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Skaneateles high school students get hands on experience in SUNY ESF lab

Dr. William Powell observes Bethany Regan as she works in a lab at SUN ESF where five Skaneateles students have been interning doing research on trees.

Dr. William Powell observes Bethany Regan as she works in a lab at SUN ESF where five Skaneateles students have been interning doing research on trees. Nancy DeRosa

While some teenagers were life guarding, mowing lawns or waiting tables this summer, five Skaneateles High School students were conducting research that may someday help to save certain species of trees from extinction.

Working outside among the trees and inside with petri dishes in science labs at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, the students had internship experiences usually reserved for graduate students. They joined a dedicated crew of scientists who, over many years, are working to help return threatened species to their historical ecological roles within forests.

Senior Colby Buell and juniors Jennifer DeRosa, Elizabeth Lane, Megan Lovier and Bethany Regan started school this fall with a greater appreciation for science, research, trees and life in general, thanks to the things they saw under a microscope. The hands-on lab experiences taught them more than most people will ever know about such things as invasive species, resistance, sterilization and plant tissue culture -- and gave them a look into possible future careers.

DeRosa said it was powerful to apply science in a hands-on setting. “We learned about all of this in class, but going in and applying it was a once in a lifetime experience,” she said of the hours and hours spent at SUNY ESF. Most of the students spent all day, three or four days a week, in the lab.

They had their hands in cloning, for example. Lovier explained how they took pieces of leaves dipped in bacteria to grow a whole new plant from the leaf.

“It made me think of plants in a new light,” Lovier said. “When you see them growing right in front of you – when you see the seeds hatch – it really kind of changes things,” she said of how much more aware she became of the vital life in the trees around her.

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