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!

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