#ThisIsWhatAScientistLooksLike


 

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Sally Lent, Environmental Science M.S. Student
By Ryan Schoensee

Show of hands: How many of you were told to go outside more as a kid?

Not so much for Sally Lent. She spent her youth outside catching grasshoppers, chasing butterflies, and turning over loose rocks and logs to look for beetles. Her adolescence was made up of days discovering the great outdoors and making friends with little critters. Over the years, Lent has held on to her wonder of nature and has channeled it into her scholarly pursuits.

"I chose to study environmental science because I've always been fascinated by nature," Lent said. "I wanted to keep that curiosity alive and make a career out of my passion."

Originally from Peru, Lent is earning her M.S. in environmental science. She chose UTSA for its eclectic community and because she wanted to make a difference at a younger university.

During her undergraduate program, Lent conducted a yearlong study funded by UTSA's Sustainability Office on the diversity of bees in Bexar County. It was her first research project, and she took what she learned into her graduate studies.

"This experience helped me gain confidence as both a student and researcher by allowing me to apply what I learned in my classes to a real-world problem," she said.

In 2020, Lent landed an internship with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service via their Directorate Fellows Program. In this program, she studied western bumblebees and interacted with many renowned bumblebee researchers. The project gave Lent valuable insight into the wildlife agency and allowed her to make research contributions to an ongoing conservation project. The results of the project will be published in the Fish and Wildlife Service's final species status assessment for the western bumblebee.

For her thesis, Lent is studying how bees can vary between different green spaces within an urban landscape. In this project, she is conducting bee and vegetation surveys and collecting data from several study sites. Lent hopes the outcome of this study will offer insight on the impact of urban development on native Central Texas bee populations.

Although Lent loved playing with and learning about insects as a kid, she became afraid of them as she grew older. It was only at UTSA that she overcame her fear and rediscovered her interest after taking an entomology course with Dr. Jessica Beckham, lecturer in the Department of Integrative Biology, and Dr. Terri Matiella, senior lecturer in the Department of Integrative Biology. "Entomology reminded me of my love for insects, which has ultimately led me to where I am with my research," Lent said.

Lent might not be where she is today if she had not made an effort to connect with her professors and take her education outside the classroom.

"Use every opportunity available to you, as it could lead to discovering things that you're passionate about," Lent advises other students. "My professors helped me get connected to some unique opportunities that allowed me to explore my interests."

 


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