Olivia Wetsch (Class of 2018)

photo of Olivia Wetsch

  • senior Biology major, with an Environmental Science co-major
  • minor in Plant Biology
  • from Cincinnati, OH
  • Undergraduate Summer Scholar (2016)
  • President of the Zoology Club
  • studied marine biology and conservation at Australia's Great Barrier Reef, where she went scuba diving and explored a century-old shipwreck (Spring 2017)
"Overall, Miami has given me great research experiences in biology and conservation, which is relevant to what I want to focus on in graduate school and beyond. I've also made good connections through Zoology Club and my study abroad experience in Australia."

Why Miami?

"I chose Miami primarily for their research opportunities, because I wanted to look into a career in biology research. Miami has always stressed its opportunities to get involved with faculty on research projects, which was very attractive to me. I also was interested in Miami's many study abroad programs and the fact that there seemed to be a student club for just about everything.

"I'd always wanted to study biology. When I was younger, I wanted to go to veterinary school, but as I grew older I became more interested in conservation and started looking into research involving environmental science. By the time I came to Miami, I was pretty set on this and began taking classes in biology and chemistry, some of which were pretty tough! I really liked my classes and being around passionate professors — and all of this made me even more sure that biology was the right major for me."

Best Miami Experiences

Olivia Wetsch doing field research at night

"I started exploring research opportunities in 2015, in the fall of my sophomore year. I'm now doing ecology research with associate professor of biology Michelle Boone and her graduate students, Tyler Hoskins and Miranda Strasburg, all of whom have been great mentors for me.

"We've done two studies so far on cricket frogs, whose numbers appear to be declining in farm ponds and wetlands. First was a field study during summer 2016 in farm ponds throughout Ohio, Illinois, and Missouri, where we examined how pesticides and disease play a role in the survival of cricket frogs. Then, last summer here at the Ecology Research Center (ERC), we studied the effects of parasite and fungus co-infections on these frogs.

"I'm also currently the president of the Zoology Club, where we have a lot of Biology and Zoology majors and stay pretty active throughout the semester. We take trips to animal shelters and bring in professors to talk about their research.

"In the spring of 2017 I went to Australia's James Cook University through The Education Abroad Network (TEAN) to study zoology, marine biology, and environmental science. The school was right on the Great Barrier Reef, which of course is a great place to study these topics, and it's always been a dream of mine to go there.

"I found the program by doing a bit of online research, and then I met with a study abroad advisor here at Miami who talked me through all of the different opportunities they had related to conservation. While in Australia I took 4 biology classes, and in one, Australian Vertebrate Fauna, we went on a field trip into the Australian bush for three days. We trapped various species, identified them, and then released them to get a sense of the variety and population of animals living in the area. We saw a lot of geckos and a few marsupials called dasyurids that I'd never seen before. And of course, there were a lot of kangaroos!

Olivia Wetsch holds a koala at Wildlife Habitat in Port Douglas, Queensland, Australia.

"Before I left for Australia, I'd gotten certified for scuba diving, which I was able to do on my own free time during the trip. We went scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef twice and even explored the site of a shipwreck, the S.S. Yongala, which sank in 1911. The site, 90 feet down, is considered one of the best in the world because of the diversity of life living all around it!"

Miami and the Liberal Arts

"I tested out of most of the Miami Plan classes because I had AP credit in high school, so I didn't really need to take classes in history or philosophy or things like that. I did need to take a foreign language, however, and Miami's strong liberal arts curriculum has helped me discover some really fun and interesting course opportunities, such as American Sign Language (SPA 101, 102, 201, and 202), which fulfilled my foreign language requirements but inspired me to learn as much as I could.

"Regarding my major, I have always really loved animals and learning about them, and obviously this is a really big part of biology. I see biology as basically a career of learning new things, and it's incredibly broad. I knew I didn't like studying medicine, instead wanting to make more of an impact on the environment and the planet itself rather than focusing on a few animal species. That's what led me to adding my Environmental Science co-major. I also took a plant taxonomy class (BIO 302) which sparked the reason why I added my minor in Plant Biology.

"I also really enjoyed a geology class, Geology of U.S. National Parks and its associated lab (GLG 141/115), which I took as part of the requirements for environmental science. I found geology so interesting that I've taken a few more classes in that subject."

Investigating Cricket Frog Declines

Olivia describes her research on cricket frog declines in the Midwest.

A Passion for Research Video Transcript

Advice to Students

"Overall, Miami has given me great research experiences in biology and conservation, which is relevant to what I want to focus on in graduate school and beyond. I've also made good connections through Zoology Club and my study abroad experience in Australia.

"All of this has taught me that basically, if there is something you want to get involved in, go for it. You may have to ask around, and the whole process might be nerve wracking, but it's worth it to jump right in and go for as many classes, clubs, or whatever experiences you like.

"Just keep your options open, and be willing to go anywhere. Miami has so many really great opportunities that it will probably be hard to decide just which ones you want!"

[January 2018]