Gannon University Environmental Science Student Completes Internship with Reindeer

Posted: December 20, 2017

Gannon University students are encouraged to seek out and complete internships to obtain real-world experience, to advance their skills and knowledge, and, in the process, build their resumes while gaining a competitive edge for graduate school and the workforce.

Environmental science major Matt Hackathorn took full advantage of this opportunity and a new collaboration between Gannon and a partner institution to create one unforgettable internship experience. Hackathorn completed a seven week, paid internship at the University of Alaska - Fairbanks, studying animal husbandry and reindeer management with the Reindeer Research Program (RRP).

During the course of the two-month internship, Hackathorn experienced a reindeer necropsy, during which he was able to apply skills and knowledge he learned in a biology class in identifying the animal's anatomy. He also completed a project examining different Alaska-grown nutrition for deer as an efficient alternative to the high cost of importing food to their location.

While on location, Hackathorn was able to travel and explore various parts of Alaska. He expressed that this type of immersive internship experience is great for biology majors, especially pre-veterinarian students, as well as environmental science majors like himself.

"The internship with the University of Alaska - Fairbanks was a unique internship opportunity to travel to and within Alaska, and also to learn animal husbandry and reindeer research techniques," said Michelle Homan, Ph.D., associate professor and chairperson of environmental science and engineering.

"Matt Hackathorn was a great candidate for the position and the feedback from the University of Alaska researchers on his efforts was extremely positive."

The internship was created by Walter Iwanenko, Ph.D., vice president of academic affairs at Gannon, and established a new collaboration between the two universities, allowing for easier access to research opportunities for students at both campuses. Additional collaboration between the two institutions are being considered for future internship and exchange opportunities.