Close Close

2024 Hawk Talks

* Indicates Hawk Talk speaker is an Honors School student

Kathryn Marshall, Junior, Biology

Evaluating Diamond-backed terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin) nesting and reproductive vulnerabilities at Sandy Hook National Recreation Area

The Diamond-backed Terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin, DT) is the only turtle species found in brackish waters in the United States, across its range from Cape Cod, Massachusetts to Corpus Christi, Texas. With reliance on both aquatic and terrestrial habitats, DT faces challenges due to climate change including sea level rise, flooding from increasingly strong storms, and fluctuations in air and soil temperature.

To thoroughly assess the effects of environmental changes, we studied the spatial nesting ecology of DT on Sandy Hook using beach nesting surveys and camera traps and compared these findings to a study from 2002. The main goal is to acquire an understanding of nesting behaviors, quantify the nesting population, and map the spatial distribution of nests in known nesting areas. Intensive nesting surveys involved walking along nesting beaches daily, while camera traps were strategically placed in the most opportunistic areas for documenting nesting terrapins along with nest predators.

In 2023, we found 13 live adult terrapins and 277 depredated nests. Noteworthy predators of these nests consisted of red foxes, raccoons, American crows, and ghost crabs. However, human activity continues to present the most significant threat to DT primarily through the recreational utilization of nesting habitats. An observation revealed a total of 195 instances of dogs engaging in behaviors such as digging, barking, or running through water within designated search areas. To further continue this study, DT will be monitored on Fire Island National Seashore U.S National Park Service in the summer of 2024.

Meghan Reilly*, Junior, English-Journalism

Innocence Lost, and Found: Forced and Unforced Maturation in Judith Ortiz Cofer’s Silent Dancing: A Partial Remembrance of a Puerto Rican Childhood

My research project’s aim is to provide an intersectional approach to a content-based literary analysis, demonstrating how literature can serve as a mediating response to adolescent hardship and can describe the adversity of forced maturation and early onset emulation of maturity. Through reading the narrative prose and poetry in Silent Dancing: A Partial Remembrance of a Puerto Rican Childhood, Judith Ortiz Cofer draws on her experiences to craft meaningful conversations of metropole and subaltern, of literary genres, of storytelling media, of languages, and of the intersection of gender, class, and ethnicity. This lesser-known bilingual and multi-genre coming-of-age book by a New Jersey author creates ambiguities in which adolescent readers may find themselves, an important notion to oppose cultural resistance and conformity while crafting a hybrid identity and the perception of unforced maturation.

Christopher Meehan, Senior, Biology-Geographic Information Systems

Eastern Box Turtle Habitat Preferences Amidst Urban Encroachment

Urbanization has resulted in the spread of suburban landscapes across the northeastern United States, which has dramatically transformed natural landscapes and has had countless impacts on the environment, and the organisms that are found in these areas. Among the groups affected by urbanization, terrestrial turtles have arguably had the most challenges, with habitat loss and fragmentation, road mortality, and barriers to movement, which test their ability to survive in novel suburbanized landscapes.

To better understand how turtles persist and make use of habitats that have been heavily modified by humans, we undertook a study of the habitat selection of Eastern box turtles (Terrapene carolina carolina), a terrestrial turtle species native to the eastern United States, at a Monmouth County conservation area. Habitat selection is the ecological process in which organisms preferentially choose specific habitats from the available options in their environment. To conduct our study, we located turtles using radiotelemetry and then used a one-meter quadrat to determine habitat features, including the dominant cover type, substrate type and canopy density in the area that the turtle occupied. Other data was also recorded about the area the turtle was found in such as the distance of

he turtle to paths, downed logs, and shrubs. A similar set of data was collected at a random location, associated with each turtle location, to determine if the turtles were preferential in their habitat selection.

We will use the habitat data from used and random turtle locations to better understand if and how turtles are using habitat features disproportionate to their availability. Turtles are among the most threatened taxa of the vertebrates, and by learning more about their habitat needs in new environments,we can ensure that common species, like the box turtle, remain common.

Maria Aguiluz*, Senior, Health Promotion

Brain Train – A Mobile App for Assessing Performance Anxiety within Collegiate Athletes

Performance anxiety, also classified as competitive anxiety, negatively impacts athletes by provoking adverse psychological responses toward a competition within their sport. Performance anxiety is triggered by external and internal factors that can induce physiological responses, ultimately impacting the athlete’s ability to reach optimal performance. Athletes can experience performance anxiety before or during competition, resulting in a discrepancy between the athlete’s capacity and skills during a game and practice. Exploring performance anxiety within collegiate athletics is fundamental as it can be a pivotal factor in whether an athlete will reach their full potential at the collegiate level, which can result in frustration, development of mental illness, and retirement from their sport.

