2010 Morenci graduate Chas Frey intends to earn a doctorate in physical therapy and spend his time working with people. But every time he steps out into a wetland area or hikes along a river, he's probably going to think back to research he undertook as an undergraduate student at Siena Heights University.
That's when he got to know dragonflies and damselflies.
Frey undertook a senior research project last summer and has presented his findings at four locations. A presentation March 29 led to a third prize finish in the Northeast Region District 4 Convention of Beta Beta Beta, an honor society for biology students.
"The purpose of my research was to identify adult odonates (dragonflies and damselflies) of Medina Township," Frey said.
He chose five collecting sites: a human-made pond, a farm on the west side of the township, a farm on the east side, Fisher Lake and Durfee Lake.
"I recorded a total of 651 odonates with four families with 13 species of dragonflies and three families with 13 species of damselflies," Frey said. "Out of the 651 individual odonates that I recorded, I released 609 back into the environment and I only collected 42 individual odonates for my personal collection. The 42 individual odonates that I preserved will be presented to the University Of Michigan Museum Of Zoology."
Most people aren't going to notice the difference between a dragonfly and a damselfly, but once the characteristics are pointed out, it's obvious that these are two different insects.
Both have large eyes and membranous wings, along with long bodies and small antennae. The easiest way to differentiate is to look at the wings when the insect is resting. If it's a dragonfly, the wings are held wide and horizontal. For damselflies, the wings are folded back over the abdomen.
If you can move in for a closer look, dragonflies have eyes that nearly touch one another while damselfly eyes are clearly separated, one on each side of the head. Dragonflies have stockier bodies, too.
Frey says the common green darner rates as his favorite dragonfly among those he encountered last year.
"I like a good challenge, and the common green darner brought about a good challenge for me when trying to capture the specimen."
The rainbow bluet always impressed him among the damselflies.
"With a name such as 'rainbow,'" he said, "you can already understand that this specimen express a variety of different colors, which was great to see in the field."
Frey's most recent platform presentation—a 10 to 15-minutes talk in front of an audience, followed by five minutes of questions—earlier this month at the University of Kentucky as part of a national conference on undergraduate research.
The Beta Beta Beta (Tri-Beta) competition took place last month at the University of Findlay. Siena Heights joined Tri-Beta in 1992 by forming its own chapter of the national biological honor society. Frey joined at the end of his sophomore year and has served as the chapter historian for the past two years.
Tri-Beta is open to students showing superior academic achievement in life sciences. The society encourages scientific investigation and reporting the findings.
Frey also presented his work at Siena's McNair Research Symposium and for the Michigan Mosquito Control Association.
Frey graduates this month and will enroll in the physical therapy program at Andrews University—right along the St. Joseph River where dragonflies and damselflies abound.