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Three Millikin University biology students were awarded research grants from the Beta Beta Beta (TriBeta) National Biological Honor Society for their efforts in wild bird research.

Elizabeth Wrobel, a junior biology major from Tinley Park, Ill., was awarded a $520 research grant. Sarah Plants, a senior biology major from Pana, Ill., received a $300 research grant, and Spencer Hudson, a junior biology major from Wilmington, Del., received a $500 research grant.

"We have a general program at Millikin where students perform research on bird health and bird physiology," said Dr. Travis Wilcoxen, Millikin assistant professor of biology. "Millikin began its TriBeta Chapter in 2011, so we've had two full years in which Millikin students have been a part of this organization. TriBeta has a national grant program that funds undergraduate student projects. The undergrads have to write a two-page proposal that tells the entire story of their project."

Elizabeth Wrobel's research investigates the prevalence of avian pox and conjunctivitis in wild populations of songbirds and birds of prey. Her research includes comparing particular sites that have had bird feeders in the last two years and studying how the overall health of birds in those areas is being impacted by certain diseases.

"It's an honor to receive the grant," said Wrobel. "I will be using the grant to purchase equipment for our lab and to help analyze data. To be just starting this research and being awarded a grant like this is something not many people receive."

Sarah Plants' research project examines the health costs of wild birds surviving a natural West Nile Virus infection. Plants' research also focuses on the physiological effects of songbirds around the Decatur area.

"I was ecstatic when I was told about the grant," said Plants. "We are going to use the grant money to perform another West Nile antibody test. This will provide us more samples so we can develop a good thesis."

Spencer Hudson's research investigates the relationship between blue plumage coloration and individual quality in Indigo Buntings, a small seed-eating bird whose habitats are farmland and brush areas.

"To say the least, it made my day knowing that this grant will help with the research," said Hudson. "I couldn't imagine being able to have an opportunity to do this type of research elsewhere. It's great that I'm able to pursue research that I'm interested in and receive the type of experience that will prepare me for graduate school."

TriBeta is a society for students, particularly undergraduates, dedicated to improving the understanding and appreciation of biological study and extending boundaries of human knowledge through scientific research. Since its founding in 1922, more than 200,000 persons have been accepted into lifetime membership, and more than 670 chapters have been established throughout the United States and Puerto Rico.

Wilcoxen added, "This funding will definitely help in taking the student's research to the next level. Effectively, not only does this improve the recognition of the student's research but it improves the quality of science that we can do at Millikin, and that's the most exciting part about it. These recognitions say a lot about the student's ability to use their basic knowledge of biology they gained from Millikin to contribute more than just a lab project. It's a synthesis of what they are learning in the classroom and taking it to the next level to drive science."

For more information on TriBeta, visit www.tri-beta.org.
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Millikin University - Decatur, IL
Millikin University - Decatur, IL