Feb. 10, 2017 – Lindsay Wentzel of Yorktown, Virginia, was selected for the Fralin Life Science Institute’s Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF), a 10-week training program designed to give motivated undergraduates the opportunity to engage in full-time research and related professional development activities that mirror graduate training.

Wentzel, a junior double majoring in wildlife conservation and fish conservation, worked with a team that studied black bears for evidence of pseudopregnancy — when a nonpregnant female produces hormones similar to those of a pregnant female. Wentzel analyzed hormones in blood serum samples from 29 adult female bears: 10 pregnant that produced cubs, nine pregnant that did not give birth to cubs, and 10 non-pregnant. So far, the team has found that black bears do not experience pseudopregnancy. Previously suspected pseudopregnant bears did not actually show the same hormone profiles as truly pregnant bears. Instead, the team’s results point to the conclusion that the non-cub-producing bears became pregnant but miscarried.

“As conservation biologists, we need to actively promote the conservation of species. In order to do so, we need a comprehensive understanding of an animal’s reproductive physiology,” explained Wentzel, who is advised by graduate student Bernardo Mesa and Professor Marcella Kelly. Wentzel presented her findings at the university’s Summer Undergraduate Research Symposium.

Read the full press release.