Senior biology major finishes last year on academic high

Homegrown in southern Utah, Jeremy Evans is taking the biology department by storm. Evans is a senior biology and zoology major from Hurricane who not only enjoys his studies but also takes advantage of every opportunity to learn more about his field.

He is currently working on three projects in addition to his studies: building a zebrafish habitat, photographing beetles and studying invasive turtles in the Virgin River. In his spare time, Evans is starting a chess club on campus.

Samuel Wells, a lecturer of biology, is working with Evans in many different capacities.

“Jeremy is an ideal student,” Wells said. “He’s always interested in what’s going on, whatever subject it is ... He thinks a lot about projects that he can do and then he designs his projects and goes out and does more than he’s expected to do, so it’s fun to have him.”

Wells thought of starting a chess club at SUU and was excited when Evans liked the idea and decided to be the president and founder. The club is currently under review with SUUSA and should be finished soon.

“Jeremy’s a natural at presiding over these sorts of things,” Wells said. “He sends out emails and gets people rallied. He instructs students when they come to chess club that have never played chess before. He’s good about helping them learn the basics of the game and helping them be comfortable.”

Academically, Evans says he enjoys everything to do with biology. He reads as much as he can about his field when he isn’t studying.

“I try to read a lot of science books to learn more,” Evans said. “I had a professor call me a nerd because I actually read a book over finals week last semester.”

His extra studies have paid off. Josh Sigg, a senior biology major from St. George, is a friend and classmate of Evans’. He thinks Evans would make a great professor someday.

“Just from talking to Jeremy you can learn a lot because he’s been to a lot of interesting places,” Sigg said.

“He knows a ton about everything. If you have a question, he’s always able to answer it, so I think that’s another reason why he’d be a good professor. He’s just a smart guy.”

For the beetle photographing project, Evans is working with Wells to effectively document different beetles species. In addition to being a professor, Wells is a beetle taxonomist, which means he identifies and classifies species of beetles. Together, Evans and Wells have built a stand for his camera and are working to photograph the tiny creatures with accuracy.

“I describe beetle species that are not known to science, and we’re working on a group right now ... that is very small, just two or three millimeters long, little black things,” Wells said. “They’re difficult to photograph. Jeremy took a photography class last semester; he has an interest in photography.”

Evans’ second project, creating a zebrafish colony, takes place in the science building where he is working under Lindsey Roper, an assistant professor of biology. Evans, with other students, is creating a habitat where the fish can breed successfully and future students can learn about the development of a fish.

“A lot of big research institutions will have zebrafish, so they can do genetics tests on them or we’ll use them for developmental biology studies because you can monitor the growth of the embryo because (the eggs) are big enough and they’re clear,” Evans said. “You can see through the egg and see the developmental process.”

He said he is working on this project because he wants to not only gain experience, but also contribute to the future of SUU and its students.

“It’s something that I can do that I’m working on that can be left behind for other students to continue to learn in their biology courses whether it’s in ethology, developmental biology, genetics, comparative vertebrate studies or a lot of other biology courses,” Evans said.

He will start his third project this spring: capturing and killing spiny softshell turtles in the Virgin River to see if they are harming the already endangered species in the area.

“They’re an invasive species in the river, so we’re worried they might be eating some of the endangered fish,” Evans said. “We’re going to go down and catch them, kill them and check their gut content to see if they’re eating the fish.”

Sigg has already worked on this project with Bill Heyborne, an associate professor of biology, in the Muddy River of Nevada. Unfortunately, their results were inconclusive, so they are continuing the study in a new location. Heyborne and Sigg said they are are happy to have Evans join the research team.

“I chose Jeremy because of his knowledge of reptiles—he took my herpetology class last year—and because of his experience with and enthusiasm for field work,” Heyborne said. “Plus, I knew Jeremy (Evans) would work well with the existing member of the research team.”

Evans hopes to continue his studies after graduation this April. He plans to work an internship and research jobs until he can get into graduate school next year and ultimately become a professor himself.

“I plan on spending a year doing a bunch of different seasonal jobs, different opportunities to develop different skills, different experiences,” Evans said. “I’m looking at applying for another internship with the forest service.”


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