August 18, 2011
KANSAS CITY, Mo - - Avila University biology professor Robert Powell has had more than 100 works of his writing published in books and magazines over the years, so he knows what he's talking about when he says it's difficult and rare for undergraduate students to get anything published.
But a pair of Powell's students at Avila have bucked those odds.
Paul Hillbrand and Aaron Sloan, both seniors-to-be, are slated to have their paper, entitled "The Terrestrial Reptiles of San Salvador Island, Bahamas," appear in the September issue of the International Reptile Conservation Foundation's Reptiles & Amphibians. William Hayes of Loma Linda University in Loma Linda, Calif. is listed as a third author on the paper.
"Honestly, this is pretty exciting," said Hillbrand, who in addition to being a top-notch herpetology student also captains the Avila men's soccer team. "This is a good foot in the door. Hopefully, it will help me get into a good graduate school."
Hillbrand and Sloan made the trip to San Salvador Island during two weeks in May of this year. They each wrote research papers for their class, but Powell also asked the two to collaborate on a side project – writing a paper largely focusing on the shrinking habitat and behavior of the San Salvador Rock Iguana and Brown Anole, species endemic to the island. Hillbrand said no one had documented the reproductive habits of the Brown Anole, but Sloan found a nest with two intact eggs and shells from seven eggs that had hatched. Hillbrand later analyzed them.
"The best part, of course, was being out on San Salvador Island observing and taking in all that we could," Sloan, who currently is studying abroad in Australia, wrote in an e-mail. "Paul and I have been in classes/labs together for the past three years and work well as a team. This was a tremendous learning experience and one that will positively affect us in the development of our careers."
First up for the two student biologists, however, is to finish up their undergraduate degrees at Avila. Sloan is scheduled to remain in Australia until December. Hillbrand recently traveled to the Dominican Republic with the Eagles men's and women's soccer teams to play some practice games and perform service work.
Hillbrand said he's looking forward to captaining the Eagles men's soccer team to an appearance in the Heart of America Athletic Conference tournament and finishing his degree.
"Then, it's getting into a good grad school," he said. "My dream is to get into Hawaii Pacific and get my masters in marine biology."
Avila University is a private, co-educational, values-based liberal arts institution founded by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, offering undergraduate, graduate, and adult degree programs. Avila University is located at 119th and Wornall Rd in southwest suburban Kansas City, Mo.