Student Research Spotlight - Sarah Cain
Sarah Cain won third place in the oral presentation category, University-Wide Undergraduate Student Winners in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, during the virtual 2021 Auburn Research: Student Symposium.
Hometown: Birmingham, Alabama
Major and degree: Bachelor’s Degree in Wildlife Ecology and Management
College: School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences
Class year: Senior, Graduating in Fall 2021
Faculty mentor: Stephen S. Ditchkoff
Analyzing the efficacy of pellet count surveys to estimate density of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus)
What are you researching?
I am researching whether or not pellet count surveys are an effective population estimation method for surveying the density of white-tailed deer within a given area. Basically, I am trying to determine if we can use pellets (feces) produced by white-tailed deer to accurately estimate the relative density of those deer within a given area. My study was conducted at the Deer Laboratory at Auburn University, where density of the white-tailed deer herd is known due to ear tag identification.
How could the results benefit individuals, agencies or companies?
If proven to be effective, this method can help landowners and other interest groups generate accurate estimates of white-tailed deer on their property without having to invest extra time or money in more expensive population estimation techniques. Additionally, the generation of more accurate population estimates will enable more refined management, resulting in an improvement of the quality of the white-tailed deer population in an area.
Tell us why you enjoy research.
I enjoy research because there is always an opportunity to learn something new. Research, like science, is constantly growing and evolving. You can always find new questions to answer or more topics to study.
What advice would you give to other students considering doing a research project?
My advice to students who may want to pursue a research project is, most importantly, to first find a topic that you are passionate about studying. Second, determine questions that have yet to be answered within that topic. Finally, come up with some possible research studies to answer those questions, and share those ideas with someone in your field, whether that be a peer or a professor.
Tell us about any hobbies or activities you enjoy.
Outside of conducting research, I enjoy nature photography, going on hikes and playing with my dog, Koda.