Biological & Environmental Sciences, 2012
  • Mother-Infant Interaction among Gorilla's in Captivity
    Brittany Bosch, Katelin Shephard
    Mentors: Philip Whitford, Christine Anderson

    Young gorillas rely heavily on their mother for the first three years of life for nourishment, protection, contact and care, and for learning social skills, communications and normal behavior patterns of the species. Our study used focal sampling of daily mother-young interactions to observe the manner of soliciting contact by the young, determining timing and frequency of such interaction by the baby gorilla and the mother’s responses. We compared this to observations of how the infant interacts with the other gorillas in the exhibit, and how the other gorillas respond to her. We recorded number of attempts the infant made to solicit attention from mother per hour at various times of day, and her responses. We also performed a time study of activities of the young gorilla: playing, feeding, resting, grooming and other defined behaviors. Data were tabulated for each time block and compared to determine whether proportion of time in each activity varied with time of day, and whether there were predictable times the mother was more accepting of solicitations based on her daily activity pattern. Information collected may help improve success at placing captive born gorillas with surrogate mothers by defining times of day the female is most willing to be receptive to the introduced young.

    Using Polyphenols to Inhibit the Aromatase Enzyme to Fight Breast Cancer
    Michael Burgess
    Mentor: Kerry Cheesman

    The aromatase enzyme has been one of the targets studied in an effort to fight breast cancer and is also of interest to athletes and bodybuilders in a quest to optimize testosterone in the body. This enzyme can be competitively inhibited by either steroidal or non-steroidal inhibitors. Recent studies have shown that various foods and alcohol contain polyphenols that can inhibit aromatase activity. The goal of this research was to find a polyphenol that inhibits the aromatase enzyme that is better than a steroidal one. ELISA tests were used to compare several polyphenol families and to find the polyphenol family that is the best aromatase inhibitor. The next step was to compare level of inhibition with each derivative within its own polyphenol family. These results were compared with foods and beverages that are known to contain variable concentrations of each polyphenol. The last step was to look into the stereochemistry of the polyphenols to see how varying the size, polarity, and orientation of each might affect the inhibition of the enzyme. Based on these findings it may be possible to produce a polyphenol synthetically that can be used to help treat breast cancer and also be used by bodybuilders and athletes.

    Behavioral Trends in Captive Male and Female Sunbears (Helarctos malayanus)
    Cynthia Carr, Jennifer Trumbo
    Mentors: Philip Whitford, Christine Anderson

    The sun bear (Helarctos malayanus) is the smallest member of the bear family, found in the lowland tropical rainforests of Southeast Asia. Sun bears are nocturnal, using long claws to extract insects from termite nests and trees and a long tongue to remove honey from bee nests. The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium has one male and one female of this species. Our research focused on the influence of relative sunlight intensity and numbers of zoo visitors present near the enclosure upon interactions between the two sunbears. We used focal sampling to compare abundance of specific behaviors observed relative to differences in these two variables. Behaviors studied included pacing, walking forward and/or backward, resting, playing, sleeping, eating, face rubbing, and grooming. We hypothesized we would find an increased trend for observation of these behaviors, an increased level of play initiated by the male and, increased pacing during conditions of greater zoo visitor presence and lower sunlight. We hope to use information gained to find means to help reduce development of unnatural behavior patterns in captive members of this species by possible alteration of habitat conditions.

    Mold Sampling Study
    Alex Cornwell
    Mentor: Karl Romstedt

    Due to the recent concern on campus regarding mold spores, Biology students performed a survey of campus buildings to assess mold levels in classrooms. The research team conducted a sampling study of 52 classrooms around the Capital University campus in Columbus, Ohio during the fall 2011 semester. The concentrations of spores were detected using (4) 100mm potato agar plates on the ventilation outputs of each classroom. Temperature and relative humidity were measured using digital hygrometers (HygroSet model DHYG-REC). The number of mold colonies sampled from a particular area was not correlated to the temperature (p = 0.1815). Also, it was found that the temperature was not correlated to mold species diversity (p = 0.4085). Statistically, the relative humidity was found to be correlated with the species diversity (p = 0.0018), meaning that in regions of higher relative humidity, there tended to be a greater variety of species. Although the colony count was not significantly correlated with the relative humidity (p = 0.790), it was correlated to the absolute humidity (p = 0.00098). This latter finding was interesting because it provides an explanation for certain cases of higher mold density in some classrooms.

