- Major: Biological Sciences
- Hometown: West Seneca, New York
A sense of the larger world is what has driven Emily DiBlasi to explore.
She was drawn to UB because of its diversity, and felt that it was a place where she could learn not only in the classroom, but outside of it: “I loved UB when I visited. It was really diverse—there were lots of people from different countries, who spoke different languages.”
A biological sciences major, Emily spent her break senior year exploring caves in Mexico as part of her research on mites. With funding from UB’s Center for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities, she accompanied UB professor Katharina Dittmar and a team of cave biologists on an expedition to Mexico. The group explored the Mexican Sierra de El Abra limestone formation and did a biodiversity survey of six caves in the region. There, they collected specimens, focusing on the Mexican blind cavefish, Astyanax mexicanus, as well as a species of bat and its parasites.
“They were of particular interest to us because we study them in the lab,” Emily says. “The experience was incredible—the caves were awe-inspiring and like nothing I had ever seen before.” One of her favorite expeditions on the trip was when the group spent an entire day—and then some—exploring a cave and netting bats. “We studied the bats until 3 a.m.,” she explains. “Everything was new and a shock to all my senses.”
Emily did field work for her masters thesis project in Talampaya National Park, a national park located in the east/center of La Rioja Province in Argentina.
Back at UB, the team used its findings to support its research on bats and their parasites. “How so much life can live in an environment with total darkness is amazing,” Emily says.
She was so inspired by this work that she has continued studying mites at UB as a graduate student in evolution, ecology and behavior. Last summer she went to an international congress in Argentina “with everybody in the world who’s studying mammals,” she says. She spent the following week collecting some very special mite samples.
“We think we have a new species of mite from Argentina. Nothing’s really known about it, and it could have a lot of implications—it could be a vector for disease, or a parasite of an important crop or pest.”
Coming to UB was the perfect choice for Emily. “It gave me the opportunity to do research that I think is both important and interesting, and it gave me the opportunity to work with professors like Katharina. She has had a big influence on my academic career so far and really encouraged me. I wouldn’t have had the opportunities to do any of this without her.”
Last updated: June 16, 2016 3:33 pm EST