STOW — Stow resident Megan Schinker: Started scientific research in summer 2017. Co-author of three scientific publications. Contributed to the identification of a new species of cyclid.
Did we mention she hasn’t even graduated from high school yet?
The Stow-Munroe Falls High School senior, who will graduate in May and turn 18 in July, has been working with Dr. Rodney Feldmann at Kent State University through the Science Experience Internship program. Through her work through this program, which started the summer after her sophomore year, she was able to help identify a new species of cyclid through fossil samples and photos she and Dr. Feldmann had requested from around the world.
Debbie Schinker, Megan’s mother, explained that cyclids "are extinct marine crustaceans, distantly related to modern crabs, that lived alongside the dinosaurs from the Carboniferous era through the Cretaceous."
"Their fossil remains are rare and have not been well-studied," Debbie said. "She and Dr. Feldmann requested fossil samples and pictures of lost samples from all over the world and examined them closely, cataloging their physical and structural attributes. Comparison of these attributes is what led to the identification of the new species."
Megan, Feldmann and Dr. Carrie Schweitzer presented their findings at the Geological Society of America national conference in Indianapolis, Debbie said.
"It is highly unusual for a high school student to be involved in original research of this type that leads to scientific publication," Debbie said.
Megan said the article she co-authored is currently under review.
"It’s very, very exciting," Megan said. "I still can’t believe it."
Ironically, Megan said initially when applying for internships through the Science Experience Internship program, her first interest wasn’t geology, but chemistry.
"When I first entered into the internship experience, I never thought I’d go this far," she said. "But I clicked with Dr. Feldmann. I’d be perfectly happy to do this for the rest of my life."
Megan said she plans to double major in chemistry and geology at Kent State University after she graduates from high school.
"I think she is amazing," Feldmann said of Megan. "She got started on this as a one-summer project, and became so interested she kept coming back. She’s really done a remarkable job. She’s a good study, easy to work with."
Finding a new species "is always important because it increases our understanding of ancient biodiversity. She was working with me on a group of animals discovered nearly 200 years ago, and no one knows what they are."
Feldmann said their work is "one more step in finding out what creatures they are."
"We are pretty sure they are crustaceans," Feldmann said. "But beyond that…cyclids are just weird animals. This may be a whole new class of organisms. It’s cool as heck."
As well as her work in science, Megan said she is a member of her Speech and Debate team, and is a fourth-year member of the school’s choir. She also ran cross country her first two years in school. Megan added she also is in a local Girl Scout Troop, which will travel to Europe for two weeks this summer.
"I will be bridging to adults in London with my Girl Scout troop," Megan said.
Reporter April Helms can be reached at 330-541-9423, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @AprilKHelms_RPC