Respecting the Environment

Luke Gazak ’18 Studies Mushroom and Fungus Species Along Broad River

Respecting the Environment

As a hunter and fisherman, Luke Gazak ’18 respects the environment. The Holly Springs, N.C., native’s love for the outdoors and observing plants and animals led him to pursue a biology degree at Gardner-Webb University. In the future, he’d like to teach in a university setting, sharing his knowledge with students and conducting research that encourages environmental responsibility.

Over the summer, Gazak gained valuable experience for graduate school while completing a research project through the GWU Undergraduate Research Scholars program. One of 13 students who received a grant to conduct research, he worked 40 hours a week for five weeks on his project. His faculty mentor was Dr. Joseph Oyugi, professor of biology. Gazak will present his research at the North Carolina Undergraduate Research and Creativity Symposium at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, N.C.

The first lesson Gazak learned about conducting research was flexibility. “Originally, I wanted to do a population assessment of the black bullhead catfish at the Broad River,” he related. “As we began scouting out some portions of the river, we somewhat jokingly said how cool it would be to survey all of the mushrooms and fungus considering we must have passed a million different species. After days of torrential downpours and the water levels at the river being higher than I have ever seen, we knew it was time to find a new topic that wouldn’t drown us. We both recalled the mushroom survey idea, which turned out to be a fantastic fit for a project.”

Gazak set up his study by marking off two survey areas on opposite sides of the Broad River. “The color, size, grouping, and overall characteristics were astounding between species, and it never ceased to amaze me from start to finish,” he observed.

Photo: Samuelle Grove