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Biologists Share Research on Parasites

Katherine Orndorff ’24 presents her research in Gillis Theater.

Katherine Orndorff ’24 presents her research in Gillis Theater. -–VMI Photo by Kelly Nye

LEXINGTON, Va. May 28, 2024 — The Department of Biology at Virginia Military Institute hosted a joint meeting of the Helminthological Society of Washington and the Southeastern Society of Parasitologists in April. Over 100 biologists met in Marshall Hall.

According to Col. Ashleigh Smythe, professor of biology at VMI, the meeting brought together undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, and other researchers from seven states, who presented and discussed their research on parasites.

“Dr. Holly Gaff, professor and chair of biological sciences at Old Dominion University, opened the conference with the keynote address. The next two days were filled with presentations on a variety of parasites, such as nematodes, trematodes, tapeworms, ticks, and lice. Researchers discussed parasites in a vast diversity of hosts, including oysters, sharks, bats, otters, and turkeys,” said Smythe.Participants of the parasitology meeting enjoy a high-spirited square dance to conclude the conference.

Jenna Kirkland ’24 and Katherine Orndorff ’24, who both graduated in May with degrees in biology, gave presentations on the research they conducted with Smythe on beetle attraction to tapeworm-infected rat feces. Kirkland found the meeting an excellent opportunity for a young biologist. “Presenting research allowed me to showcase my work and get feedback from other students, professors, and scientists. Other research projects opened my eyes to other topics in ecological dynamics, a subject I am interested in,” she said.

Orndorff won the best student presentation award from the Helminthological Society of Washington.

The conference concluded with dinner and square dancing.

Marianne Hause
Communications & Marketing


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