Biology graduate students spark the science spirit in elementary classrooms
BioBuds pilot program brought to Ganiard Elementary
June 6, 2013 - Central Michigan University graduate students shared their passion for biology with Ganiard Elementary third graders through BioBuds, a program designed to get students interested in science at an early age.
The Biology Graduate Student Association developed BioBuds last fall after learning about world-famous conservationist Jane Goodall's "Roots and Shoots" program. The BGSA piloted BioBuds in the spring and plans to make it a yearly program.
"We wanted to help develop the love of science and biology with the students," said Hastings graduate student Nicole Wood. "The teachers have been really thankful we've come in, and they like seeing their kids happy and learning at the same time."
Ganiard Elementary third grade teacher Michelle French said it is always appreciated when experts in a field speak to a class.
"The students loved having the BioBuds come into our classroom for lessons, and they were always eager and excited to learn from them," French said. "It really helped us as teachers because they covered topics that are part of our curriculum."
The program currently includes five interactive lessons that expose children to a variety of biology topics. Fourteen graduate students were involved in teaching the lessons.
Midland graduate student Alicia McGrew created and taught the food webs lesson. The students used gestures and noises to act out the concepts of plants and animals in food webs.
"I went off of what my research interests are and tried to think of something that was relatable to the kids," McGrew said. "Something that they would understand and be able to appreciate while applying it to their everyday lives."
Media Contact: Rachel Esterline Perkins, 989-774-2121 or email@example.com
Senior and biology major Thomas McVay receives a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship
April 25, 2013 - Senior and biology major Thomas McVay recently received a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. This highly competitive, multi-year fellowship will provide him with $30,000 per year to help cover his graduate school expenses.
McVay will be attending the University of Florida in Fall 2013 to begin work on a Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Ecology and continue his research on the Ozark Cavefish, Amblyopsis rosae, which is a small (<65mm), blind fish found in cave streams, and usually the top predator in the ecosystem. It is listed as threatened by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and vulnerable by the World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
The Ozark cavefish's range is limited to 32 caves spread across Arkansas, Oklahoma and Missouri, and current population estimates range from 222-515 individuals. McVay aims to determine the genetic population structure and health of these fish, taking samples from preserved specimens in museums and using genetic techniques to discover their historic population structure. He also wants to use environmental DNA (eDNA) to detect new populations of cavefish, since there hasn't been much research on the species, and hopes that his efforts can facilitate a recovery.
McVay said two things have prepared him well for graduate school - taking classes at the CMU Biological Station on Beaver Island the summer after his freshman year, which made him realize the career potential of a biology degree beyond the standard option of medical school, and doing undergraduate research with biology professor Brad Swanson, working on a dragonfly population genetics project during Summer 2011 through the Undergraduate Research Grants for the Environment (URGE) program at Pierce Cedar Creek Institute in Hastings, Mich. This experience is when he realized that population and genetics research was his calling.
"Tom being awarded the NSF fellowship highlights one of the best aspects of CMU, which is the high level of interaction between undergraduates and faculty mentors and the opportunities for research," said Swanson. "One of the aspects noted in the reviews of Tom's proposal was the breadth and depth of research experience he obtained while at CMU."
The National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) helps ensure the vitality of the human resource base of science and engineering in the United States and reinforces its diversity. The program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based master's and doctoral degrees at accredited U.S. institutions.
NSF received over 13,000 submitted applications for the 2013 competition. McVay was one of only 2,000 recipients who received an award.
CMC Herbarium receives grant and collaborates with state universities to create database of Michigan flora
April 15, 2013 - The CMC Herbarium at CMU recently received a grant from The Hanes Trust Foundation, a private, Michigan-based, non-profit organization that
funds worthy projects dealing with the flora and ecology of the state of
Michigan. Associate professor of biology and director of the CMC
Herbarium Anna Monfils, along with Tim Evans from Grand Valley State
University, will use the funding to database Natural History collections
at ten herbaria across the state of Michigan – including those at
Central Michigan University, Eastern Michigan University, Western
Michigan University, Grand Valley State University, Hillsdale College,
Albion College, Andrews University, Hope College, Calvin College and the
Seney National Wildlife Refuge. This collaboration will result in a
database of 100,000 herbarium specimens, including high-resolution
digital images, representing the diversity of the Michigan flora through
CMU will be the host for the data and website.
