Michél Lavarn

Biology Student Makes Impact

For many students, schoolwork consists of going to class, studying and completing homework assignments. For others, it includes fieldwork, summer research and discovering new areas of interest.

Michél Lavarn, a student in the Honors program who graduated May 16, was active in Hood’s biology department throughout her academic career. She earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental science and policy with a concentration in environmental biology and a minor in coastal studies.

She first developed an interest for coastal studies during her entomology class, which was taught by Professor Ron Albaugh, coordinator of the Coastal Studies Semester. With a little encouragement, she enrolled the following year in that program. Albaugh was her professor in her Coastal Oceanography and Coastal Research Practicum classes.

“When I took coastal studies, I decided to be an environmental studies major,” said Lavarn. “I love it. The professors really like what they’re teaching, and that comes across and makes it fun to learn.”

Participants in the Coastal Studies Semester earn 16 to 17 hours of academic credit by taking block courses specifically designed for them. Lavarn took full advantage of the opportunity.

“Throughout her experience, Michél was always enthusiastic, energetic and exceptionally well-organized,” said Albaugh. “Academically, Michél never deviates from an A average.”

During the 2013 January term, Albaugh coordinated the Hood portion of a Neotropical Natural History course at the La Suerte Biological Field Station in Costa Rica. Lavarn, along with 11 additional Hood students, enrolled in this two-week field course.

In the summer of 2013, Lavarn assisted Albaugh with a native pollinator research project on Albaugh’s farm in northern Frederick County.

“It required tedious data collecting for many long hours under a variety of sometimes extreme weather conditions,” said Albaugh. “She completed every task, and at no time did I ever hear her complain.”

Lavarn later prepared a poster demonstrating the results of the research, which she presented at the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the Ecological Society of America.

During the senior year, she worked with the Center for Coastal and Watershed Studies on numerous hands-on projects, including water quality monitoring and analysis of Culler Lake, Carroll Creek Linear Park and Lake Linganore. She has also assisted with Project BOOST, which involves raising rainbow trout in high school classrooms and releasing them in local streams.

Now that she has graduated, Lavarn plans to teach English in Costa Rica for six months. Upon her return, she plans to continue teaching and researching.

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