Clarksville, Ark. -University of the Ozarks junior Michelle Watts, a biology major from Clarksville, has been awarded a National Science Foundation EPSCoR Fellowship Grant from the Arkansas Science and Technology Authority.
Watts learned last week that she would be receiving the grant for her research, which focuses on changes in the chemical composition of armadillo milk during the course of lactation in relation to the growth of the neonates’ shells. She will also be looking at their implications for laboratory rearing of armadillos for research.
“I came up with the idea to find out whether the chemical composition of an armadillo’s milk is different than other mammals,” said Watts. “Dr. [Frank] Knight was helping me understand ways that I could tie in medical and biological research into my senior thesis.”
Watts began working with armadillos during her second semester at Ozarks. The entire research project is expected to be completed in approximately one year.
“This is my first independent research project,” said Watts. “We are going to have six mother armadillos.”
Watts will be working on her research project “every day” in order to answer questions for those who might find an orphaned armadillo. Watts said she would also like to understand what the “proper nutrition for animals raised for laboratory research” is.
Watts also learned last week that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Hansen’s Disease Research Center will be providing additional matching funds, which will also allow her to have assistants, animal care and research supplies, and travel to a conference to present her findings.