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Dr. Travis Wilcoxen was awarded a Performance Learning Enhancement Grant (PLEG) from Millikin University to continue, and expand, research opportunities for Millikin biology students working with the Illinois Raptor Center (IRC).

Dr. Wilcoxen instructs students on how to get blood samples.

Jacques Nuzzo, IRC Program Director, examines a Great Blue Heron with Millikin students.

Travis, his students, and the IRC have been working together to better understand the health of birds of prey admitted to the IRC since receipt of another PLEG in November 2013.  Many positive things have come from the first year of collaboration, including improved assessment of patient health upon admission, a better understanding of conditions that led to admission to the IRC hospital, new knowledge about which metrics can serve as good indicators of improvement in health, and even health assessment of nestlings of an endangered species, the Osprey, prior to their release. With the new grant will come valuable new assessments, including the detection of lead poisoning and West Nile Virus infection in the birds.

During the past year, three Millikin students have worked on this project and all have plans to use their experience with the IRC after graduating from Millikin.  Liz Wrobel (who plans to complete a Ph.D. program studying animal physiology), Bridget Spitzer (who plans to attend veterinary school), and Morgan Kincheloe (who plans to attend veterinary school) will all present their raptor research at national meetings in the coming year.  Travis anticipates another two students developing novel research projects in the coming months, which will be funded by this new grant, as Liz and Bridget will be graduating in May 2015.

Bridget with Bald Eagle # 14034

Liz with Bald Eagle # 14194

Performance Learning Enhancement Grants were initiated by Millikin University during the academic year as a means of supporting new initiatives to identify and enhance performance learning within academic programs.  The goal of this program is to identify and measure the most salient characteristics of performance learning, including partnerships with external partners, implementation of innovative curricular deliveries, and new co-curricular activities that more intensely engage students in performance learning.  All proposals approved for funding are asked to offer assessments that measure the effective change in enhancing performance learning. The most competitive proposals seek to create innovative expressions of performance learning that will serve as models for the campus community.















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