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CA: Trent student’s research featured on Daily Planet

Well-known Discovery Channel show highlights three-year field work of Trent University PhD candidate John Benson

(PETERBOROUGH) All students look forward to the light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to the extensive hours of work they devote to their areas of study.

Yet one university researcher is seeing another kind of light — the spot light.

After three years of year-round field research, Trent University PhD candidate John Benson is not only analysing the results of his hard work for his own use, but has been given the opportunity to explain them and their significance on a segment of the Discovery Channel’s daily scientific news show Daily Planet.

A student in the environmental and life sciences graduate studies program, Mr. Benson studies the impact of hybridization or interbreeding of the eastern wolf with the coyote and is trying to determine what this will mean for the future of the species.

The wolves are already considered a species of “Special Concern” due to effects of humans on their habitat and the hybridzation of the two species puts at risk the long-term survival of the eastern wolf.

The segment, which aired on the Discovery Channel on Dec. 7, gave the viewer a glimpse into the lengths Mr. Benson and his team have gone to to track, tag and collect data from the wolf subjects of his study.

Although the goal was to be published in a scientific journal, the 38-year-old felt good about the focus on his work on national television.

“Although it showed only a small segment of what we are doing, it was definitely a good chance to explain the general theory of the hybridization of wolves and coyotes,” states Mr. Benson.

The segment came about after an article in the September-October issue of Canadian Wildlife magazine was read by some of the people at Daily Planet who then approached Mr. Benson about an interview and a showcase of his work.

The New England native had already been using the film company Crisp Films to record his field work which included electronic tracking of previously tagged wolf subjects, crawling head first into wolf dens and collecting physical data off numerous wolf cubs. The footage was going to be potentially used for a documentary, but provided the basis of the show, with the interviews having been recorded a few weeks ago to supplement the rest of the work.

Now that the glow of the small screen is faded, Mr. Benson is back in the lab preparing his final dissertation.

“It’s now coming to a conclusion,” he says.

Considering the significant amount of data, he says he is on track to have it completed by summer of 2012.

Although the show had aired last week, those interested in finding out more about Mr. Benson’s work can find the episode on the Discovery Channel’s website under the shows tab and then finding the Dec. 7 episode.