Reindeer Research Yields Surprising Insight

It was in a well-used shack on an Alaskan farm that Rebecca Batey ’13 experienced both scientific research and the presence of God.

Rebecca Batey
Rebecca Batey

Batey conducted her senior research project testing a growth supplement on reindeer at the University of Alaska’s meat production program. She found out about the program through a Web search after her sister, Jessica (also an Asbury student), mentioned how fun it would be to experience Alaska. The sisters were used to working as a team — they also played soccer together and helped lead the Asbury women’s soccer team to a fourth-place finish in the NCCAA National tournament last year. So when Jessica made the suggestion, Rebecca was all ears.

“I knew that I wanted to work with animals,” Batey said. “And this program would allow me to do so. I had always wanted to go there, too.” After a first week of mosquitoes and a broken water heater, life started to settle, and “I really came to enjoy it,” she said.

Rebecca Batey's research project tested a growth supplement for reindeer in Alaska.
Rebecca Batey's research project tested a growth supplement for reindeer in Alaska.

A biology major from Maysville, Ky., she learned fast in Alaska. Her background in the sciences and statistics at Asbury gave her the basic knowledge for conducting the experiments and then deciphering the results from the research. In fact, she not only enjoyed the research, but sees opportunities for the same techniques to be put to use in other applications.

“I would love to be able to do the same experiment with cows,” Batey said. “The process and data were fairly simple to work with, so it was a very fun yet informative research project.”

While in Alaska, she lived in Fairbanks and took advantage of the outdoor attractions in the area — white-water rafting in glacier run-off and hiking in Denali National Park, for example. More urban pastimes meant a 25-minute bike ride to the next town, however, and she said the lack of distractions gave her the opportunity to find God on a deeper level.

“There wasn’t much to do around the farm after work,” she said. “So I spent a lot of evenings just being with God, and I learned a lot about how material things in this world can easily distract us from spending time with God.”

Her time with God and in Alaska also showed her something about herself. She originally signed on to the research because she wanted to go on to veterinarian school.

“But, at the end of the summer, I felt God was calling me to something completely different,” Batey said. “So I’m going to move back and get my masters in counseling or counseling education.”

— story by Will Houp ’13

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