Integrated Digitized Biocollections (iDigBio), the National Science
Foundation’s national HUB for Advancing Digitization of Biological
Collections (ADBC), will serve the data out.
Michigan University Herbarium (CMC) is an archive for plant
biodiversity. With over 26,000 plant specimens, it serves as a vital
teaching resource, houses research quality specimens for use at CMU and
in the broader scientific community, and functions as a regional
repository for plant specimens. Plants in the collection are primarily
from the Great Lakes region, focusing on wetland plants and the flora of
the Beaver Island Archipelago.
Biology major recognized with Young Botanist Award
April 8, 2013 - Let’s
give her a big two thumbs-up! Junior and biology major Hillary Karbowski was
just awarded the Young Botanist Award, Special Certificate of Achievement, from
the Botanical Society of America!
by associate professor of biology Anna Monfils, Hillary is among 25 students in
the United States and Canada selected for the award, which recognizes
excellence and outstanding scholarship for the advancement of knowledge in the
Mahon and research team find that Asian carp DNA is not widespread in the Great Lakes as previously thought
April 5, 2013 - Assistant professor of biology and Institute for Great Lakes Research scientist Andrew Mahon, along with scientists from the University of Notre Dame and The Nature Conservancy, recently published their research on Asian carp DNA throughout the Great Lakes in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences.
Silver and bighead carp - which gorge on plankton that all fish consume - are of particular concern to the Great Lakes ecosystem, since they are large fish that can quickly reproduce and unravel the food chain that supports a $7 billion fishing industry. In their latest study, the research team found that at least some Asian carp have found their way into the Great Lakes, but there is no evidence that they are as widespread in the Great Lakes basin as previously thought.
Between September 2009 and October 2011, Mahon and his colleagues collected more than 2,800 water samples from parts of the Great Lakes and tributary rivers. Laboratory analysis yielded 58 positive hits for bighead or silver carp in the Chicago Area Waterway System, a network of rivers and canals linked directly to Lake Michigan, and 6 in western Lake Erie. Some of the Chicago eDNA was found in Lake Calumet, where a live bighead carp was caught in 2010 and three others were snagged in 1995 and 2000.
The results of their research contradict earlier government studies that have said many of the positive water samples detecting Asian carp DNA in or near the lakes in recent years could have come from other sources, such as excrement from birds that fed on the carp in distant rivers, or via boats and other pathways. While these previous studies acknowledged the presence of eDNA, government researchers disagreed that the findings signaled the presence of live fish.
Dr. Christopher Jerde, lead investigator on the latest study and a scientist at the University of Notre Dame, said, "Looking at the overall patterns of detections, we remain convinced that the most likely source of Asian carp DNA is live fish."
Conducted by experts who pioneered the use of genetic data to search for the aggressive fish, Mahon and his colleagues' investigation builds upon a growing area of research to find invasive species when they are at low abundance and when they can be potentially managed.
The paper's co-author, Mahon, said, "When we first discovered DNA from Asian carp at the Calumet Harbor and Port of Chicago, we were concerned that Asian carp may already be widespread in the Great Lakes, but because of our collaborations with state and federal partners, we now have a better picture of the Asian carp distribution. We are optimistic that with continued vigilance, it will be possible to prevent Asian carp becoming established in the Great Lakes."
Click here to read the full research article, "Detection of Asian carp DNA as part of a Great Lakes basin-wide surveillance program."
Biology graduate student earns honors at international symposium
March 20, 2013 - Biology graduate student Jennifer Bergner recently received Honorable Mention for best student presentation at the Freshwater Mollusk Conservation Society symposium for her talk, "Spatially explicit genetic structure of two unionid species, Lampsilis cardium and Lasmigona costata, in the central Great Lakes." This international symposium was held March 10-14 at Lake Guntersville State Park in Guntersville, Alabama.
Advised by assistant professors of biology Daelyn Woolnough and David Zanatta, Bergner was one of four CMU students who attended the symposium and presented four posters and three oral presentations to the 250+ attendees.
