Undergraduate Research and Creativity Alumni Profiles 

John Lang, B.S. '14, M.S. '16

Biological Science Technician, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Major(s): Biology

What research or work have you done since graduating from Buffalo State?

I continued my education at Buffalo State, earning my master's degree in Biology in 2016. During graduate school I was a research assistant for a comprehensive study on the emerald shiner within the Niagara River, eastern Lake Erie, and western Lake Ontario. In addition, I conducted independent research for my thesis, investigating differences in emerald shiner body shape across these three waterways. My research found that emerald shiners collected from Lake Ontario demonstrated dramatic differences in shape compared to those collected from Lake Erie and the Niagara River. These results are being interpreted in light of population genetic data and are being prepared for publication.

Can you translate your work for the general public?

Currently, I am a biological science technician with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Lodi, California. A critical program at the Lodi Fish and Wildlife Office is the Enhanced Delta Smelt Monitoring (EDSM) Program. The primary goal of EDSM is to estimate abundance and distribution of the endangered delta smelt through intensive weekly sampling of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The data collected are also used in real-time to make decisions about operating the water export pumps in parts of the Delta. Delta smelt have experienced a significant decline over the last few decades, and our project aims to fill in knowledge gaps of their population dynamics and life cycle.

Why did you decide to get involved in undergraduate research?

Early in my undergraduate career, I was unsure about the path I would take once I graduated. I saw undergraduate research as an opportunity to explore several options through learning more about the field of biology. In fact, at Buffalo State I had the opportunity to conduct three different research projects as an undergraduate, which broadened my knowledge of the field.

How did your undergraduate research experience influence your career path?

This project provided me with my first hands-on experience in applying the scientific method. This was a formative period of learning through trial-and-error and developing the patience needed to overcome the stumbling blocks in the scientific process. Developing these skills allowed for a smooth transition into graduate school, which opened up a path into fisheries management within the federal government.

Describe the research you did and if you presented it at any professional conference, juried art exhibit, or other off-campus location.

My summer undergraduate research investigated the parentage of a group of Eastern hellbenders, the largest aquatic salamander in North America. These hellbenders were collected as eggs from a single nest rock and raised to adulthood at the Buffalo Zoo. To determine the number of parents of this nest, I used a variety of genetic techniques. These analyses found that there were an estimated six mothers and seven fathers to this single egg nest. In November 2013, I presented these findings at the Rochester Academy of Science Symposium. In addition, in May 2014, I had the honor to present my findings to Buffalo State's School of Natural and Social Sciences Dean’s Advancement Council.

Undergraduate Research Mentor: Dr. Amy McMillan