Redefining the Classroom

Biology, chemistry, environmental science students to present senior thesis results

Posted: April 13th, 2011

NEW RESEARCH VENUE – Lake Superior State University Professor Jun Li instructs students in salmon egg viral analysis inside LSSU's burgeoning Fish Health Laboratory. The facility is a focus for undergraduate research at LSSU as well as a regional resource for both Michigan and Ontario. (LSSU/ John Shibley)

A print-resolution photo that runs with the caption above can be found by clicking here.

SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. – Lake Superior State University biology, chemistry and environmental science students invite members of the Eastern Upper Peninsula and Algoma communities to their spring Senior Research Symposium, to be held from 3-5 p.m., Friday, April 15, and 9:00 a.m. to noon, Saturday, April 16, in the Crawford Hall of Science on LSSU's campus.

Students will be presenting the results of their senior thesis research projects. Friday’s event is a poster session for which students have prepared a display of their research. The students will be on hand to informally discuss their projects. Posters will be on display in the south hallways on the main floor and third floor of Crawford Hall.

Saturday morning’s event is a symposium of formal oral presentations. Three concurrent sessions will be held in Crawford Hall classrooms. Talks begin at 8 a.m. with open admission between one session and another. Refreshments will be served during a coffee break at approximately 10:20 a.m.

The senior thesis is the capstone experience for all students in the College of Natural, Mathematical and Health Sciences at LSSU. Students choose a topic, design a study, collect and analyze the data, write a scientific paper and present the information to the university community and interested members of the public. Projects typically take an entire year for the students to design and complete, and often address practical issues of local biological and environmental concerns.

A sampling of the projects includes:

Daniel Arnold (Iron Mountain, Mich.) studied the effects that binaural beats, a type of auditory stimuli, have on an individual’s brainwaves and stress state. When listened to for a short period of time, it was found that binaural beats do not affect the brainwaves of an individual, but do decrease stress levels. Arnold used electroencephalography (EEG) and electrodermal activity (EDA) to measure brainwave activity and stress state. Binaural beats are being investigated for a range of health benefits including anxiety disorder treatment and Alzheimer’s disease prevention.

Robert Cross (Pinckney, Mich.) conducted fish surveys above and below existing salmon barriers on five northern Michigan streams to determine differences between fish populations with and without exposure to Pacific salmon. He found that brook trout abundance and condition factor were higher in reaches above the barrier. In contrast fish species diversity was significantly higher in reaches below the barriers. This information is critical to prioritize rivers in which dam removal can be used as a successful management tool to restore ecosystem connectivity without negatively altering native species.

Christopher Dean (Leroy, Mich.) analyzed data obtained from steelhead returning to Michigan’s Little Manistee River. It was found that wild steelhead smolt earlier, produce more offspring, and utilize different spawning times than hatchery-raised fish. Data from 1968-2008 shows that wild steelhead populations have been decreasing at a substantial rate.

Corey Dooley (Lake Orion, Mich.) studied the effects perfluorinated compounds (PFC) had on the purple non-sulfur bacteria, Rhodobacter sphaeroides. PFCs are ubiquitous chemicals produced around the world and are used in many products such as glues, Teflon pans, and food packaging. These chemicals have shown to be toxic in animal studies and are found in measurable quantities within the entire human population. Dooley created a mutant bacteria to determine if there is any relationship between particular metabolic genes and the toxicity of PFCs. His research indicated a possible mechanism for the toxic effect these chemicals have which may provide insight on possible prevention and or treatment strategies.

Kari Evey, (Sault Sainte Marie, Mich.) studied the correlation between Trichinella spiralis, a parasitic helminth within the black bear community of the Upper Peninsula. T. spiralis is known to cause abdominal pain, cramping, fever, and muscle pain when consumed in undercooked meat that is infected with the helminth.

Paige Filice (Lansing, Mich.) completed a road stream crossing inventory, catalog, and public questionnaire of the Munuscong River Watershed with the Chippewa/East Mackinac Conservation District. The inventory included an assessment of culvert suitability, fish pass ability, and erosion control. She also assisted with the creation and interpretation of a public questionnaire of residents living within the watershed to gauge public interest and knowledge. This project will assist the conservation district in the creation of a watershed management plan for the Munuscong River.

Ross Gay (Midland, Mich.) conducted research on Great Lakes tributaries and assessed the effects of spawning pacific salmon on the drift of aquatic macroinvertebrates. Salmon are often referred to as ecosystem engineers because of their spawning activities. This is important because aquatic macroinvertebrates are an important food source for native fishes. In their native range, it is known that salmon increase aquatic macroinvertebrate drift. Ross found that salmon spawning in Great Lakes streams had no effect on drift.

Luigi Greco (Sault Ste Marie, Ont.) investigated the inherent and acquired resistive abilities of a common eye bacteria,Pseudomonas aeruginosa, to current contact lens solutions. Historically, the bacteria is inherently resistive to other antimicrobial agents, and the results of Greco’s study supported this trait. However, the results were not conclusive in determining whether the pathogen could acquire a resistance to the solutions. Knowledge gained through this project will further the development of effective contact lens cleaning solutions.

Corey Johnson (Traverse City, Mich.) studied nest site preferences among species of Michigan raptors. Raptors may select nests based on habitat, as well as tree size and species. The study worked with the National Park Service to survey the Manitou islands. The data collected can be used in better management techniques for endangered species, such as the piping plover. A follow-up study is currently being planned.

