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Student Snapshot: Larissa Babicz ’20

Larissa Babicz '20

Larissa Babicz ’20 is interested in art, ecology and wildlife, particularly birds. At Dickinson, she’s combining those interests through student-faculty research on the effects of climate change on birds in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, and she even contributed to a mural based on that theme. Below, she discusses that work, dog training, wildlife art and more.

Hometown:

Northampton, Pennsylvania.

Major

Biology.

Clubs and organizations:  

Fencing Club and Ornithology Club.

Favorite book:

The Wolves of Time by William Horwood.

Favorite movie:

The Big Year.

On choosing a major:

I originally came in with the intention of majoring in environmental science, because I was interested in conservation, but after a couple of classes I decided that I really preferred to learn about wildlife and ecology, so I switched my major to biology.

As I kid, I wanted to be …

an artist.

On choosing Dickinson:

I decided to come to Dickinson because I had already heard many good things about the school from my sister, who had attended as well. I believed that it would be a good match for my interests too, especially because of the emphasis on sustainability.

Favorite place on campus:

Kaufman.

Favorite Dining Hall food:

Pureed sweet potato soup.

Favorite class/learning experience:

Ornithology, mainly because I was already interested in birds before coming to college and had been a birder for six years. In this class I finally got to learn more about this wonderful subject and, even better, go on many birding trips where I learned more about identifying birds in the field.

(Read about a bird-related campus mural Larissa took part in.)

Favorite professor:

Kim Van Fleet, because she is always willing to work with students individually if they have questions or want to know more about a certain topic. She is also very enthusiastic about teaching her classes. I have taken three courses with her and enjoyed every single one.

Little-known hobby/talent:

Dog training.

About my research project:

I am currently working in collaboration with Professor Van Fleet to research the effects of climate change on birds in Cumberland County. Last semester, my task was simply to acquire the background information that would be necessary for the project. This included researching how climate change would affect different aspects of birds’ lives, including changes in habitat structure and composition, physiological responses to increased temperatures, changes in migration patterns and distribution (including range shifts either northward or southward, or elevational shifts), disease frequencies, and, tying into all of these, an advancement or delay in migration that can affect all aspects of the birds’ lives if their activities no longer coincide with resource availability in their territories.

This semester, I’m taking all this information and applying it to the birds of Cumberland County specifically. I’m taking information on the birds’ ecologies to predict which species may see a decline in the coming years as a result of climate change and how their populations might react to different climate scenarios.

I decided to take on this project partly to fulfill the research requirement for biology majors, but also because of my interest in birds. As a birder, it is nearly impossible to ignore the fact that climate change will impact our ecosystems and the organisms within them, so naturally I decided to take part in this project.

What I learned:

In addition to the knowledge gained through the research itself, I have learned about how more serious research is conducted, especially when the aim is to present the findings at the end.

If I could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, it would be …

… Andrew Tischler (landscape painter).

Post-Dickinson plans:

I am hoping to work temporarily doing field biology and eventually become a game warden. I also am working on building up a side business as a wildlife artist.

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Published December 9, 2019