Evaluating Procedures for Cleaning Birds and Other Wildlife Affected by Oil Spills
DATE: March 2020
Widener University | Chemistry
Andrea Martin, PhD. | Associate Professor

This project is being conducted in partnership with Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research (Newark, DE) to evaluate the procedures for cleaning birds and other wildlife affected by oil spills. The current procedures were developed over 30 years ago and need to be updated to account for new detergent formulations. GC and GC/MS are used to determine the amount of residual oil remaining on washed feathers. The requested syringes will be used for independent research, which is required for our senior chemistry majors, but which is also offered for first through third year students either as a for-credit course or as a not-for-credit summer research experience. The oil spill project was started in summer 2020 with a rising sophomore and two rising juniors. The sophomore will be presenting her work this spring at NCUR, the National Conference on Undergraduate Research. In addition, the syringes will be used in our analytical and instrumental courses and our capstone course, "Advanced Synthesis and Spectroscopy." These courses have not only chemistry and biochemistry majors in the cohort, but also biology, environmental science and engineering students.

Currently, there are 4 undergraduate students working with two faculty members and 3 outside consultants on the oil spill project. Additional projects where these products will be used include the analysis of scents that attract insects to flowers (biology), analysis of vapors from e-cigarettes (biochemistry), and a range of chemistry and environmental chemistry projects. At a minimum, at least 8 research students and 3 faculty members will benefit directly from this grant. In addition, our analytical and instrumental courses typically have about a dozen students each semester.

Widener has a robust undergraduate research program in the Sciences, particularly chemistry and biochemistry. We particularly strive to give students a research experience as early as their first year. Not only does this experience increase students' engagement with their major, it gives them a leg up when they apply to jobs and graduate programs. While many schools offer undergraduate research, we believe we are one of few that require it of all chemistry and biochemistry majors.