Meet Eleanor Spicer Rice!
Eleanor Spicer Rice won first place at this year's Graduate Student Research Symposium in the Agricultural Sciences category. Her winning poster is entitled, Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick: Submissive Behavior Contributed to the Displacement of a Unicolonial Global Invader.
Spicer Rice, originally from Goldsboro, NC, had already earned her B.S. in Zoology at NC State, but began her graduate work at the University of Georgia where she received an M.S. in Entomology. However, she returned to NC State and is currently a doctoral candidate in entomology.
She says that she always ". . . had a passion for insects but actually did not know entomology was a viable career path until I took the First Year College course. . ." when she began her undergraduate studies. As she discovered that her professional interests lay in the natural world, and especially in entomology, she was able to chart a career course that fits her interests. Spicer Rice also says that First Year College is a great opportunity for incoming freshmen with diverse interests.
NC State was her first choice to pursue doctoral research. Spicer Rice liked NC State's reputation for entomological research, and in particular, ". . .the ant behavioral ecology focus of Jules Silverman's lab." Ant behavior is now the focus of her research. In layman's terms, she makes ants fight!
More specifically, Spicer Rice studies behavioral interactions between two invasive ant species -- the Argentine ant and the Asian needle ant. She says that although ". . . it is behaviorally submissive and numerically subordinate to the established invader the Argentine ant, the new invader Asian needle ant is displacing the Argentine ant in urban environments. My research examines how this is happening (abiotic factors and biotic mechanisms) on chemical, individual, and landscape levels."
Her results show that ". . . Asian needle ants are able to infiltrate Argentine ant colonies, consuming them as food resources and adopting their chemical signatures." If that isn't creepy enough, Asian needle ants can also pose a health threat to humans. These ants have a powerful stinger to which many people are allergic. Spicer Rice hopes that her research can pinpoint the mechanisms driving this invasion process, as well as evaluating effective chemical treatment programs to eliminate Asian needle ants from an environment. She believes that the results of her study can have global ramifications.
When Spicer Rice was nominated to participate in the Graduate Student Research Symposium, she developed a good plan for her presentation -- she checked out online poster templates and took advice from a previous symposium winner in her department. She thinks ". . . that because we are super involved with our process and proud of the intricacies of our projects, it is easy for grad students to get bogged down in the details. The thing is that most other people are not interested in the details." Consequently, she said that it was hard for her to trim her presentation to create a simple poster. But with this year's symposium presentation successfully behind her, her advice is simple: "I suggest presenters bite the bullet and trim it down anyway. If people want to hear all of the little details, they will ask you. You can tailor your pitch so it is interesting enough that people will want to ask you how you got there. Be interesting and informative, but not exhaustive."
However, it is still the detailed research that Spicer Rice appreciates the most about her graduate work at NC State. She says that it's fulfilling to have ". . . the opportunity to peer into biota at every level of my interest, sitting under the oak trees staring at ants for hours on end, performing exciting experiments that uncover deeper and deeper levels of understanding."
When not working and studying, Spicer Rice still seems to integrate nature into her down time. She likes to garden, spend time outside watching nature, and going to local rock shows. But she also enjoys reading literature and spending time with friends, family, husband (Gregory), dog (Lucy Bea), and cat (Monkey).
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