    "All Natural" Food: Genetically Modified or Not?
    Nicole Cortelezzi, Marshall Lyons
    Mentor: Kerry L. Cheesman

    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not define the term “all-natural” but says that it may refer to any food product that does not contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances. However, many people assume that it means much more, including the implication that it is similar to the term “organic”, and therefore has not been genetically modified. To determine whether or not foods labeled “all-natural” match this assumption, a variety of corn products with this label (n = 16) are being assayed through standard methods that extract DNA and look for the presence of specific markers indicative of genetic modification. Prior work in this lab indicated that at least 65% of all US corn products not labeled as organic have been genetically modified. Preliminary data on those labeled “all-natural” indicated a similar percent of modification. Clearly there is a difference between the words “all-natural” and “organic”, at least when it comes to genetic modification, and consumers deserve to know the difference. The data and findings concerning genetic modification in foods labeled “all-natural” are presented.

    Spatial Dispersion of Fiddler Crab Burrows on Andros Island, Bahamas
    Diana Crandall
    Mentor: Alan Stam

    Fiddler crabs are valuable to coastal ecosystems due to their ability to feed by sifting through sediment. Through this process, they break down harmful materials as well as consume decaying matter, bacteria and fungi. Fiddler crabs feed on the substrate surface sediment surrounding their burrows, leaving a distinct feeding pattern. A plot of land inhabited by fiddler crabs near a cluster of mangrove roots was identified on Andros Island, Bahamas. A research project was designed for the purpose of identifying competition amongst the fiddler crabs. Three 2 feet by 3 feet plots were established in transect away from mangroves. Within plots, burrow diameter and nearest neighbor distance were measured. There were statistically significant differences in burrow diameter and nearest neighbor distance among plots. Burrow spatial dispersion was uniform, suggesting intraspecific competition was present. Soils were collected from plots and analyzed for organic matter. Organic content was related to burrow density, diameter, and nearest neighbor distance. This tested the hypothesis that higher concentrations of organic material in plots closest to the mangroves; this influenced competition for burrow space. Understanding plot dispersion helps researchers identify shortages in resources for fiddler crabs, or an abundance of toxic or unfavorable substances in coastal ecosystems.

    Snack on Facts: Are Popcorn Companies Labeling Their Products Truthfully?
    Jessica DeBelly, Kashmere Pearson
    Mentor: Kerry Cheesman

    With the many advances in agricultural biotechnology, the use of genetically modified (GM) food has increased substantially. A variety of crops are being modified to increase nutritional value and preservation for later use. Popcorn (Zea mays variant) is one of the top ten snack foods in the US, and one of the crops that has been added to the growing trend of GM foods. Current GM regulations do not require that products be labeled as GM or not. Our experiment was designed to see whether or not common brands of popcorn in the US have been modified. Using standard commercial procedures, DNA was extracted from store bought popcorn, both whole kernel and pre-popped. DNA was amplified through PCR, run on 3% agarose gels (along with positive and negative GM controls), and results were visualized with ultraviolet light following ethidium bromide staining. Preliminary results showed that nearly 50% of popcorn samples were genetically modified. A comparison between popcorn and regular corn (Zea mays) using additional samples was also conducted. For those who are concerned about genetic modification in health foods, knowing which brands are modified may be important.

    Precocious Puberty: Pregnant at 5?
    Tara Friedrich, Brianna Mitchell
    Mentor: Kerry Cheesman

    Precocious puberty affects 1 in 5,000 children and is much more prevalent in females than males. Research suggests a link between precocious puberty and obesity. In the past 40 years, obesity rates have climbed almost 10% in children alone. The purpose of this study was to identify the endocrinological basis for precocious puberty and the ways in which this disorder is being treated. Data were gathered from the US National Library of Medicine, Medical Encyclopedias, and various primary literature sources. Precocious puberty is becoming increasingly prevalent among children in the US, and may have detrimental medical and psychological effects on affected children. The hormone leptin, which is active in regulating appetite, body type, and reproduction, may be partly responsible through its link to obesity. In addition to obesity, some genetic conditions are known to contribute to the incidence of precocious puberty. Since the causes and risk factors of this disorder have been established, prevention and treatment are relatively straightforward; maintain a healthy body weight in children. Education about body weight is critical, for until the overall population becomes healthier and less obese, the trend of precocious puberty will continue.

