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Matthew Opdyke

Profile

  • Time Zone
    Eastern

  • Organization
    Point Park University

  • Role
    Scientist Mentor: I will mentor teams of students online

  • Research Interests (300 words)
    Research interests include field studies of botanical plants and lichens. I am one of the few expert lichenologists in the state of Pennsylvania. My studies involve using lichens as indicators of air quality and establishing a distribution map of lichens in southwestern Pennsylvania. I am also engaged in restoring and monitoring a disturbed floodplain wetland. I am eight years into the study, looking at the rate of succession of wetland plants and the impact of invasive species on the plant community. My newest research is working with a land trust to establish pollinator study plots on their meadow properties. I will conduct pollinator surveys along with botanical surveys to determine how successful planted fields of flowers that attract pollinators are in comparison to naturally-grown plants. Additional studies I have done with my botany classes include measuring tree biomass in forested plots to calculate carbon dioxide sequestration, using algae as indicators of water quality and forensic botany.

  • Profile Question 1
    What is best about being a scientist?

  • Answer the question you selected for profile question 1 here (300 words):
    In movies, scientists are sometimes portrayed as being serious individuals showing little emotion and creativity. In reality, I would argue that being a great scientist requires a passion for what you're doing. One of my favorite things to do during my days off from teaching, is go hiking and see how many plants I can identify. The world outside our homes and offices offer so much unique and interesting stories, if only we look for them. What I think is best about being a scientist is the challenge of combining a passion with the discipline it takes to conduct scientifically-sound research. To do that, a scientist has to be disciplined but at the same time flexible enough to accept changes and unexpected outcomes. On top of all that, creativity and being able to think outside the box is a necessity in science. I see being a scientist as a continuous challenge and an investment in lifelong learning.

  • Profile Question 2
    What is your favorite plant? Why?

  • Answer the question you selected for profile question 2 here (300 words):
    I have many favorite plants; and if this question were restated to ask about my favorite example of symbiosis I would say lichens. I find lichens to be fascinating, a composite of both fungi and algae/bacteria. They are simple in that they have no roots but at the same time they have so many different shapes and colors. They can be used as indicators of air quality, climate change and forest management activities in parks. My favorite lichen is the dragon cladonia. I like the name and the bushy appearance reminds me of a prehistoric forest. Back to the actual question, I would pick white snakeroot (Eupatorium rugosum) as my favorite plant. It is a common late-summer flower but it has an interesting history. Its sap is poisonous, and if fed on by cattle, their milk is poisonous to us. This has led to numerous cases of "milk sickness" in the early 1900s and is reported to have killed Abraham Lincoln's mother. My favorite plants are usually chosen because of their historical stories.

  • Profile Question 3
    Do you have advice for students about preparing for a science career?

  • Answer the question you selected for profile question 3 here (300 words):
    My advice for a career in any field is to enjoy what you're doing. If a student is a hard worker, fascinated by nature and the world around them and creative, I would recommend that student to look into the sciences. The most creative people I know are not artists or theater majors, they are scientists that have opened the door to new realms of investigation. So my advice is to be prepared for challenging yourself. If your peers talk about how tough a science class is, take it, because odds are you will enjoy that class more than you expect. Challenging classes will take you to the next level of learning and you will learn more about yourself that way. I also recommend getting involved with science clubs and volunteering with scientists. It's a great way to find out what type of science you're most interested in. But above all, keep an open mind and have fun with it.

  • Availability
    I am currently available for mentoring, please send me team match invitations

  • Capacity: How many teams at a time are you comfortable working with?
    2

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