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Spring 2012
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Senior Portraits

Shauna-kay Rainford

Text: Hannah Stamler ’12 | Photo: Kent Loeffler

Shauna-kay Rainford

Shauna-kay Rainford came to Cornell to pursue her passion for conservation. Born in Jamaica, she saw firsthand the effects of pollution, and growing up in Florida her commitment to environmentalism grew even further.

As a natural resources major, Shauna-kay is putting her ideas into action. The summer after her freshman year, she began working in Professor Bernd Blossey’s invasive species lab, which explores the effects of non-native organisms on ecosystems. Three years later, she remains involved in the lab and its community.

The lab also inspired her senior thesis. She is examining the effects of 24 different plants on the American toad. She intends to publish her research, and she presented her findings at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research in March and at the Ecological Society of America conference last August.

These opportunities to share her work are but two of many Shauna-kay has gotten as an undergraduate. At the end of her sophomore year, she applied to become a Hunter R. Rawlings III Cornell Presidential Research Scholar. Not only did the program provide funding for her research, it also presented opportunities to engage with the science community and present work, she said.

She also has received some federal Hatch funding and a grant from the Society of Wetland Scientists, which enabled her to travel to Prague last year to attend their annual conference.

Shauna-kay said the most exciting trip she took while at Cornell, however, was her 2011 spring break in rural Belize, as part of the Experiential Garden-Based Learning in Belize course taught by the Department of Horticulture and International Agriculture and Rural Development. During her weeklong trip, she taught locals about garden-based learning and developed a factsheet about hydroelectric dams in Belize. The pamphlet is now being circulated by Plenty Belize, the non-governmental organization they partnered with.

The experience cemented her belief in conservation and helped her discover her love of teaching. She also saw mangrove trees for the first time, which sparked an interest in mangrove wetlands, a topic she now hopes to pursue further in graduate school.

“In that week alone I learned so much about myself,” she said. “A lot of great things came out of that class.”

When she’s not working or researching, Shauna-kay spends times watching movies at Cornell Cinema and doing service projects in Ithaca with the Cornell University Becker in Service project.