La Sierra Undergrad Biology Students Shine at Top-tier Israel Conference

Newsdesk La Sierra Undergrad Biology Students Shine at Top-tier Israel Conference

By Darla Martin Tucker

La Sierra University students Amanda Kaatz and Lelani Del Pinto packed their bags the first week of August for a journey from Los Angeles to Kuala Lumpur, the exotic capital of Malaysia. Adventures awaited them—but not of the typical tourist variety.

Left to right, La Sierra’s Dr. Lee Grismer with biology majors Lelani Del Pinto and Amanda Kaatz pose for a photo while in Israel in May for the students’ presentations at a top scientific conference.

Led by their biology professor, intrepid and renowned herpetologist Lee Grismer, the duo trekked for two weeks through Malaysia’s steaming jungles and across limestone karsts to find and study undiscovered gecko species that live in reclusive hiding places. Despite their undergraduate standing—Kaatz is a second-year biology student and Del Pinto is a senior—their abilities are on par with that of students far ahead of them in graduate programs, a fact that landed the pair among a roster of top academic presenters at a prestigious global symposium in Tel Aviv, Israel, in May. The La Sierra students’ summer work in Malaysia continues to build upon and hone their knowledge, scientific skills, and research, which they put on display during their presentations in Israel.
While in Malaysia, Kaatz hoped to collect a species of gliding gecko for further analysis this coming school year while she works on writing a scientific paper about her Tel Aviv presentation topic. Del Pinto’s field work included attempting to find additional members of the Gekko smithii species of gecko on which she presented, a species that hadn’t been captured on Malaysia’s Penang Island in more than 100 years when she nabbed the animal in the summer of 2017.

(Right) Lelani Del Pinto holds a huge Gekko smithii species gecko on Malaysia’s Penang Island in 2017, the first capture of the animal in the region in more than 100 years. Her research of the species served as the topic of her presentation at the Gekotta Mundi II scientific conference at Tel Aviv University this May.

Kaatz and Del Pinto were the only undergrads out of 18 presenters from around the globe attending Gekotta Mundi II at Tel Aviv University May 26-28. The conference aimed to showcase the latest research and findings in gecko biology and attracted an audience of the world’s foremost herpetologists.
Read more of this article online at the La Sierra University news page:

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