GSC News

Glenville State College Students Participate in International Research Program

For Immediate Release: November, 9  2012

Contact: Annette Barnette
Public Relations & Marketing Director
Glenville State College
Glenville, West Virginia
(304) 462-6391

Glenville, WV – Glenville State College students have traveled to Japan again to study the ecology of plant invasion.

Burkowski and Gazal

Marilynn Burkowski (Left) and Dr. Rico M. Gazal (Right) take leaf morphological and physiological measurements of Tree-of-Heaven during their field measurements on the campus of Kyushu University in Fukuoka, Japan.

Natural Resource Management seniors Marilynn Burkowski of Hollis (York County), Maine and Ryan Thomas of St. Albans (Kanawha County), West Virginia traveled to Fukuoka, Japan in 2011. Ethan Epling of Spencer, (Roane County) West Virginia and Burkowski took the same trip earlier this year.

The purpose of the trips was to study the Tree-of-Heaven in a climate that differs from that in Glenville, West Virginia. Key attributes were studied in order to understand what makes the tree such a successful species despite varying climates. The tree was introduced to both countries from China and is considered to be an invasive species that threatens native forests.

“I was lucky enough to participate in this trip to Fukuoka, Japan,” said Burkowski, “It was such a great learning experience. The joint work we conducted with Kyushu University students will help us further understand the characteristics of the Tree-of-Heaven, a particularly aggressive invasive species in West Virginia. I feel very fortunate to have had a chance to interact with the people in Fukuoka, experience the culture, and visit beautiful sites in the area.”

Not only will the research being compiled by students from both nations help in the continued study of the Tree-of-Heaven, but the program creates a unique opportunity for students. “I believe this trip has greatly benefited me by learning about the invasive species such as the Tree-of-Heaven, its various characteristics, and its growth patterns,” said Epling. “It has also taught me about other cultures in the world, and how they approach different aspects of forestry. I am very appreciative of this opportunity and will never forget the wonderful experiences I have had during this trip.”

Burkowski, Gazal, and Epling

Marilynn Burkowski (Left), Dr. Rico M. Gazal (Center), and Ethan Epling (Right) visit a national park in Fukuoka, Japan, home to some of the largest Japanese cedar trees.

Dr. Rico Gazal, GSC Associate Professor of Forestry, initiated the collaboration with Kyushu University in Japan, “It is such a great experience to introduce our undergraduate students to local and international issues in forest ecology through research. We spent a lot of time collecting data in the field that will explain the morphological and physiological similarities and differences between the Tree-of-Heaven in Fukuoka, Japan and in West Virginia. I hope to provide more opportunities to our undergraduate students to travel abroad and experience the world. I would like to also extend my gratitude to the administration of Glenville State College for their support in promotion undergraduate research at our college. My gratitude also belongs to the faculty, staff, and students of Kyushu University.” said Dr. Gazal.

The program will not only benefit GSC undergraduate students but also high school students. Glenville State College partnered with Gilmer County High School while Kyushu University partnered with Itoshima Agricultural High School in Fukuoka, Japan. Together they conducted further research on the history of the Tree-of-Heaven’s introduction into their local environment.

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