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A Deeper Dive: Scholars program helps Chloe Mikles ’16 pursue her passion for marine biology and more

Chloe Mikles ’16, a junior at Cornell majoring in animal science with a minor in marine biology, has been named a Rawlings Cornell Presidential Research Scholar. This honor provides her with opportunities and resources to pursue research in an area of study she’s passionate about.

Mikles says she has loved animals for as long as she can remember, “so majoring in animal science was an obvious choice for me. I hope to pursue research in fisheries and wildlife conservation. A fish at heart, I have spent many a summer on the coast of North Carolina, offshore fishing and scuba diving, and I am a member of the varsity swim team at Cornell.”

Below, Mikles shares details about her experiences at Cornell so far.

1. How did you get involved in the Rawlings Cornell Presidential Research Scholars program? What would you say has been the best part(s) of your participation?

I am brand new to the program, but so far I have been welcomed by a great community of supportive professors and student scholars. Every student has a unique interest, and it is great to be a part of a new community of people from diverse backgrounds and passions.

2. Tell us about your major and the research project(s) you’re pursuing. What are your plans for the next step in your studies? 

The animal science major is very much focused on pre-veterinary and agricultural work, so through my major I have helped out with research on lambs and prenatal development. Most of my research through Cornell has been focused in the department of ecology and evolutionary biology. I spent last semester in Hawaii and Friday Harbor Labs (in San Juan Islands, Washington) studying coral reef health, seagrass wasting disease and ocean acidification.  

My project for my senior thesis is focused on the conservation of song sparrows. I am trying to identify genetic differences in subspecies concentrated in the San Francisco Bay to aid management in protecting populations threatened by sea-level rise. I have completed all of the genetics lab work and now am learning techniques in bioinformatics to analyze the data and make recommendations for future management efforts. 

For the past two summers, I have worked with NC State at the Center for Marine Sciences and Technology. This experience was instrumental in sparking my interests in research, and I had the opportunity to be involved with many different fisheries research projects during my time there. I presented my work on catch-and-release mortality of dolphinfish (mahi mahi) at the American Fisheries Society national meeting this August, and I am lead author on a manuscript currently in review on this topic. I hope to continue to pursue studies in fisheries and wildlife conservation for graduate school.

3. In what ways have your experiences at Ravenscroft prepared you for the work you’re doing at Cornell?

Ravenscroft could not have prepared me better for college. The passion of my teachers at Ravenscroft always had me excited to learn, and I learned the essentials to manage my time between the current demands of coursework, research and collegiate athletics. Whether I was studying European history, Spanish, philosophy in literature, or chemistry and biology, each teacher and course taught me skills that have proven invaluable in my time so far at Cornell — even with an entirely science-focused curriculum.

The Lead From Here initiative allowed me to understand what it takes to be a leader and to work effectively with others. The greatest thing about participating in “independent research” at Cornell is that it is by no means independent. Having the ability to identify my passions and strengths and contribute to projects that are so much bigger than myself has allowed a seamless transition into working in teams with other undergraduates, graduate students and professors, and these are all skills that were foundationally developed at Ravenscroft.

4. Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I’d like to thank all of my amazing teachers, coaches and mentors at Ravenscroft for all of their support and guidance during my time there.