The Freshwater Mollusk Conservation Society (FMCS) is dedicated to the conservation of and advocacy of freshwater mollusks, North America's most imperiled animals. The society organizes international symposiums each year, holds workshops on alternating years and produces a newsletter three times a year.
CMU's Antarctica research team returns
March 15, 2013 - A Central Michigan University research team recently returned from their voyage to Antarctica to collect invertebrates in areas of water that have never been explored.
Assistant professor of biology Andrew Mahon, along with December 2012 CMU graduate Carlos Coronado and CMU senior Abigail Hollingsworth, joined scientists from Auburn University of Alabama for a six-week journey gathering and analyzing small invertebrate animals in one of the most remote regions of the world.
The crew boarded the Nathaniel B. Palmer, a National Science Foundation research vessel, Jan. 1 in Punta Arenas, Chile. During the grant-funded research trip, the scientists collected invertebrate samples by dropping nets of up to 1,000 feet.
Biology undergraduate Jaime Coon is CMU's 2013 Udall Scholarship nominee
March 14, 2013 - Jaime Coon, a Centralis Scholar, Honors student and junior from Hamilton majoring in biology and minoring in global justice, is CMU's 2013 Udall Scholarship nominee.
The Morris K. Udall Foundation was established by Congress in 1992 to honor Morris Udall's 30 years of service in Congress. The name was amended in 2009 to include his older brother, Stewart L. Udall, also a career civil servant.
The foundation will award approximately 50 scholarships of up to $5,000 to outstanding sophomore and junior college students committed to careers in environmental or Native American policy. Additionally, scholars gain access to a vast network of like-minded individuals at seminars offered in Tucson, Arizona.
Coon was CMU's Udall nominee last year. Since then, Coon says she has strengthened her application by expanding her research in the biology department and her environmental public service.
After 200 hours of volunteering with the Wildlife Recovery Association, a nonprofit birds of prey rehabilitation organization, she became an intern there and lived on-site during the summer.
Coon has worked in associate professor of biology Kirsten Nicholson's phylogenetics lab for over two years studying a tropical lizard species complex. Discovering the cause of the species' divergence and confirming potential new species is vital - "If a species doesn't have a name, you can't write a law protecting it," she says.
Growing up on a farm instilled in Coon a deep love and appreciation for the natural world. But she says she did not make the connection between biology and environmentalism until she was in college. "Now I have this major in biology, and I'm going to be a biologist with an environmental value behind every question I ask, and I think that's really important," she says.
Coon emphasizes interdisciplinary thinking - as a global justice minor she has taken courses in sociology and political science, and her capstone project focused on advocating replacing the magnolia trees that once grew in front of Anspach Hall. "We're just trying to understand how we can help the world be more sustainable - and issues of poverty and environmental issues are so interrelated sometimes you can't even separate them," she says.
As an active member of the CMU College 101 program, Coon gives several "Passion for Wildlife" presentations a year. The goal of these speeches, which incorporate live wildlife, is to inspire at-risk students to make positive life choices and live sustainably with wildlife.
Additionally, Coon has been involved in CMU's New Venture competition with a nonprofit project called "Energize Education," which focuses on better energy efficiency in public schools.
Coon plans to pursue a Ph.D. in conservation biology.
Two biology faculty among those to receive university honors at Faculty Excellence Exhibition
March 14, 2013 - Central Michigan University will honor several outstanding faculty at the 2013 Faculty Excellence Exhibition at 3 p.m. March 20 in the Park Library Auditorium. President's and Provost's Awards, Excellence in Teaching Awards and the Lorrie Ryan Memorial Teaching Award will be given to 11 faculty members.
Among the recipients are two CST biology faculty members receiving top honors for their outstanding research and creative activity.
President's Award for Outstanding Research and Creative Activity
Created for peers to select and recognize outstanding senior faculty members for scholarship of national and international merit.
Provost's Award for Outstanding Research and Creative ActivityCreated for peers to select and recognize less experienced faculty members for scholarship of national and international merit.
