PORT CHESTER, NY Port Chester resident Jeffrey Hatzel isn't your average college student. While many of his friends were hustling to finish last minute assignments before heading home for Thanksgiving, Hatzel was at the 125th Annual Meeting of Sigma XI, a scientific research society, in Raleigh, N.C.
Hatzel, a senior environmental science major at Ithaca College, was invited to the event to receive the award for superior presentation in the field of ecology and evolutionary biology for his research project, "Reintroducing American Chestnut (Castanea dentata): A Comparative Analysis of Pure and Hybrid Varieties."
"Being honored at such a prestigious conference is truly an honor," Hatzel said. "I never imagined or expected to win while presenting in such a competitive field."
According to Hatzel, the premise of the presentation was to "determine whether or not it is feasible to reintroduce the American chestnut into the forests it dominated prior to the chestnut blight of the early 20th century."
He said, his field experience paired with classroom lectures ignited a curiosity in me as to what the natural world would be like, if it had not been so drastically altered by human settlement.
Hatzel acknowledged the role Port Chester schools have played in his academic development.
"I consider myself lucky to have attended Port Chester schools," Hatzel said. "I was always challenged to push myself both academically and personally."
Aside from creating award winning presentations and maintaining top notch grades, Hatzel also manages to find time to keep tabs on how his hometown's environmental development.
"It was not something that was necessarily a common topic in Port Chester while I was growing up," Hatzel said. "But I'm glad to see environmental consciousness is becoming a more prominent topic in the area."
Hatzel even has a few ideas of his own. "I think that, given the urban location of Port Chester, alternative energy, energy saving appliances, lifestyle approaches and even farmers markets are a great way to become more environmentally conscious in an area that doesn't necessarily have tons of its own natural, undeveloped lands.
Hatzel plans to take a year off to pursue work experience and dedicate himself to research. Eventually he said he plans on earning his doctorate in the field of ecology and wildlife biology.