ABAC Students Learn from World Renowned Scientists in Pacific Northwest

July 18 2019

TIFTON—Traveling to the northwest corner of the United States to scan rodent specimens may not sound like a good time to most but for two students and their professor from Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, it’s an experience they will never forget.

ABAC Professor Andrew McIntosh and ABAC students Kristi Guerrero and Melvin B. Whitsett traveled from Tifton to Seattle, Wash., where they scanned rodent specimens from the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture. 

“We took the specimens from the Burke Museum and scanned them at San Juan Island,” McIntosh said.  “The whole point of the trip was to digitize specimens from this Museum and specimens from Florida’s Natural History Museum and upload the digitized images online so they can be freely available for others to use.”

The ABAC group traveled by ferry from Seattle to San Juan Island and stayed for two weeks.  During that time, they were fully trained on a micro CT scanner by world renowned researchers in scientific imaging.  The ABAC representatives scanned over 100 rodent specimens.

Whitsett, a biology major from Tifton, said it was a struggle learning the machine and how to properly pack the specimens.

“The task was difficult but not impossible,” he said.

McIntosh said the trip was fully funded by the Overt Grant.  He said the Overt Grant’s purpose is to make scans of vertebrate specimens from Natural History museums completely free online.

“It was a very competitive grant,” McIntosh said.  “Other grant recipients were professors from the University of Chicago, Minnesota, Washington, and Oregon State University.  This will greatly increase skeletal research and will allow teachers to 3D print different animals for their classrooms.”

As an ABAC student interested in taking advantage of every learning experience, Guerrero enjoyed the journey.

  “The trip was one of the most unique experiences I have had doing research,” Guerrero, a biochemistry pre-medicine major from Moultrie, said.   “It was nice to be able to immerse myself into an environment where other students were equally passionate about biology.”

Guerrero plans to use the skill she learned for a career in medicine.

Whitsett also gained from the experience.

“My absolute favorite part was being on San Juan Island for the majority of the time, having to integrate my personal working style,” Whitsett said.

Whitsett plans to build on the time spent in Washington.

“I want to take new risks and learn new things,” Whitsett said.  “I have to step into new territories that I have never been before.  If you ever find yourself needing motivation from life, then try gaining a new perspective. An easy way to find that perspective is to travel.”

Guerrero and Whitsett will both be enrolled when classes begin for the fall semester at ABAC on Aug. 13.