- Donald Uzarski, associate professor of biology, has been a principal investigator on 15 funded external grants for a total of $11.7 million
- Andrew Mahon, assistant professor of biology, widely recognized for his work identifying invasive species in freshwater and research in Antarctica
CMU biology faculty and research team introduce new screening method to detect abundance of invasive species in water
March 6, 2013 - Central Michigan University assistant professor of biology Andrew Mahon and a group of researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the University of Notre Dame and The Nature Conservancy have identified a genetic method of surveillance to detect the abundance of invasive species in water.
The study is the first to utilize the common genetic technique known as PCR screening to detect the relative abundance of a particular Asian carp species by testing for residual environmental DNA in water samples.
The findings of their recent study have been published in PLOS ONE, the electronic journal of the Public Library of Science, an open-access publisher of research from all areas of science. Access the article here.
"Our study shows the percentage of DNA positive samplings we find is directly related to the number of that particular species of fish in the water," said Mahon, lead scientist on the study. "This validates the use of eDNA surveillance sensitivity for the detection of multiple species of Asian carps in water systems."
Researchers compared genetic material found in water samples to the number of fish found in a 2.6-mile stretch of river in the Chicago canal system after it was treated with retenone and the fish carcasses were collected.
"Our results showed a positive correlation between the number of genetic samples and the abundance of fish after the canal was treated," said Mahon.
This testing provides for another tool for environmental management agencies to use in determining whether invasive species are present in the water.
"This genetic testing method, along with other traditional options currently being used such as netting, electro fishing, and hook and line sampling, offers an additional tool for detecting invasive species and one more option in the battle against these species getting into our waterways," said Mahon.
USGS Southeast Ecological Science Center scientists Margaret Hunter and Leo Nico are co-authors on the study, providing expertise, genetic samples and information on black carp.
Media Contact: Kathy Backus, 989-774-1702
Rebeccah Woodke has been named the 2013 CMU Truman Scholarship nominee
February 21, 2013 - Rebeccah Woodke
, a junior Honors
student and Centralis Scholar from Flushing with a major in biomedical
sciences, has been named the 2013 CMU Truman Scholarship nominee.
Created by Congress in 1975, the Harry S. Truman Scholarship
Foundation's purpose is to recognize college juniors with exceptional
leadership potential who are committed to careers in public service and
provide them with financial support, leadership training and a network
of like-minded individuals committed to the greater good.
Each applicant must be nominated by his or her university. In their
applications, candidates complete a series of essays, including a
proposed solution to a major public policy issue. The foundation reviews
over 600 applicants each year and awards between 60 and 65
Woodke plans to pursue a career in public health, specifically in the
areas of health behavior and health education. She intends to earn her
Masters of Public Health and then her Ph.D., with the hopes of attaining
a university faculty position where she will be able to prepare future
public health workers, conduct research, and advocate for policies that
will help erase current racial and ethnic health disparities.
In her policy proposal, Woodke addressed these disparities by
suggesting greater fiscal support for a program whose focus is to
implement evidence-based public health improvement initiatives at the
community level. She proposed using the increased funding to give more
communities access to the program, promoting greater equity in public
Woodke is a student leader for the Universities Allied for Essential
Medicines. She has spent time abroad doing service work in Oaxaca,
Mexico and in Belize, which she says helped to "reaffirm how much I want
to be involved in public health and in improving the health of
communities." This passion for health equity led to volunteer service at
the McLaren Free Health Clinic in Mount Pleasant. Additionally, she has
been a participant and site leader for the Alternative Breaks program.
Woodke is currently working in biology professor Elizabeth Alm's
laboratory on an EPA-funded study evaluating the effectiveness of a
public health intervention which used border collies on beaches to deter
gulls, which may carry pathogens potentially harmful to humans.
Although Woodke acknowledges that it might be awhile until she makes
significant contributions to public health, she confidently reports
that, "All of my service and background education is preparing me to
make the change I hope for in the world - to ultimately improve the
health of communities and realize health equity for all."CMU research team sets off to discover new species in AntarcticaStudy of invertebrate animals living in one of the most remote regions of the world
January 3, 2013 - A Central Michigan
University research team is on a voyage to Antarctica to collect invertebrates in areas of water that have never been explored. On previous research trips to Antartica, assistant professor of biology Andrew Mahon
uncovered four new species.
