ENVS Student Profile: Morika "Mori" Hensley


Mori Hensley is truly maximizing her experience as an Environmental Sciences major. Serving as a teaching assistant in Professor Wegner’s “Ecology of Tibet” course, working in Professor Gillespie’s lab, traveling to Colorado over the summer with Professor Brosi; Mori is seizing opportunities to explore all that ENVS has to offer.

As part of her growing list of experiences in ENVS and at Emory, she is also the first student accepted into the 4+1 ENVS BS/MS program and was recently named to the Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society. We had a chance to catch up with Mori to talk about her summer experience in Colorado at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory (RMBL) and her journey as a student in the Department of Environmental Sciences.

1. How would you describe the evolution of your academic interests – Did you know you wanted to major in ENVS when you started at Emory? What hooked you in to the department ?
I have always wanted to do something that would put me in a position to be outside for my career, preferably to work with animals, but I also have an interest in interactions and relationships between entities in general. My first encounter with the ENVS department was during the department fair for incoming freshmen, where I met Stefanie, Carl, and John. We seemed to hit it off right away and they convinced me this department was the one for me. It certainly seems that way! 

2. How did you end up in Colorado for the summer?
This is a very good question, I would have to say a lot of luck and the generosity of others. Dr. Brosi emailed me quite out of the blue in March and invited me to join his team in Colorado over the summer. So, after spending a hectic week applying for SIRE and Lester, I was all set. It was just one of those unanticipated but incredible opportunities.

3. What was a “typical” day like at Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory (RMBL)?
Even during the warmest part of the summer it got into the 30's at night, and bees are not active until it warms up during the day. So, around 9am we would prepare to go out to the field. On control days we would count all of the receptive flowers of all species along two 20m transects, then observe 20 bumble bees' foraging behavior, walk along transects and observe all pollinating behavior, and then catch as many bumble bees as we could for twenty minutes to get a representative sample of species composition. On manipulation days we would remove the most abundant species, by catching bees for a few hours and putting them in a cooler, and then continue with the routine observations to see if any foraging behavior had changed. A few weeks later we then returned to the site to collect the seeds and stigmas from certain flowers we had labeled.

4. What skills/ideas/experience will stay with you from your Colorado experience?
Most importantly, this was the first experience I had of doing field research, what the lifestyle is like, what the atmosphere of the field station is like. It was a helpful confirmation that this is the track for me. It was also such a great experience to be able to envision the entire scope of a research project, even generally. To be a part of data collection, but to imagine all of the planning and sorting that had to happen before, as well as all of the lab work and analysis, all the way to publishing that comes after, was really beneficial for me. I learned that any organism, when we spend enough time with it, can become endearing. Hopefully my bee-catching and species-identifying skills will stay with me too.

5. What’s next?
Now I am hoping to move to more mammalian ecology, as I solidify my study abroad plans for Spring 2015 and beyond. Hopefully I can work in the mountain ecosystems of Ladakh, India, the home of the famous snow leopard as well as many human herding communities. If all goes well I can then go back the following summer to gather more data for a Master's thesis. As was the case with my Colorado experience, I want to continue to be open to new and exciting opportunities, and be able to take advantage of them.