Assessing performance anxiety within team and individual collegiate sports can lead to a comprehensive understanding of the coping strategies that could be implemented to facilitate psychological help to specific athletes based on their sport. Although mechanisms exist to assess components of performance anxiety, the purpose of this proposal is to merge findings from both existing coping strategies and existing literature on the impact of performance anxiety within individual and team sports to develop a mobile application to assist sports psychologists in tackling performance anxiety within collegiate athletics.

This project aims to facilitate monitoring and dialogue between student-athletes and sports psychologists through a mobile app to easily document and assess what triggers performance anxiety within specific athletes and their teams, ultimately leading to mental health support and well-being. The app will evaluate performance anxiety through pre- and post-competition questionnaires based on existing assessment tools, and each discipline will be asked sport-specific questions based on findings within their discipline. The team sports assessed were ice hockey and basketball, and the individual sport assessed was bowling. Findings within these sports can be generalizable and applied to similar disciplines.

Sean Fritz, Senior, Computer Science

Mentoring Creating Software to Secure and Protect Data and Online Information

In my presentation, I seek to explore the ubiquitous but often overlooked issue of online data security. I will highlight the common practice of multiple accounts with identical passwords, and the potential risks that come from such a thing. Drawing from personal research and projects, I seek to discuss a system for an Account Manager of my own that is designed to prioritize user privacy and security. Through this, I intend to delve into the process of designing Software, programming languages like Java, and essential security practices such as encryption and basic data protection. With a overarching theme on empowering users to protect their data and privacy online, I look to offer a timely and practical discourse on a topic relevant to all Internet users.

Jessica Gershenow, Doctorate, Occupational Therapy & Elizabeth Hsu, Doctorate, Occupational Therapy

Wellness Wednesdays: A Collaboration Between Occupational Therapy and Counseling and Prevention Services

Rising mental health issues among college students inspired the creation of the Wellness Wednesday programming here at Monmouth University, which aims to enhance the mental health and well-being of the student population. The collaborative nature of this initiative involves coordination between two distinct university departments, paving the way for broader collaboration in developing future programs and events. Both project initiators share a personal commitment to mental health and well-being, aligning their capstone experiences with the goal of creating a stronger Monmouth University community.

The project seeks to raise awareness about accessibility to resources at the Monmouth University graduate center, offering additional support and tools for undergraduate students to improve their mental well-being. Ultimately, the significance of this project lies in its potential to contribute positively to the Monmouth community by providing valuable resources for mental health improvement among students.

Emily Verzicco, Graduate Student, Physician Assistant

Let’s Have a Kiki: Discussing Creating a Safe Space in Medicine for LGBTQ+ Patients

Cultural competency is vital to well-rounded, patient-centered health care. Sexual identity and orientation are frequently overlooked as aspects of culture in medicine, but it is vital to be inclusive to sexual and gender minorities to achieve intersectionality. We have made great strides in medicine towards inclusivity, but there are still massive gaps in the treatment of sexual and gender minorities. As a bisexual physician assistant student, I understand what it’s like to go through the medical system not only as a queer patient, but a queer provider. Historical barriers to care including LGBTQ+ stigmatization, offensive medical terminology, high costs for gender affirming care, and unhampered discrimination, have created a precedent of medical disenfranchisement for the LGBTQ+ community.

As physician assistants we are in the unique position to enter the medical field immediately out of graduate school and challenge this underutilization of care. This is achieved by creating a safe space in our medical facilities. But what exactly is a safe space, and what changes need to be made to make a historically hostile system into an open, nonjudgmental one? This Hawk Talk discusses changes that can be made in every day medical practice that make medicine an inclusive and respectful space for all members of the LGTBQ+ community. Eliminating gendered terminology on intake forms, asking open ended questions, and normalizing existence outside of the binary are some of the many ways we as physician assistants can take accountability in medicine.

Making medicine a safe space is the best way we can address disparities facing sexual and gender minorities including increased risk of youth suicide and vulnerability to human trafficking. Although this is just a small insight into what can be done to overcome the gaps in care the queer community faces, listening with an open mind and advocacy for respect of patients is the best place to start.

Taïphane Orange*, Senior, Political Science

Too Young to Say Yes

Child marriage is defined as marriage before age 18, the legal age of marriage in many countries. According to the United Nations, child marriage violates human rights, denies children the full opportunity and their right to education, impacts their long-term health, makes them vulnerable to intimate partner and domestic violence, and robs them of their childhood experiences that lead to becoming healthy adults. The UN Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), ratified by under 200 member states, seeks to set the standards and norms about child marriage and combat violence against women.

This research focuses on the laws regarding child marriage and offers a comparative assessment of child marriage in the United States, Niger, and Brazil. These three countries vary in cultural and historical experiences, yet they all have high incidences of child marriage. The study will also examine the impact of child marriage at the individual and community levels from an economic, psychological, health, and socio-cultural perspective. Finally, it will reflect on how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected child marriage in these countries.