    Comparison of Gorilla Youth at Play
    Breanna Hayes, Megan Brown
    Mentors: Christine Anderson, Philip Whitford

    Gorillas are one of our closest relatives as well as one of the most misunderstood animals. People fail to realize that gorillas behave in ways that are similar to humans. They display many similar mannerisms. For example, as youths, they love to play. The purpose of our study was to observe the playful behaviors of multiple young gorillas from two different groups at the Columbus Zoo. We observed both a young infant as well as two adolescents. A minimum of 80 hours of observation was completed and the mannerisms of play between the two age groups were compared . The mannerisms of play in the Columbus Zoo gorillas were compared to studies of mannerisms of human youth at play. This study supports what many famous primatologists, such as Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey stated years ago. Gorillas (and other primates) need to be a top priority of conservationists. By saving these creatures, we are saving relatives of humankind.

    DNA Barcoding of Amphibian Samples
    Breanna Hayes
    Mentors: Christine Anderson

    Amphibians are facing a global decline due to habitat loss, disease, and global climate change. The purpose of this student-centered research was to identify species of tadpoles using DNA bar coding analysis of amphibian tissue samples from the Hocking Hills Region of Ohio. The samples were analyzed by multiple genetic techniques including tissue extraction, DNA quantification, PCR using mtDNA markers, gel electrophoresis and DNA sequencing. Then, the DNA sequences were compared to those in the database GenBank for species identification. This project is related to another amphibian research project in which tissue swabs were taken to test for the chytrid fungus, a growing problem in Ohio regions in both tadpoles and bats. In this experiment, lab work was completed with 16 tadpole samples collected from private property on April 15, 2010. They were then kept in the Biological Sciences Department of Capital University, and genetic analysis of these samples was performed. Following tadpole sample identification, the next step is to analyze and estimate population genetic structure for each species among study sites.

    Genetic Modification of Food in the United States versus Central and South America
    Justin Hoying, Kaitlin Hicks, Angela Dibling
    Mentor: Kerry Cheesman

    As food production continues to escalate, the advancement of genetically modified (GM) foods has also increased. The United States is a leader in GM research; however, our team is more interested in the modification of foods produced in developing countries, specifically Central and South America. We have collected a variety of corn products from the U.S., and also products produced in Central and South American countries. Using established lab techniques and supplies from Bio-Rad Laboratories, we have extracted DNA from corn products including chips, flour, and cereal. DNA was amplified using Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) to detect the sequences known to be present in GM products. Samples were run on 3% agarose gels, along with positive and negative controls, and visualized using ultraviolet light after staining with ethidium bromide. Research carried out thus far has shown that 49% of foods made in the US (n = 67) tested positive for genetic modification. Excluding food products labeled “organic” or “all-natural,” the percent testing positive for GM increases to 59% (n = 49). In contrast, of the Central and South American food products (n = 34), only 34% tested positive. These data are important for those who believe genetic alteration of food may be harmful to one’s health.

    Fish Species Dominance Hierarchies in the Large Coral Reef Exhibit at the Columbus Zoo
    Erin Lemmon
    Mentors: Philip Whitford, Christine Anderson

    This study was designed to analyze intra-trophic and inter-trophic level species behavioral interactions to determine a species dominance hierarchy of some common fish in the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium large coral reef tank. The study focused on six reef species; three high trophic level [picivorous] species (Golden Trevally, Bonnethead shark, and Orbicular Batfish); and three low trophic level [herbivorous] species (Palette Surgeonfish, Yellow Tang, and Sailfin Tang). All inter-species dominance and submissive interactions upon approach to or by another fish species were recorded (focusing on the aforementioned species), documented and quantified. These data were used to construct a dominance matrix reflecting observed dominance hierarchy of this artificial reef system to eventually be compared with that observed in natural reef systems. The data were collected using a scan sampling technique to observe approach/avoidance interactions of fish occurring in waters behind each partitioned area of the glass aquarium using repeated 30 minute viewing intervals for each segment. Little historical data exist on coral reef inter-species hierarchy, but such information could provide insight into ways to better manage largely exploited high-trophic and low-trophic level species in natural coral ecosystems.

