Flying High

by Sarah Bartlett Borich ’02 - Cedarville, OH

Michael Gerringer ’07 recently faced a decision most college seniors would be happy to have to make — choosing between two paid internship offers at top universities. The biology major and native of Newark Valley, New York was offered ornithological research positions at both The Ohio State University and Cornell University. “It was a tough decision,” he said, “but I chose Cornell because it’s close to home, and I’m also interested in becoming involved in their graduate program in the future.”

Michael is no stranger to Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology, the “center” of the birding community, where he spent the summers of 2004 and 2005 as a Nest Box Camera Archivist intern. Last summer, he completed a nine-week ornithological research class at the university.

During his upcoming internship, Michael will work with well-known ornithologist Dr. David W. Winkler, focusing on the nesting behavior of tree swallows. The internship will allow Michael to continue his research from last summer on the utilization and significance of feathers as nest lining in tree swallow reproduction, and he hopes to publish this work in an undergraduate scientific journal.

Michael believes that his education at Cedarville has prepared him quite well for this opportunity, particularly noting the classes he took from Dr. John Silvius and Dr. Terry Phipps ’70. “My classes at Cedarville have given me not just a better of understanding of creation, but of evolution as well,” he remarked. “Nearly everyone at the Cornell lab is an evolutionist, and I’m glad to have an understanding of what they believe so that I can talk to them on an intellectual level. They respect me for understanding evolution theory and for not arguing with them without basis or understanding. It has opened many doors, and I have already had the opportunity to share my faith.”

Opportunities to shine a light for Christ abound in the biology field. Michael explains that the research that ornithologists conduct is not used for educational purposes alone, but also to understand how to best conserve a particular species. And being a Christian conservationist is not a role that Michael takes lightly. “All too often, I hear Christians ask why we should be concerned about conserving a species or its habitat,” he explained. “It’s important because we are called by God to be stewards of the earth He created for us. We do have dominion over the earth, but it’s in the form of servanthood, just as Christ was a servant when he came to earth. The overwhelming majority of wildlife research and conservation is carried out by evolutionary biologists who are appalled at the indifference of many Christians toward the ‘creation’ of their God. Being involved in conservation is an excellent testimony because, by valuing creation, we show others that we value the Creator.”

After his internship at Cornell, Michael plans to spend a year conducting research before entering graduate school in the fall of 2008. He’d like to study a variety of wild birds and habitats before deciding on the focus for his future research. Currently, he’s considering positions all around the world, in places such as Costa Rica, Alaska, Venezuela, New Zealand, Hawaii, and Australia. His ultimate goal is to work as a research ornithologist, traveling to remote areas of the world to study little-known species of birds. “I would also like to have the opportunity to be involved in a wildlife or agricultural missions program,” he added, “so I can use my knowledge of wild birds for the Kingdom of God.”

The type of discipline-related experience Michael is getting is an important foundation for any career. With an estimated 1.3 million people earning a bachelor’s degree each year, employers are saying that experience counts. Leaving college with just a degree and a GPA puts you behind in the job search. Michael is just one example of Cedarville University’s commitment to helping students get an edge, along with a biblical perspective on their chosen field.