"Because there have been so few people who have been to Antarctica to conduct research, we find new things," said Mahon. "Whether it's a new area where we didn't think a particular species lived or a species that's new to science completely, every time we go we find new things."
Mahon, as well as December 2012 CMU graduate Carlos Coronado
and CMU senior Abigail Hollingsworth
have joined scientists from Auburn University of Alabama for a six-week journey gathering and analyzing small invertebrate animals in one of the most remote regions of the world.
"From my experience, these trips are life-changing," said Mahon. "You get to see things that nobody has ever seen. You get to go places where nobody else has ever been."
The crew boarded the Nathaniel B. Palmer, a National Science Foundation research vessel, Jan. 1 in Punta Arenas, Chile. During the grant-funded research trip, the scientists will collect invertebrate samples by dropping nets of up to 1,000 feet.
They will be studying DNA and other genetic information from the small animals they gather. Each species will be documented, and samples will be sent to biology labs at CMU for research.
Coronado of Hazel Park is most excited for what they will discover in the nets and the opportunity to see the world.
"We're studying in Antarctica because it's a very unique system," said Coronado. "Not a lot of people get to go there. Particularly this spot where we're going, pretty much no one else has been there."
Hollingsworth of Lexington says she is lucky to have this opportunity as an undergraduate student.
"The kind of opportunities this trip will open up for me and the work experience it will give me... I feel very grateful," said Hollingsworth.
Mahon and his team will be communicating with several K-12 classes throughout Michigan during their trip via email messages, social media and blog posts. Follow their voyage at these links: www.facebook.com/cmich
; and http://people.cst.cmich.edu/mahon2a/MahonLab/Antarctica/Antarctica.htmlMedia Contact: Kathy Backus, 989-774-1702
CST graduate earns award at International Association of Great Lakes Research meeting
October 20, 2012 - College of Science and Technology biology graduate Lindsay Kolich
has been awarded the HYDROLAB/IAGLR Student Poster Paper award from the International Association of Great Lakes Research (IAGLR) meeting in June 2012 in Cornwall, Ontario. Her poster was titled, "Effects of the dreissenid invasion on the genetic structure of Lasmigona costata (Bivalvia: Unionidae) in the Lake St. Clair delta and surrounding tributaries," and was co-authored by biology graduate student Matthew Rowe and Institute for Great Lakes Research scientist and assistant professor of biology David Zanatta.
Kolich will receive her award - a $250 check, a one-year membership in IAGLR (for 2013) and a subscription of the Journal of Great Lakes Research - at the 2013 IAGLR conference to be held in Purdue, Indiana from June 2-6.
Kolich's award-winning poster can be downloaded here.
Funding for this project came from the Michigan DEQ Coastal Zone Management Program and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration Act.
Schisa presented research at prestigious Germ Cells conference in New York
October 11, 2012 - Jennifer Schisa, professor of biology, recently presented a talk entitled, "Assembly of RNP Granules in C. elegans oocytes promotes oocyte quality and is regulated by the cytoskeleton" at the 2012 Germ Cells conference held October 2-6, 2012 at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in Long Island, New York.
Schisa's research team included CMU biology students - four graduate and one undergraduate - who were listed as co-authors on the abstract:
- Assembly of RNP granules in C.
elegans oocytes promotes oocyte quality and is regulated by the
(Megan P. Wood, Kevin Gorman, Angela Hollis,
Joseph R. Patterson, Ashley Severance, and Jennifer A. Schisa)
In many animal species,
oocytes arrest in meiosis until they are fertilized. It is well
established that fertility diminishes as oocytes age, and several studies
report changes in the cytoplasm of aging, arrested oocytes. In this study
our goal is to better understand the regulation and function of large
ribonucleoprotein (RNP) granules that assemble in the germlines of Caenorhabditis
nematodes that are either stressed, or in which ovulation is arrested due
to old age or an absence of sperm. The large RNP granules are
hypothesized to maintain oocyte quality when fertilization is delayed by
regulating mRNA stability or translation in arrested or stressed oocytes (Jud
et al., 2008). We have performed a
targeted, functional RNAi screen to identify genes that are required for the
assembly of RNP granules in meiotically-arrested oocytes, and we have
identified over 100 genes that are necessary for the RNA-binding protein MEX-3
to assemble efficiently into large granules. The largest gene classes of
the screen positives include: RNA-binding proteins, RNAi regulators, protein
degradation regulators, and cytoskeleton proteins. With the discovery of
these novel regulators of RNP granule assembly, we are now testing our
hypothesis for their function. In several cases, when the normal assembly
of RNP granules is prevented, we observe that fertility is decreased,
supporting the hypothesis that RNP granules maintain the quality of oocytes
when fertilization is delayed. We are currently determining if RNA
stability is diminished or translation of maternal mRNAs is de-repressed in
oocytes when RNP granule assembly is defective.