    Abundance, Distribution, and Population Genetic Structure of White-Footed Mice at Primmer Outdoor Learning Classroom
    Erin Lemmon
    Mentor: Christine Anderson

    White-footed mice (Peromyscus leucopus) are one of the most abundant small mammals in Ohio, and yet little is known about genetic structure among populations in different habitats. The goal of this study was to estimate abundance, distribution, and population genetic structure of all forest and grassland populations of white-footed mice at Primmer Outdoor Learning Classroom in Hocking Hills. Population attributes such as sex ratios, proportion of reproductive individuals, and age structure of the populations were also collected. Primarily, this involved live-trapping and field analysis. In addition, the field-collected samples were genetically analyzed to estimate population genetic diversity. Specifically, tissue extraction, DNA quantification, PCR, gel electrophoresis, and DNA sequencing were performed. In this particular study, microsatellite markers were used to determine the genetic diversity of the populations found in various habitats at Primmer. Since P. leucopus travel relatively easily throughout the landscape, I expect that levels of genetic variation should be similar among populations in different habitats. The overall goal of this project was to collect data prior to the addition of new prairie habitat at Primmer later this year.

    Development of a Book as a Component of a Liberal Education (Honors Capstone Project)
    Patricia Morrison
    Mentors: Jeffrey Shaw, Alan Stam

    Award-winning designers report “books that communicate using a variety of things–photography, illustration, production, paper, and printing” as the most engaging. With this view in mind, I wanted to take my experiences studying tropical ecology and turn them into a book that engages the reader at every turn while challenging me throughout the production process. I became the writer who traveled to Costa Rica and researched the facts, the illustrator who painted and photographed tropical scenes, and the designer and publisher who made decisions about size and color, layout and binding. I found that writing, illustrating, and designing a consistent yet interesting book – both factually and visually – was more difficult and more rewarding than I had imagined. Producing every component of this book allowed for the exploration of my liberal education while producing a finished product that both educates and engages.

    Occurrence of Genetic Modification in Whole Kernel Corn Samples
    Carly Moss
    Mentor: Kerry Cheesman

    Genetic modification of food crops remains a debatable topic. Advocates argue that genetic modification produces a higher yield and better nutrition, while opponents claim the development of new allergies and detrimental environmental impact. Previous work in this lab has shown that roughly 65% of processed, commercially available corn products in Ohio have been genetically modified. The current research question is whether or not whole kernel corn (canned and frozen) is modified to the same extent as processed corn. Processed corn products contain significantly less DNA than the nucleus of a whole kernel of corn. The assay developed for processed corn is incompatible with these higher amounts of DNA, and has been altered through experimentation with different dilution of slurries for different weights of whole corn nuclei. Using standardized biochemical practices, DNA was extracted from store bought whole kernel corn samples and amplified through PCR. Samples were then run on 3% agarose gels, with positive and negative controls, and visualized with ultraviolet light following ethidium bromide staining. Initial results indicate a high percentage of genetic modification, comparable to that found in processed corn products. An understanding of the occurrence of genetic modification in food allows consumers to make informed choices.

    Cartography of the Merle and Margaret Primmer Outdoor Learning Center
    Cole Musial
    Mentor: Terry Lahm

    Cartography, the science of map making, allows for the visual representation and analysis of spatial data to address topics including natural physical and chemical processes on a regional scale. With the launch of various Geographic Information Systems (GIS), cartography is now readily accessible without highly specialized software. Capital University’s Merle and Margaret Primmer Outdoor Learning Center has been used for community outreach and university-related educational and research programs. Using GIS software tools along with field work, working maps of the Primmer Property were created that will be useful for current and future projects by students, faculty, and the community. Creation of these maps using Google Earth© in conjunction with Mapsource© allows for the incorporation of real data with the terrain layers available within Google Earth©. These maps are the basis for hydrologic modeling of topographic features present at the Primmer Property including natural groundwater springs and wetland. This portion of the project incorporates Mapsource© and Google Earth© technologies together to generate an accurate map that is user friendly, intuitive and applicable. These map products are integral to the development of conceptual and numerical models of water flow with the hydrologic cycle at the Primmer Property.

