Biology Students Win Top Honors at Water Conservation Conference

Nikaela Flournoy and Suja Rajan

Nikaela Flournoy and Suja Rajan (center), doctoral students in the College’s Department of Biological Sciences, recently presented at the 26th Annual Alabama Water Resources Conference and brought home top honors for their presentations.

Two doctoral students in the College’s Department of Biological Sciences recently presented at the 26th Annual Alabama Water Resources Conference and brought home top honors for their oral presentations.

Suja Rajan and Nikaela Flournoy won first and second place, respectively, at the conference held in Orange Beach. The annual event is a forum about understanding and improving complex issues related to water resources. Both Rajan and Flourney have been researching the short- and long-term effects to coastal Alabama due to the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010.

Rajan received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in microbiology from Bangalore University, India, and she is pursuing a doctorate in the Department of Biological Sciences. She is co-author of a recent PLoS One paper that describes the impact of the Deepwater Horizon oils spill on microbial communities in a coastal Alabama marsh site. Her current research project focuses on the effects of dispersants on microbial metabolism and hydrocarbon degradation.

“The conference definitely made me appreciate the multidisciplinary approaches that have to be taken to resolve water problems that we are faced with today,” she said.

Flournoy is a native of Fairfield, and she received her bachelor’s degree in biology from Alabama A&M University in 2006. In 2009, she received her master’s degree in Microbiology from the University of Iowa in the lab of Dr. Wendy Maury. Her current research pursuits include working on microbial community analysis of weathered crude oil products and effects of anionic surfactants in the water column as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Both Rajan and Flournoy are studying under Dr. Patty Sobecky, professor and chair, Department of Biological Sciences.