Text Size Default Text SizeDefault Text Size Large Text SizeLarge Text Size Largest Text SizeLargest Text Size Print Print this Page

Ellery Ruther

For the love of turtles (and biology)!

What do radio frequency ID tags, turtles and Longwood University have in common? Longwood honors student Ellery Ruther.

Ruther, a junior majoring in biology and German, spent 12 weeks last summer conducting research with Longwood professor Dr. Thomas Akre and junior Elliott Lassiter studying the nesting habits of the endangered wood turtle, or Glyptemys insculpta, in the Shenandoah Valley.

Using radio-frequency tags attached to turtles' shells and markings, Ruther documented turtles' movements and ecological interactions to help Akre and other scientists better understand how the threatened species adapts and survives.

The project culminated with Ruther's presentation of findings to the Virginia Chapter of the Wildlife Society in February. Her report won "best student presentation" accolades from the organization, besting students from Virginia Tech and Radford.

"It was a great experience to present my findings to some influential environmentalists in Virginia," said Ruther. "It's cool that Longwood is involved in this important work, and I'm honored to be part of it."

The summer field study and high praise from the Wildlife Society are pushing Ruther to further explore herpetology, the study of amphibians and reptiles. This summer, Ruther will study abroad near the Black Forest in Germany, where she anticipates having the opportunity to learn more about the area's indigenous species.

"I knew I wanted to major in biology, but it was Dr. Akre who really helped me think about how I might apply it to a career," says Ruther. "I really appreciate that Longwood got me involved in work that has helped me prepare for the next step after graduation."

Ruther also credits Longwood's learning environment for her inspiration to passionately pursue biology. Small classes and the university's "family feel" allowed her to get to know, question and work closely with Dr. Akre, she says.

With an award from the Wildlife Society, an upcoming study abroad experience and a faculty mentor that pushes her to excel, Ruther may need a radio-frequency tag of her own to help her friends keep track of where biology takes her. Surely she'll move faster than the wood turtles.