    Bonobo's Behavior in Captivity
    Kelsey Peer-Bostic
    Mentors: Christine Anderson, Philip Whitford

    Many people do not know that the bonobo is closely related to humans. The bonobo species, now endangered, is considered the most peaceful of the primate species due to their social personality, sexual tendencies and lack of aggression. The purpose of this research project is to study the various relationships between the bonobo families at the Columbus Zoo. Interactions between the mother and her young, the young with other adults, and adult-adult interaction are noteworthy and very expressive. In order to study their activity, I video recorded their behavior for many hours, at different times of the day as well as during different weather patterns. I tracked behavioral patterns of grooming, playing and sexual activity to determine the behavioral patterns and complex relationships that exist within the bonobo families.

    Analysis of Value Added Coffee Initiatives and Their Utility as Conservation and Development Tools
    David Pickering
    Mentor: Terry Lahm

    The wide availability of coffee and its role in daily routines has resulted in a seven billion dollar global industry involving 125 million individuals. The conditions pertaining to conventional coffee production have created six interrelated concerns for labor rights, natural environmental quality, worker safety, producer-consumer relationships, profit sharing and coffee quality. This study is a literature review of initiatives addressing those concerns, whose purpose is to assess coffee’s utility as a conservation and development tool, and is enriched with observations from time embedded with CEPICAFE Fair Trade Coffee farmers in Peru. By examining the Value Added Coffee initiatives Fair Trade, Organic, and Bird-Friendly, the study finds that they improve upon existing regulations and can serve as conservation and development tools. The study concludes coffee consumption should embrace a model of Holistic Coffee trade that addresses the six concerns pertaining to coffee production. This conclusion depends on the observation that Direct Trade Coffee closely mimics the values of Holistic Coffee trade, and appeals to consumers through quality standards and ethical sourcing, and has implications as a market-based conservation and economic development tool.

    Polycystic Ovarian Disease
    Rebecca Puckett
    Mentor: Kerry Cheesman

    Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a common metabolic dysfunction and heterogeneous endocrine disorder in women of reproductive age. Because it affects women of college age, it is important to understand it better. To do so, a through literature search was conducted. PCOS has no exact cause, but many factors are thought to lead to the syndrome. The primary defect seems to be inappropriate signals between the hypothalamic-pituitary axis and the ovary. Women with high circulating androgen, estrogen, and LH levels have PCOS. Common symptoms include: irregular menses, infertility, hirsutism, thinning of scalp hair, weight gain, and changes in skin appearance. A diagnosis is established if there is clinical or biochemical evidence of hyperandrogenism, oligovulation, or polycystic ovaries. Usual treatments include: anti-androgen drugs, surgical treatment, physical activity, and oral contraceptives. Women with PCOS may have a chance of contracting Cardiovascular Disease in the post-menopausal stage of life. Arterial blood pressure and the risk of preeclampsia are higher in women with PCOS. Women with PCOS may result in lower pregnancy and increased miscarriage rates. The research contributes by alerting college women of a common female endocrine disorder, which is not well known.

    Antibiotic Resistance in Soil Samples from the Primmer Outdoor Learning Center in Logan, Ohio
    Stacey Rauch
    Mentor: Alan Stam

    Antibiotic resistant bacteria are becoming more prevalent with the increased use of antibiotics in medicine and the raising of livestock. This occurrence becomes problematic when treating disease. The purpose of this research is to monitor for the presence of naturally occurring antibiotic resistant bacteria in the soils of six ecosystems at Capital University’s Primmer Outdoor Learning Center in Logan, Ohio. Soil extracts were plated onto agar culture plates infused with four different antibiotics. Bacterial colony growth was checked for at 24 hours and 48 hours after inoculation. If growth was observed, then antibiotic resistant bacteria were present within the sample. Based on observed growth, comparisons of the ecosystems were made. This research is essential to the biological sciences to determine if, and to what extent, antibiotic resistant bacteria may occur naturally.

