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2011 REU and REV Program Participant Profiles: Lindsay Lee

Lindsay Lee photo.

Majors: Mathematics, Spanish
School: Univ. of Tennessee, Knoxville
Hometown: Oak Ridge, TN
REU/REV Research Project: Modeling feral cat population dynamics in Knox County, TN

What is the purpose of your research?
Right now, the feral cat population in Knox County and all over the world is a huge problem. They cause conservation, disease and nuisance issues, and they reproduce rapidly. We are studying the current program in Knox County in which cats are brought in throughout the year, neutered, then released back into the wild. We are using a mathematical model to see if the population growth of cats would decrease even more if we concentrate all our spay efforts in the season before the cats get pregnant.

What does your research ultimately accomplish?
The research will help local and national animal shelters make decisions about the state of their population control programs. We're hoping our research will save shelters time, energy and money, while at the same time preventing disease spread, the extinction of wildlife and nuisance complaints caused by feral cats through a decline in population growth without the use of euthanasia.

I've learned so much, and it really feels like the research we're doing is going to have a major impact. It's not often I get to feel that way about my work.
– Lindsay Lee, REU participant

Do you have a 'personal side' to your research experience you would like to share?
When I tell people about this project, my friends usually laugh at my enthusiasm. I'm known among my friends for being a bit of a crazy cat lady. So when I got assigned to this project, everyone had a good laugh.

What were your favorite parts of the REU/REV program?
My favorite part has definitely been the members of the group. Everyone is really an expert in a specific aspect of the project, and we all work really well together. My second favorite part has been the project itself. I've learned so much, and it really feels like the research we're doing is going to have a major impact. It's not often I get to feel that way about my work.

What new experiences did you gain that have helped you today?
I've learned a lot more about mathematical models and programming. I've also learned how research groups collaborate; all my previous research has been solo. I definitely enjoy the group environment a lot more.

Would you recommend this program to others?
Definitely. The staff is extremely helpful, the other students are so intelligent and fun, and the program is set up in a way that makes you work hard while at the same time giving you room to breathe.


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