University of Pittsburgh
July 12, 2000


Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH, July 13 -- Through the guidance of University of Pittsburgh biology professor Walter Carson, Kathy Randall hopes to bring the purple loose strife of Pymatuning Reservoir into her middle school classroom.

Randall, of Rockwood, PA, is on sabbatical from her 7th and 8th grade students at Berlin Brothersvalley Middle School to conduct ecology research as part of the 2000 Christa McAuliffe Fellowship Program in Pennsylvania. The Fellowship paired Randall with Carson, whose research focuses primarily on community ecology and maintenance of species diversity.

Randall and Carson, along with doctoral candidate Dan Bunker, are spending this summer at the Pymatuning Laboratory of Ecology, the environmental field station of the University of Pittsburgh's Department of Biological Science, in Pymatuning State Park. Under Carson's direction, Randall is studying the purple loose strife, an invasive plant which displaces cattails in wetlands.

"Ecology and environment is something I have always been interested in," said Randall, "but I have never had the chance to develop and design a research project of my own. I try to work environmental awareness issues into my classes and this experience will aid that."

"We are planning to implement a web site based on my research work. This way, my students will be able to see what I have been doing," said Randall, who has been teaching for 14 years. "Children need to develop an awareness of ecology and the environment. Hopefully, by learning about their local environment, they will learn to translate that to their global environment."

The McAuliffe Fellowship targets experienced teachers who wish to further their education with knowledge and experiences they can convey to their students. The Fellowship is administered by Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) and is valued at approximately $40,000.