This September, Biology major Stephanie Olson '17 presented a poster on the growth and development of flesh-eating beetles at the 25th International Congress of Entomology in Orlando, Fla.
Olson, who will use the poster as part of her Capstone presentation, completed the research alongside Dr. Tobias Landberg, assistant professor of Biology, and Dr. Karen Scott, associate professor of Forensic Science. She found that different meat types and levels of decay affect the beetle's life cycle and rate of growth.
"The International Conference of Entomology was an experience that has changed my life,” said Olson, who was invited into the North American Forensic Entomology Association. “I met and made connections with forensic entomologists who validated the path I chose by doing just what I’ve planned to do since in 5th grade.”
Dr. Landberg noted that Olson spent the summer caring for beetles, measuring them, and evaluating how they developed after consuming meats that had rotted up to two weeks.
“She worked through tough conditions, but it's really interesting to see how this information can be used to determine growth, developmental rates, and the post-mortem interval and maybe even solve crimes,” said Dr. Landberg.
After graduating with an undergraduate degree in Biology, Olson plans to matriculate into the Master of Science in Forensic Science (MSFS) program at Arcadia.
"Stephanie's project surpassed our expectations,” said Dr. Scott, who hopes to continue collaboration between Forensic Science and Biology. “This is the foundation of insect research we are working on, and it is great to have had our efforts validated by experts in the field. The MSFS faculty is looking forward to helping Stephanie continue her research."
In addition to Capstone, Olson, Landberg, and Scott hope to publish their work in an academic forensic entomology journal.
“I spent two years working on this research,” said Olson. “There was a special kind of satisfaction in presenting my poster. I am so thankful to all of those who helped me, especially Dr. Landberg, Dr. Scott, Dr. Lauretta Bushar, and Dr. Nancy Rosoff. They provided the support I needed to secure this once in a lifetime opportunity.”