Researching Giant Pandas, a Student's Journey in China

Posted: January 09, 2017 | Author: Lexi Carter | Read Time: 3 minutes

From small town Erda, Utah, Hailey Wallace grew up with dogs, cats, horses, hamsters, birds, fish and turtles – leading her to the natural choice of a career in biology. As a senior majoring in biology and minoring in agriculture science at Southern Utah University, she has had many opportunities to research in Utah and abroad.

Hailey Wallace sitting on stairs

This 6’2” animal-lover has travelled the world during her undergraduate degree studying the German culture, performing humanitarian work in Guatemala, and most recently working with giant pandas in China.

Living in southwestern China, Wallace was one of four interns selected through PDXWildlife to perform behavioral research with captive giant panda bears at the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda in Bifengxia, China. Using the Animal Behavior Pro app, she conducted research to create breeding profiles for pandas to test if mating pandas with similar preferences will increase reproductive success.

“While studying in China, I was able to use my knowledge gained at SUU from taking courses such as Plant Taxonomy, Mammalogy and Ecology to better understand the environment around me as well as to aid in my research,” said Wallace.

From her blog she kept through PDXWildlife, she talks about an experience she had with Qiao Qiao, one of the pandas at Bifengxia:

“… this week I presented [Qiao Qiao] with the mirror, which immediately grabbed her attention. She inquisitively investigated it at first, then began to reach her forepaws through the bars, trying to reach ‘the panda in the mirror’. Once realizing that reaching the mirror was unobtainable, she began to look into the mirror, and then somersault towards it. She then started to stretch her little body as high as she could, grabbed onto the bars, and cage climbed! This was a sight to see, and it was also my first experience seeing a cage climb, luckily I was able to snap a picture in the moment. Once her trial was over, and I departed with the mirror, she seemed a little sad to see her ‘new panda friend’ leave…”

Wallace also travelled within the Sichuan Province, visiting LeShan and Mount Emei. She toured an elephant sanctuary in Thailand where elephants are saved from the logging industry.

While attending SUU, Wallace has had the opportunity to work with helpful and quality faculty. Her advising professor, Dr. Jacqualine Grant, has contributed the most to Wallace’s education, involving her in research on the use of green infrastructure to increase invertebrate biodiversity in the built environment, a topic she will present on in the upcoming Utah Conference on Undergraduate Research.

“I love biology simply because it encompasses nearly everything ranging from microbes to large organisms, to whole ecosystems,” said Wallace. “Because of my amazing experience with the biology department at SUU, I’ve chosen to pursue a MS in Environmental Science and hope to aid in conservation efforts and contribute to exceptional research in my future academic career.”

Wallace will graduate in April 2017 and has applied to four schools in the Pacific Northwest to receive her MS in Environmental Science. She hopes to keep travelling the world and continue working with endangered species.

Learn more about SUU's biology program.

This article was published more than 5 years ago and might contain outdated information or broken links. As a result, its accuracy cannot be guaranteed.

Tags: Student Study Abroad International Affairs

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