Five Minutes with Cassandra “Cassie” Damer and Gina Lamka

KODAK Digital Still Camera
Cassie Damer, “Herm,” and Gina Lamka

Cassie and Gina are very excited to be studying at Pierce Cedar Creek Institute for the summer. As self-described city girls, they are mesmerized by the beauty of the Institute. Cassie is from the Detroit area and Gina is from Dallas. Both attend Central Michigan University as biology majors with a focus on natural resources.

The pair are easily recognized at the Institute because they are usually with “Herm.” Herm is a stuffed badger on wheels and is a vital part of their research project.

Cassie and Gina are testing the predator flight response in squirrels and how parasites affect that response. They will trap squirrels and give them anti-parasite medicine and then release them.  They use the sound of Herm’s motor and his shape to see how close he can get to the squirrel without it fleeing.

Learn more about Cassie and Gina below:

How did you hear about Pierce Cedar Creek Institute and Biological Field Station program?

Gina and Cassie: From our mentor at Central Michigan University, Professor Brad Swanson.

KODAK Digital Still Camera
Cassie and Gina give “Herm” a walk on the trails at the Institute.   Click here for a video of Herm.

Why do you love nature and science?

Gina: Science is the only way to work in nature, and my love for animals and nature has helped me into this field.

Cassie:  I have always had a love for animals and nature ever since I can remember, and it was definitely sparked by Animal Planet with Steve Irwin and Jeff Corwin.  Ever since I always find myself in nature, and science has always been an interested from that.

How are you going to combine them in your project?

Gina and Cassie: We combine them because we have to be out in nature every day to walk the trails and observe squirrels.

What do you hope to learn from your research?

Gina and Cassie: Since we are working on a research project, it all depends on the data we get, but we hope to find a connection between flight initiation and parasites.

What do you hope to learn from the program?

Gina and Cassie: We hope to learn more about parasites and their effect on small mammal flight initiation, but also to learn different research techniques by doing our project and helping others on their projects.

What is your favorite location at Pierce Cedar Creek Institute?

Gina and Cassie: The Blue Trail on the new property.

Why did you want to study at Pierce Cedar Creek Institute this summer?

Gina and Cassie: It’s a perfect situation to do our own research project and get paid for it! Such an amazing experience!



Pierce Cedar Creek Institute Welcomes 2016 Biological Field Station Students!

Every summer the Institute welcomes biological field station students from the Institute’s consortium of colleges and universities. In the fall of 2004, the Institute created a partnership with a group of West Michigan colleges and universities called the Pierce Cedar Creek Consortium. Current members are: Albion College, Aquinas College, Calvin College, Central Michigan University, Cornerstone University, Grand Rapids Community College, Grand Valley State University, Hope College, Kalamazoo College, Kalamazoo Valley Community College, Kellogg Community College, Valparaiso University (Indiana), and Western Michigan University.

The purpose of this series of blogs is to introduce each student and the research they are conducting at Pierce Cedar Creek Institute.

Five Minutes with Laura “LB” Barrett

KODAK Digital Still Camera
LB Barrett working on her stipple drawing entitled, “Freedom in the Woods.”

Hometown: Kalamazoo, MI

College Attending:  Kalamazoo Valley Community College and Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) in Savannah, GA in the fall

Major: Illustration and Sequential Arts

Fellowship Type: Gordon Art Fellow

How did you hear about the Institute and the Gordon Art Fellowship?

Through my professor Beth Purdy at KVCC, who encouraged me strongly to pursue the Fellowship.

Describe your Fellowship project.

It’s called “Freedom in the Woods,” a series of illustrations looking into the relationship between people and nature. My main piece is a large stipple drawing.

Why do you love nature and art?

They are both excellent and healthy forms of escape as well as things that we as a species can communicate through across linguistic, societal, and cultural barriers.

How are you going to combine them in your project?

I will show in my drawing and paintings that many forms of interactions exist between us and nature. For example, I’m currently working on a piece that is contrasting the skin of a snake and the tattooed skin of another student here.

What do you hope to learn from the Fellowship?

I hope to gain a better sense of discipline, honing of skills without distractions, as well as seeing if I can really do this for the rest of my life as my life.

What can others learn from your project?

To take a second look, find a different perspective, about absolutely everything physical, spiritual, emotional, mathematical – EVERYTHING. To see the pain and beauty – or maybe the pain of beauty/beauty of pain – at our roots, in our souls and out in nature, where we originated and ultimately return to. If my pieces even just barely wedge open one eye of one person, I’ve accomplished something valuable.

What is your favorite location at Pierce Cedar Creek Institute?

I like the orange trail a lot. It has a lot of good sights and compositions. Also, when I first got here, I was amazed at all the clocks in the buildings, especially in the big open dining hall. I felt like I’d walked into a dream, or a surrealistic painting.

Check out more of LB’s work at: