Biological & Environmental Sciences, 2013
  • A Plan to Improve the Recycling Program and Increase Sustainability and Student Involvement on Capital University’s Campus
    Cynthia Carr
    Mentor: Christine Anderson

    Recently, there have been many changes made to improve sustainability on Capital University’s campus and there are many changes being planned for the future. Through the progression of this development, the need to improve the current recycling program is necessary. Recycling surveys distributed to students, faculty, and staff have indicated changes that need to be made to the current recycling program. From the surveys an action plan was developed that outlined specific changes that need to be made to the current program to increase sustainability and student involvement in recycling. This action plan focuses on changes that can be made in the future on campus in regards to the location of recycling on campus, increasing availability of recycling on campus, education about recycling on campus, and student involvement with recycling. Through the implementation of this new recycling plan, Capital University can hopefully become a more sustainable, eco-friendly campus.

    Survey of Reptile Species Presence and Abundance at Capital University’s Merl and Margaret Primmer Outdoor Learning Center
    Austin Clarridge
    Mentor: Christine Anderson

    Capital University’s Merl and Margaret Primmer Outdoor Learning Center is known to be home to different species of reptiles. Little is known, though, as to exactly what species can be found there. This survey generates baseline data on species presence and population dynamics of the snake, lizard, and turtle species found at the Learning Center. The primary survey techniques are visual surveys, reptile attractant materials, rock flipping, and live trapping. Data have been taken on each reptile captured, including length, habitat, and location of capture. Each reptile was also marked and released to ensure data points were not repeated, and to provide capture – mark – recapture (CMR) data. These data allow us to better understand reptile population dynamics of the property, and assist in future studies of reptiles at the Primmer Outdoor Learning Center.

    Down Syndrome Genetics: A Case Study of Twins
    Tiffany Datkuliak, Laura Wagner
    Mentor: Kerry Cheesman

    Down Syndrome is a genetic abnormality that causes delays in physical and mental development. It occurs in approximately one in every 690 live births. This research project is exploring an Ohio family that has twenty-seven year old twins with Down Syndrome, which is extremely rare. The family is curious about whether the twins are identical or fraternal, and what form of Down Syndrome they have (medical testing has never been done). This research is attempting to answer those questions. Karyotypes (chromosome spreads) are being performed on both the twins and the parents, and the twins are also being tested to determine whether they are fraternal or identical. The purpose of the karyotype in the twins is to determine if they carry the trisomy 21 mutation or the Robertsonian Translocation (two established causes of Down Syndrome). The parents are being karyotyped to determine the mechanism of transmission. This study will give insight into the genetics of Down Syndrome and give the family the answers they are looking for. This will also help them in future generations as they assess the risk of more Down Syndrome cases in their family.

    How Can We Help Students Deal with Complex Real World Problems?
    Jennifer Davis, Janelle Homier
    Mentor: M. Ali Ülkü, Terry D. Lahm, Andrea M. Karkowski

    Undergraduate research fosters deep learning and promotes greater retention and student persistence through to graduation. Many real world problems are complex and require an integrated solution and collaboration across different disciplines; therefore, it is important that students develop skills to work across disciplines on research problems. This research examines faculty experience and understanding of interdisciplinary undergraduate research (IUGR), and explores the current literature on the topic of interdisciplinary research. We interviewed 19 faculty about supervising undergraduate research, specifically IUGR, and conducted a qualitative analysis on their responses. We also obtained a national sample (N = 96) of college faculty to complete an online survey about their experiences with IUGR. These faculty represent a wide variety of institutional types and sizes, and thus provide an inclusive representation of faculty experiences with IUGR. From these data we developed a definition of IUGR and revealed how mentoring IUGR differs from mentoring disciplinary undergraduate research. Results show faculty prefer mentoring IUGR over mentoring disciplinary research. Results also highlighted the benefits of and barriers to conducting IUGR. These findings can help institutions facilitate IUGR projects on their campuses and inform faculty of development opportunities that will enrich student learning via enhanced curricula where IUGR is embedded.

    A Review of the Implications of the Immune System and Genetics in the Onset of Autism
    Joe DeVault
    Mentor: Kimberly Heym

    Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) are a group of neurodevelopmental disorders diagnosed by the onset of behavioral changes in social interaction, communication skills, and the display of stereotyped and repetitive behaviors. In the United States the prevalence of ASDs, specifically autism, has risen and now affects 1 out of 88 children. The etiology of ASDs is mostly unknown; however, many relationships between environmental factors, genetics, and the immune system play a role in the onset of autism, as suggested by multiple studies. The Major Histocompatability Complex (MHC), a cluster of genes that code for many molecules that assist in the regulation of the immune system and normal neurodevelopment in the Central Nervous System (CNS) might play an important role in the onset of autism, even though there is not sufficient evidence to link the MHC to autism at this time. Future research that uses overlapping methodology for recording genetics of autistic patients, their mothers, immune findings, and neurodevelopmental changes will enable data from multiple studies covering different geographical areas to be analyzed together, and might be beneficial for discovering the etiologies of ASDs.

    A Critical Analysis of Sauropod Metabolism and Temperature Regulation
    Joe DeVault
    Mentor: Nancy Swails

    Temperature regulation in Saurischian dinosaurs has been a topic of controversy. Based on a critical review of multiple studies, it would appear that Sauropods were homoeothermic endotherms with an intermediate metabolic rate that slowed into adulthood. Sauropods are the largest animals ever known to exist with weights ranging up to 80 tons. Fossil evidence indicates a lack of annual growth lines and suggests that Sauropods developed at rates more comparable to mammals than ectotherms. Evidence suggests that, to attain adult size, initial growth of these dinosaurs likely required metabolic rates that would exceed the abilities of an ectoderm to dissipate consequent heat production, and would require unparalleled levels of oxygen and nutrients to sustain such a metabolic rate in adult sized Sauropods. A model used to estimate body temperature based on the estimated metabolic demands predicted that Sauropods were 4 to 7 degrees C warmer than actual temperatures found from chemical analysis of fossil tissues. These data suggests that Sauropods might have adaptations to dissipate body heat. Such adaptations might be explained through multiple studies that suggest Sauropods had a pnuematized skeleton, an avian style respiratory system, and an increased surface area due to elongated necks and tails.

    Evolutionary Constraints and Pressures Linked to the Extinction of Smilodon Fatalis
    Peter Fredrickson
    Mentor: Nancy Swails

    Smilodon fatalis was a species of sabre tooth cat that lived on the North American continent during the Pleistocene epoch. Known for their long projecting canine teeth, sabre tooth cats were prolific hunters dominating this period. At the end of the Pleistocene, something drove this species of cat to extinction. Fossil evidence found in western North America gives tantalizing evidence for the extinction of Smilodon fatalis. The purpose of this research project was to identify and explain how three specific evolutionary pressures may have led to the extinction of the North American sabre tooth cat. These are the loss of maxillary canine teeth, muscle atrophy, and inability to adapt to the loss of large mammalian prey. Research was conducted using scientific research articles and other literature covering pre-historic mammalian organisms. Loss of maxillary canine teeth and atrophy of muscles of mastication were observed in fossilized remains. Mechanical anatomy of species was not suitable for catching small sized prey. Hinting selective pressures against the species were present. This study contributes by giving
    another approach to this already puzzling loss to the sabre tooth cat genus.

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

    Precocious puberty (the onset of puberty before age 8 in females or age 9 in males) affects 1 in 5,000 children and is much more prevalent in females. Research has identified neoplasms, obesity, and environmental endocrine disruptors as causes for precocious puberty. There are two subgroups of precocious puberty: central precocious puberty (gonadotropin-dependent) and peripheral precocious puberty (gonadotropin-independent). The purpose of this research is to identify the endocrinological basis for precocious puberty and to look into ways to prevent this condition. This study consisted of a review of literature gathered from scientific databases, including the United States National Library of Medicine, Medical Encyclopedias, and others. Data suggest that precocious puberty is becoming more prevalent amongst young children around the world. A rise in the use of environmental endocrine disruptors has the most substantial impact on pubertal ages in children; neoplasms in the brain and spinal cord account for many other cases. Because the causes and risk factors of this disorder have now been established, and the endocrinological basis of the disease is apparent, attention has turned to prevention. The USDA continues investigation into environmental endocrine disruptors and continues to try to define safer options for use.

    Species Identification and Chytrid Testing of Local Amphibians
    Breanna Hayes
    Mentor: Christine Anderson

    There are thousands of amphibian species in the world, and they are all currently threatened by what some biologists are calling the sixth great extinction. These threats originate from multiple sources, but one major threat is the cutaneous fungal infection known as Chytridiomycosis. The purpose of this project was to survey local amphibians and both identify their species through DNA barcoding and swab captured specimen to test for Chytridiomycosis. DNA barcoding is an accurate, cost-effective way to identify species of tadpoles, as many of them are morphologically alike, especially in the juvenile stage. DNA barcoding was run through a series of steps including DNA extraction and purification, PCR, sequencing reactions and finally, results were compared to previously catalogued sequences in an online database. Chytridiomycosis testing was conducted with swabs and then sent to an outside lab for further testing. This project showed that bullfrogs and tree frogs are common in local areas and there is sign of Chytridiomycosis infection in local populations. Due to recent drastic amphibian declines, surveying populations and conducting tests to see if they are infected is vital for conservation efforts.

    Are Science and Music Students Visual Learners?
    Mark Ivey, Jessica Pohlman
    Mentor: Kimberly Heym

    Three basic modes of learning are recognized by educators: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. Although many learning style surveys exist, the Felder Learning Styles Survey is most commonly given to college aged science and engineering students. Dr. Dennis Pearl at Ohio State University has given this survey to over 4,000 Introductory Statistics students. His data reveal that these students score very high in the visual range and very low in the auditory range, however, his data do not include the students’ majors. To determine whether a student’s major influences their learning style, we administered the Felder Learning Styles survey to 98 science students and 192 music students at Capital University. It appears that science students are more visual than music students since 61% of all science students have a strong or moderate preference for visual learning compared to only 45% of all music students. In addition, it appears that music students are more auditory than science students since 11% of all music students have a strong or moderate preference for auditory learning compared to only 6% of all science students.

    Effects of Thioredoxin Reductase-1 Deletion on Pulmonary Antioxidant and Pro-inflammatory Responses to Hyperoxia in Adult Mice
    Madison Mikhail, Cynthia L. Hill
    Mentor: Morgan L. Locy, Trent E. Tipple

    Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) is a lung disease that causes significant pulmonary morbidity in affected patients. ARDS is caused, in part, by exposure to high concentrations of oxygen (hyperoxia) and by deficiencies in protective antioxidant responses. Thioredoxin reductase-1 (TrxR1) is highly expressed in lung epithelia. Pharmacologic TrxR1 inhibition induces antioxidant responses and prevents hyperoxic lung injury in ARDS mouse models. We hypothesized that epithelial cell-specific TrxR1 knockout (KO) mice would exhibit enhanced antioxidant responses and decreased pro-inflammatory cytokine expression. To test our hypothesis, adult TrxR1 KO and wildtype control mice were exposed to room air or hyperoxia (>95% O2) for up to 72 h. Following euthanasia, lungs were harvested and Clara cells were isolated. Antioxidant responses and inflammatory cytokine expression will be determined by performing quantitative RT-PCR using samples derived from isolated Clara cells. We predict that the expression of the antioxidant genes including NADPH quinone oxidoreductase-1 and glutamate-cysteine ligase modifier subunit will be increased in Clara cells isolated from hyperoxia-exposed TrxR1 KO mice when compared to hyperoxia-exposed control mice. Further, we expect that the mRNA levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines interleukin (IL)-1, IL-6, and tumor necrosis factor-a will be lower in Clara cells isolated from hyperoxiaexposed TrxR1 KO mice than in hyperoxia-exposed control mice.

    Research on Herbaceous Plants and Dendrites at the Primmer Outdoor Learning Center
    Katalin Millinger
    Mentor: Alan Stam, Christine Anderson

    The purpose of this research was threefold: to learn more about the Capital University Primmer Property before the old fields were converted to prairies, to sample sediment from the wetland, and to use dendrochronology to determine tree stand ages between White Pines (Pinus strobus) and Sycamores (Platanus occidentalis). First, herbaceous plant species were identified with literature and were cross-checked for accuracy with another source. Plants were photographed or taken as samples during the identification process. Then the samples that were taken out of the field were pressed and mounted onto paper for the creation of a book of identification. Sediment cores were taken using a PVC pipe in the wetland area of the property and will be analyzed incrementally with x-ray fluorescence. Finally, twenty trees were cored and will be measured using a method described in “Fundamentals of
    Tree-Ring Research” by Speer (2010) with a computer program called Measure J2X. Over 50 plant species were identified on the property and many of these were wildflowers. The study is ongoing and will assist Capital University in the ecological assessment of the Primmer Outdoor Learning Center.

    Population Attributes of Mice at the Capital University Primmer Outdoor Learning Center
    Katalin Millinger
    Mentor: Christine Anderson

    The purpose of this study was to survey and live-trap deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus) and white-footed mice (Peromyscus leucopus) at the Primmer Outdoor Learning Center to collect baseline data on population attributes of these small mammals before the old fields and pastureland are converted to prairie grasslands. The literature suggests white-footed mice are typically found in a variety of habitats such as agricultural fields, early successional fields, woods, wood’s edges, and fencerows. Habitats trapped were based on this information and included four old fields, a deciduous forest, and a fencerow beside an agricultural field. Small Sherman live-traps were used to capture the mice, which were then tagged using small Monel ear tags and released after data about pelage, sex, weight, length and any abnormality was recorded. A tissue sample and a saliva sample were taken for species identification purposes, in the lab, to differentiate P. maniculatus from P. leucopus. DNA analysis is ongoing. Preliminary results show that 24 total mice were captured, thirteen were male, seventy percent of the mice were of reproductive age, and there were 25.26 mice per 500 trapnights. This data help illustrate the impact of habitat change and restoration on small mammal communities over time.

    The Use of a Water Wicking System to Grow Lettuce
    Carly Moss, Erica Noll
    Mentor: Kimberly Heym

    Water scarcity is an impending issue in light of the current world population growth. The future of farming will require innovative growing systems that use water resources wisely. Two wicking systems, consisting of recycled dairy containers, were used to grow lettuce plants. The large wicking system consisted of a one gallon milk jug filled with potting soil and equipped with a 16 oz. permeated sour cream container held in place with a bench made from the bottom of a second gallon sized milk jug. The small wicking system had the same design but was equipped with a 6 oz. permeated yogurt container held in place with a bench. Control containers utilized a bench with no permeated wicking container. Eight lettuce seeds were planted per pot and all containers were watered weekly with the same volume of tap water. Germination rate was greatest for the small wicking system (52%) and lower for the large wicking system (44%) and the controls (38%). The wicking system appears to improve lettuce germination and the smaller wicking system out-performs the larger wicking system.

    A Computational Model of Insulin Release from the Endocrine Pancreas
    Ariel Webb
    Mentor: Catherine Boulant, Paula Federico

    Because glucose is the primary energy substrate for metabolism, homeostatic control of blood glucose levels is critical. Insulin, a peptide hormone secreted from the pancreas, is the primary regulator of blood glucose levels. The objective of this project is to develop a computational model of blood glucose and insulin levels during a hypothetical Glucose Tolerance Test (GTT) and to compare those values to actual values obtained during a modified GTT. The software package, STELLA v 10.0, was used to develop the model. It is software that is designed to facilitate the building and use of System Dynamics models. The model reflects values presented in the published literature and favorably compared to the values obtained during a modified GTT. Input variables representing glucose set point, glucose release, glucose uptake, insulin secretion, insulin breakdown, and insulin usage fraction can be manipulated to model the dynamic control of glucose levels by insulin. An accurate model of glucose-insulin interrelationship may be used as an educational tool and could demonstrate how computational models may be used to enhance understanding of physiological systems. Future manipulations of the model may include different forms of diabetes. Additional time-dependent factors influencing insulin release may be integrated into the model.

    One of Three Glycans on the Respiratory Syncytial Virus Pretriggered Fusion Protein Is Essential for Function but Not for Triggering, Suggesting a Role in 6-Helix Bundle Formation
    Christopher Weisgarber
    Mentor: Nancy Swails

    Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a major cause of pediatric and elderly respiratory infections and hospitalizations. The RSV fusion (F) glycoprotein causes fusion by inserting its fusion peptide into the target cell membrane and folding in half, joining the two membranes. The RSV F protein is decorated with three N-linked glycans. The objective was to determine the importance of these glycans in the function of the RSV F protein. These three glycans were mutated from asparagine to glutamine (N27Q, N70Q, N500Q). Loss of individual glycans did not affect processing or expression of the mutant proteins on the surface of Human Embryonic Kidney (HEK293) cells. The N500Q mutant did not fuse with neighboring cells, unlike the wild type and the other two mutants. The same mutations were introduced in the RSV soluble F gene. Velocity gradients showed the mutants were produced and secreted in the pretriggered form. Dialysis indicated that the mutants could be triggered, causing aggregation of F protein molecules in the velocity gradients. The N500 residue is in the stalk of the pretriggered F protein, which participates in F protein refolding; indicating the N500 glycan may be essential in six-helix bundle formation and initiation of fusion.

    Creating a User-Friendly Tree Guide at the Primmer Outdoor Education Center for Biology and Environmental Science Education
    Rebekah Will
    Mentor: Kerry Cheesman

    The Primmer Outdoor Education Center, near Logan, OH, contains deciduous and coniferous forest stands, riparian zones, open prairie areas, and a wetland. As plans have developed for this living laboratory and environmental outreach site, the need for a species guide that is accessible to both students and community members became apparent. Most students in the biological and environmental sciences do not come to the university with even moderate knowledge of plant or animal identification. National field guides are cumbersome, expensive, and limited to single groups (e.g., trees, wildflowers, or mammals) so many books are required to learn the species within a single tract of land. We therefore decided to prepare a site-specific guide to the tree species present. An initial species inventory was conducted and has been periodically updated over the past three years. Photographs of all species were taken and saved for use in the field guide. Student researchers studied each species present and wrote short descriptions that would be useful in the field. The resulting species guide to the property has been extremely useful for university classes, local teachers, and many others as uses of the property continue to expand.