Alyssa Loney (Merritt, Mich) evaluated the relationship between protein consumption and muscle maintenance among Division II women’s basketball players at LSSU. Results will provide information to athletes indicating whether or not adding a source of protein to their diet would increase muscle maintenance throughout the competition season.

Heather Millard (Delton, Mich.) studied the immunological response of Atlantic salmon, an important game and aquaculture fish in the Great Lakes region, to the bacterium Aeromonas salmonicida. A. salmonicida causes a disease called furunculosis, which is characterized by lesions on the skin of fish. Millard’s study found that the bacterial infection caused increased amounts of white blood cells and decreased amounts of red blood cells in the blood stream.

Robert Morgan (Fairview, Mich.) studied the effects of released pheasants on seasonal raptor abundance. Pheasants are typically released from hunting preserves between September and December. Surveys were conducted twice a month to determine raptor abundance but, due to the lack of raptor sightings, no conclusions could be made.

Tara Novak (Cedar, Mich.) observed the preferred foraging habitats of white-tailed deer in the northern Lower Peninsula. This can help hunters and conservationists reduce their costs in planting food plots and manage healthy herds. They will be able to see which forage was preferred and how the deer use these plots to help them survive through all seasons. Her study showed a significant difference of which plots deer used based on the time of year.

Dan Operhall (Ann Arbor, Mich.) analyzed scales taken from steelhead caught by anglers in the St. Mary's River. By analyzing the scales Operhall was able to determine the percentage of steelhead caught that were naturally reproduced in the wild or stocked from a hatchery. His results can assist fisheries managers in setting fishing regulations and determining future stocking numbers.

Stephanie Plummer (Linden, Mich) studied the effects of herbal remedies (honey, garlic, and tea tree oil) on four common microbes found in dog ear infections. The relationships observed from this study indicated that tea tree oil is the most effective at inhibiting bacterial growth, garlic was a close second, and honey had the least effective outcome. Additional tests were done to determine the mechanism of action of each treatment in terms of reactive oxygen species production. The data points towards tea tree oil being radical producers, garlic as an antioxidant, and honey was inconclusive. Results from this study can lead to other efficient and cost-effective sources of animal treatments.

Mary Strzalkowski (Redford Twp., Mich.) assessed the quality of habitat for snowshoe hare in Michigan’s Eastern Upper Peninsula. Studies have determined that snowshoe hare are an important prey item for the endangered Canada lynx. Her study found that areas from a previous study that were assumed to be a high quality habitat do, in fact, have snowshoe hare populations. This was found by observing their tracks and where they ate. Knowing more about Snowshoe hare can help to increase future Canada lynx populations.

Michael Tower (Marion, Mich.) conducted a fish population survey and an angler survey at Three Mile Pond just east of Engadine, Mich. His goal was to determine which trout, brown trout or rainbow trout would provide a better fishery. He determined that the addition of rainbow trout into the pond that previously had been stocked with brown trout increased angler satisfaction. He also used morality trends to determine the length of time the trout will live in the pond, and found that brown trout will survive longer than rainbow trout in the pond.

Andrew Truax (Elgin, Illinois) observed whether two aquatic invasive species, the rusty crayfish and zebra mussel, had migrated into the St. Mary's River from established populations around its outlet into Lake Huron. In addition he also looked at the demand for a prevention of these species along the river in regards to Chippewa County residents. Truax’s study found that neither the rusty crayfish or zebra mussel had moved into the St. Marys River in any of his sample sites, and that there is a demand for preventative measures to be taken in protecting the St. Mary’s River from aquatic invasive species.

Kelly Turek (Mayville, Mich.) assessed the accuracy and precision of using fish otoliths, fin rays, and scales for determining Atlantic salmon age. Age is among the most influential metrics in fisheries management as it is used to determine various population characteristics (growth rates, mortality, etc.). Therefore, the validation of these aging techniques is necessary. Results showed that when considering accuracy, precision, and time, fin rays are the best method for aging Atlantic salmon, followed by otoliths, and scales.

Rene’ Williams (Clare, Mich.) investigated bacteria colonization on Atlantic salmon due to sea lamprey scars and the health status of the fish. Sea lamprey wounds may cause secondary infections that could lead to massive mortality of fish. Williams’ study found that there are many potentially dangerous bacteria on the skin of the fish which could lead to outbreak of disease and noticed a decrease in white blood cells in fish with scars. Knowledge gained will be beneficial to LSSU Aquatic Research Laboratory by minimizing the risk of possible pathogens from fish with lamprey scars.

Brittany Woodthorp (Pellston, Mich.) studied the basking behaviors of painted turtles in response to weather conditions on the Black River in Cheboygan County. Observations of facing, position, and number of turtles basking were recorded along with several environmental factors. Basking is an important part of turtle behavior, so determining the cues for this behavior can lead to a better understanding of how it occurs. While no significant relationships were found, in this case, further study may yield more results.

Run a Web search for "LSSU biology" for more about studying biology at LSSU.


CONTACTS: John Shibley, e-mail, 906-635-2314; Tom Pink, e-mail, 635-2315; Prof. Nancy Kirkpatrick, e-mail, 635-2894.