STEP2 Grant student presents research at two scientific conferences
In the summer of 2018, South Texas College student Ernie Reyes did agricultural research with Dr. John Goolsby at the USDA CPHST Mission labs in Edinburg as part of the South Texas College STEP2 grant program. The STEP2 grant program is a multi-institution partnership which pairs STC students with local scientists to do research. The goal of Ernie’s research was to develop new delivery methods for biological control agents for the cattle fever tick. Cattle fever ticks have spread to several ranches in the lower Rio Grande Valley via Nilgai antelopes. Ernie’s research used a roundworm (a nematode) from local habitats as a control agent. These worms are not harmful to mammals but do feed on the cattle fever ticks. The research utilized a sprayer system which automatically delivered nematodes to free-roaming Nilgai.
In February, the USDA-funded STEP2 grant supported Ernie’s travel to Washington DC to present his results from the research at the 2019 meeting of the American Society for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). In Ernie’s own words, “The American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in Washington, D.C. was amazing. I enjoyed every moment of my trip from presenting a poster on my work with the USDA, to listening about new studies being done. I encourage anyone interested in science to seek out local or nationwide conferences. You meet kind people from all over the world.”
The American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in Washington, D.C. was amazing. I enjoyed every moment of my trip from presenting a poster on my work with the USDA, to listening about new studies being done.
Less than a week after Ernie returned to the valley from Washington, he joined former STC student and STEP2 grant recipient Iysha Flores, and Biology Department faculty member Dr. Dan Murray to do a presentation about the grant and his research at the 2019 Region One STEM Summit at South Padre Island. Ernie’s experience gained in the STEP2 program has helped him obtain a full-time research position at the USDA in collaboration with Texas A&M University Kingsville, where he continues to work on biological control of the cattle fever tick. Ernie has expressed gratitude for the opportunity STC has made available via the STEP2 grant, and for the doors it opened for him. After finishing at STC, Ernie plans to continue studying in the Agricultural Sciences in order to advance in his position with USDA/TAMUK.