The annual Germ Cells conference serves to bring together a diverse group of scientists studying various molecular, cellular and genetic aspects of germ line and gamete development. The meeting provides a format for the exhange of ideas and information, to discuss the latest research findings and technical advances, and to facilitate the intellectual unification of research on germ cells and releated disease states in diverse systems.
Mahon receives EPA grant to battle invasive species in the
October 2, 2012 - Assistant professor of biology Andrew Mahon is leading the CMU research team that recently received a $356,154 Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) grant from the United States Environmental Protection Agency to combat invasive species in the Great Lakes basin, including the much-feared Asian carp.
Mahon's project, "Assessing Aquatic Invasive Species Risk in the Erie Canal Corridor" will assess the risks presented by aquatic invasive species (AIS) to the Erie Canal Corridor (ECC). Mahon and CMU researchers will catalogue non-native species in the Mohawk-Hudson River and Lake Champlain basins and identify currently restricted AIS that have potential to spread into the ECC. By using environmental DNA surveys, they will help identify the current range of priority AIS, potential invasion pathways and future surveillance needs.
Mahon and his colleagues are using laser transmission spectroscopy to provide real-time, DNA-based testing to detect invasive species such as Asian carp and zebra mussels in freshwater. This new, easy-to-use, inexpensive technology paves the way for field-based identification of harmful species in samples from ships' ballast water, ports and other at-risk areas before contamination and spreading into marine ecosystems, including the Great Lakes.
The findings of their recent study have been published in the "Journal of the Royal Society Interface," a prestigious international, peer-reviewed scientific journal that features reviews and research articles showcasing the interface between the physical sciences, including mathematics and life sciences.
"Early detection of invasive species is critical in the effort to manage potential ecological and economic damage caused by harmful species entering fresh waterways," said Mahon. "Laser transmission spectroscopy is a powerful tool for this, offering real-time, DNA-based species detection in the field."
Economic damage caused by invasive species has been estimated at approximately $120 billion annually in the U.S. In the Great Lakes, more than 180 species have been introduced, mostly through the discharge of ship ballasts. Dreissenid mussels, also known as "zebra mussels" and "quagga mussels," cause $150 million in damage annually by clogging water intake pipes in power plants, municipal water supplies and industrial facilities.
"Ships take on water in their home ports and transport that to other regions, taking native species with them to regions where they don't normally exist," said Mahon.
These introductions to freshwater and marine ecosystems have prompted a need for quick, inexpensive field-based technology to identify harmful species in water samples. The method Mahon and his team have created, using laser transmission spectroscopy, is user-friendly and easy to implement. Screening can be done on the ships in port.
"LTS is a quantitative detection platform for rapidly measuring the size, shape and number of nanoparticles in a water sample," said Mahon.
The goal of this research is to provide management agencies and policy makers the most accurate techniques and superior tools, matched with the best science available, in order to prevent the invasion of harmful species into fresh waterways.
"If you catch species early in the process, you can alleviate the potential for invasion," said Mahon. "LTS is an additional tool in the box and can be an effective surveillance method used to keep harmful species out of our lakes and waterways."
The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is the largest investment in the Great Lakes in two decades. Over the last three years, the GLRI has provided $172 million for the prevention, detection and control of invasive species in the Great Lakes ecosystem.
A full list of EPA 2012 grants for projects to combat invasive species is available online here.