that lets them work with existing genome datasets and record their discoveries. The platform is the result of collaboration between DOE JGI’s education program and faculty members from several universities around the country.
Aside from access to genome data and “virtually endless” research possibilities, IMG-ACT offers students and their teachers access to bioinformatics databases, instructor course management and student notebooks.

“We’re thrilled to provide our students with a ‘real-world’ research experience that has the discovery potential to enrich the scientific community as a whole,” said Dr. Freeland. “One of the most effective tools of an educator is experience itself. Our students will be moving beyond the textbook and using sophisticated tools that are not usually supplied to students. These are the tools industry researchers are using – it’s an opportunity to train on systems not typically found in the classroom.” 

Ultimately, the program’s goal is to allow students nationwide to annotate GEBA genomes while learning about genomics and bioinformatics. Students are expected to begin their work in the 2012-2013 academic year, but Walsh students are starting immediately.

“What was truly gratifying was the realization that here at Walsh, our bioinformatics coursework is right on target with what is happening on the national level in university classrooms,” said Dr. Freeland.  “This experienced verified that our processes in bioinformatics and genome research are well defined and that since our program’s inception, we have been on the right track.” 

Dr. Thomas Freeland

Director of Bioinformatics, Professor of Biology

Dr. Freeland joined Walsh in 1995 from a research associate position at Penn State University.

Level of Education:B.S., West Liberty State College; M.S., West Virginia University; Ph.D., West Virginia University School of Medicine.

Phone: 330-490-7228

Email: tfreeland@walsh.edu

Quote: A scientist should love science. An educator should love the transmission of knowledge. When scientists are also teachers, the culture, the excitement, the methods, and the beauty of science can be conveyed in the day-to-day interactions between students and professors.

Curis Clevinger: Taking Higher Education to the High Seas

Walsh Professor and Students Participate in Unique Great Lakes Environmental Biology Research

Flagship Niagara ClassIt was a hands-on educational experience with a twist: students conducting field biology research to assess the Great Lakes habitat, but from the bow of an authentic 19th century wooden sailing ship.

Walsh Adjunct Professor of Biology Curtis Clevinger and students David Eaton (Bowling Green, OH) and Jaclyn Brewer (North Canton) took part in a three week voyage on board the tall ship Flagship Niagara. The first of its kind, the ship served as a floating college campus, allowing 43 participants to engage in an environmental science voyage on the Great Lakes while earning course credit. The voyage began in Erie, PA and concluded in Chicago, IL.

In addition to Walsh, students represented five other colleges and universities from Ohio, New York and Pennsylvania. The course was co-taught in rotation by four professors from the participating universities, including Clevinger. The professors spent more than six months creating a customized course that focuses on biology, ecology, chemistry and natural history. Clevinger's portion focused on oxygen dynamics, microbial biology and eutrophication – an overgrowth of organisms due to excess nutrients.

David Eaton

For Walsh student David Eaton, it was a once in a lifetime experience that he will never forget. "It was difficult but truly an eye-opening experience to sail on the Great Lakes," said Eaton, a junior Biology and International Relations student from Bowling Green, OH. "I don't think people realize the wonderful resource we have in our own backyard. I learned a lot about Great Lakes ecology and while sailing was a lot of hard work, it was an amazing experience overall."

In addition to their research, students were acting crew members aboard the 1812 replica, helping to put up sails, cook food and care for the ship. Students were assisted by the 18 members of the professional crew as they learned to climb riggings 118 feet above the deck to secure sails, sleep in hammocks and eat from a wood burning stove. The Flagship Niagara is considered "Pennsylvania's Official Flagship and Sailing Ambassador" and is one of the nation's largest tall ships (198' long). The ship is a reproduction of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry's flagship from the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812. The ship was built in 1988 and is home ported at the Erie Maritime Museum, located in Erie, Pennsylvania.

"We have created a shipboard educational model that does not exist anywhere else in the United States," said Senior Captain Walter Rybka. Caleb Pifer of the Flagship Niagara League added, "This is just one more example of how the Flagship Niagara is in a league of her own when it comes to formalized shipboard education."

Curtis Clevinger

Walsh Adjunct Professor of Biology
Curtis joined Walsh in 2008 and is currently working on his PhD at Kent State University.

Level of Education: B.A., Hiram College; M.S. in Botany from University of Texas, Austin,

Email: cclevinger@walsh.edu

Quote: What I love about teaching: What I find inspiring about teaching is that look of understanding when my students "get" something for the first time.