Ecology student shares her love for conservation ecology

Alia Zieg senior Ecology major at Seattle Pacific University, came to SPU with the intention in becoming a nursing major. But upon her first venture to Blakely Island she soon realized her passion to conserve the wildlife around her.

Seattle Pacific is one of many universities that has a field station on Blakely island, but unlike those other universities the SPU field station on Blakely is open to undergraduate students to do research and learn first hand about what a Ecology career is all about locally and far away.

Zieg recalls one of her first classes she took at Blakely.

“My favorite class definitely had to be the Conservation Ecology class,” Zieg said.

For Zieg’s Conservation Ecology class her class did a lab featuring deer.

Blakely Island has no predators, which therefore means that for any animals on the island they do not have to fear anything. The majority of the time Blakely Island is at full capacity for deer. Making it an ideal setting for research of the deer population.

Though, there are people who live on the island most of the time there are only a few caretakers who maintain the homes and  property.

Luckily, for the dear population, this means that the next biggest animal or predator on the food chain would be them.

But with a lot of freedom comes a lot of responsibility for the deer. Since there are no predators they have to maintain a very healthy living style until they are fully mature.

Alia has partnered with Dr. Long, associate biology professor at SPU, to discover how many deer are on Blakely, and how long they live for.

“We did Transect sampling on Blakely. Because Blakely Island is a pretty small island in comparison to other islands and since there are no predators for the deer this means that Blakely Island is at Capacity for a lot of the time.” Zieg said.

Zieg’s and Dr. Long’s research showed that since the island is at carrying capacity for every deer that dies another deer is able to live.

“With deer, it’s a lot harder because you can’t go around counting animals, because the move.” Zieg commented.

“First, we counted deer droppings, and then from there are equations that we can plug those numbers into so that you can get that number of deer on the island and estimate the deer density.” Zieg said.

For that experiment, Zieg’s and Dr. Long’s research discovered that the deer density on Blakely Island is at capacity.

Zieg has been able to go to Blakely four other times as part of a LAB for her other Ecology classes and no matter how many times they go there is always more experiments that can be performed or new roads to take.

Zieg knew from that one class, that a career in Ecology was dear to her heart.

As Zieg looks to what life post graduation will look like, it is her goal to be accepted into a graduate program involving Ecology to work in Conservation Ecology.

From then on, Zieg’s time at SPU, and after SPU will be to answer that calling to help people help the earth.

“I just hope to be able to advocate for the earth, because even though it can’t talk to us I’m sure it would be screaming at us right no,” Zieg said.


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