    The Effect of Finger Length Ratio on the Predisposition of Athleticism in Females
    Bailey Rittberger, Kelly Leonard
    Mentor: Kerry Cheesman

    Previous studies at Capital University (2009, 2010) have supported the hypothesis that there is a link between athleticism in females and finger length ratios of the second and fourth fingers (2D:4D). This finger length ratio has been demonstrated by others to be correlated with androgen receptor concentrations in growing female fetuses. To extend and add to the previous understanding, data were collected from female student athletes and a control group of females. Student hands and the lengths of the second and fourth fingers of each were measured. A survey was administered that asked questions about current and previous sports experience, along with handedness and height (to eliminate height as a factor in athleticism). Data were separated into three groups: college athlete, athlete on a team before university, and those who have never been athletic. A possible link between athleticism and finger length ratio has been demonstrated from the data analyzed to date, especially for the sports of volleyball and soccer. The support obtained for the hypothesis may be helpful in understanding why young women choose the sports they do.

    Multivariate Analysis of Heavy Metal Contents of Sediments from Alum Creek, Columbus, Ohio
    Zachary Simpson
    Mentor: Terry Lahm

    In 2007, two lowhead dams within Alum Creek were demolished in order to protect and restore the chemical and ecological integrity of the Creek. Prior to demolition, studies were conducted by the EPA to assess the extent of heavy metal contamination caused by the existence of a zinc smelting plant owned and operated by the American Smelting and Refining Company (ASARCO). In the years following removal of the dams no known study has been conducted to assess present day concentrations of heavy metals within the underlying sediment. The purpose of this study was to assess concentrations of heavy metals within a 4.1 km section of Alum Creek following the recent removal of the Nelson and Wolfe Park lowhead dams. In this study, sediment samples were collected at designated intervals along the 4.1 km section and studied using XRF analysis to find present concentrations of heavy metals within the sediment. These data were compared to prior dam removal values. It was hypothesized that removal of the lowhead dams would have resulted in lower concentrations of heavy metals. Results and implications are discussed. This work is important as it furthers ongoing environmental research into the restoration efforts of Alum Creek.

    The Effect of Temperature on Mortality and Growth of Juvenile Seahorses (Hippocampus kuda)
    Jennifer Trumbo
    Mentor: Kerry Cheesman

    Seahorses (Hippocampus spp.) are important inhabitants of marine ecosystems, and also popular fish for curios, aquaria, and medicinal uses. Little is known about the population dynamics and responses of seahorses to environmental parameters like temperature, in both wild and captive-bred populations. This study was aimed at strengthening knowledge of seahorse population dynamics and supporting development of consistent seahorse aquaculture practices. An original, effective aquaculture study apparatus was constructed using empirically tested techniques. The connection between three temperature treatments (26 °C, 29 °C, and 32 °C), growth rate, and mortality rate was then examined among 360 H. kuda juveniles during a twelve day period in aquaculture. Three replicates containing 50 individuals each were established per temperature treatment, producing a study size of 450 juvenile H. kuda. Statistical analysis of growth between temperature treatments was completed using the ANOVA technique, while statistical analysis of the mortality rates among temperature treatments was completed using the Two Proportion Z Hypothesis Test. The data did not support a statistically significant difference in growth and mortality between temperature treatments.

    Tree Identification at Merl and Margaret Primmer Property For The Purpose of Educating the Community
    Rebekah Will
    Mentor: Kerry Cheesman

    In 2005 Capital University received a gift of 75 acres of land from Merl and Margaret Primmer. The land, located near Logan, Ohio, includes areas of deciduous forest, grassland, and wetland, and was donated with the purpose of creating an outdoor learning facility. To make the property most useful to both Capital students and the surrounding community, it was determined that the trees of the property should be identified and labeled. To do this, a complete list of trees on the property was compiled by faculty, students, and outside experts. Existing pathways in the forested area of the property were then mapped, and two trees from each individual species along those trails were identified and labeled using large metal numbers. Following research about each tree species identified, a reference booklet was produced that contains key information about each one. Completed booklets will be distributed to both the campus community and the Logan community later this spring. In addition, a complete list of other plant species on the property has been compiled, and photographs have been taken of most. Additional educational resources will be produced using this list and other information obtained from scientific resources.