Biology capstones investigate wealth of material

April 21, 2008

Biology majors conducted Capstone research on campus and off on topics ranging from rainforests, frogs and chameleons to cancer and the bird flu. Here is a sample of some of the work from the 16 graduating seniors.

At La Suerte Biological Field Station in Costa Rica, Biology major Rebecca Kincaid studied how species diversity is impacted by how much light reaches the floor of a rain forest. In places where trees had fallen and sunlight poked through the gap in the tree canopy, she examined the ground for richness of plants, animals and insects.

“It was a great experience to get out in the rain forest, step on snakes and such,” she said.

Kinkaid found that light reaching the floor triggered sapling growth, but didn’t correlate with animal or insect species diversity.

After graduation, Kinkaid is headed to medical school at Indiana University, where she expects to go into either pediatrics or internal medicine.

Collagen, the main protein of connective tissue, stays fixed in most humans but can slide and move in animals such as starfish, sea urchins and sea cucumbers. Biology major Chris Richards examined how the collagen in these animals, called mutable collagenous tissues, can be related to a condition in humans called Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS), in which sufferers have skin defects, joint hypermobility, easy bruising and bleeding.

“Collagen is what lets your tissues stidck together and without it, you’d melt into the floor,” Richards said.

After exposing animal tissues to hardening and softening agents, Richards was surprised to find that Ehlers-Danlos syndrome may not be a good model for how the mutable collagenous tissues work.

After graduation, Richards plans to take a year off before going to medical school.

Zeeshan Shaikh explored the negative effects of heparin, an anticoagulant that doctors use to flush patients’ catheters and prevent the formation of clots. He found that bacteria including E. coli and staph viruses can form films on catheter walls, which can move into the bloodstream when catheters are flushed with heparin.

The Art History and Biology major is currently applying to medical school.

Katherine Williams studied how a wildfire in New Jersey affected the green frog population. She expected the population to decrease but based on listening to their calls, found the opposite: More frogs were found at greater density after the fire.

Williams speculates that the fire created a more open pond, where it was easier for the frogs to breed.

Williams plans to become a veterinarian.

List of Posters

1. Kristina Belich
Analysis of the conservation of MCT components from C. frondosa among the echinoderm phyla.

2. Kendall Bieschke
Biologic response to orthopaedic implant materials: Analysis of retrieved hemiresurfacing  implant.

3. Michelle Debaugh
The effects of epinephrine and MSH on the ultrastructural arrangement of chromatophores during color change in the Sambava Panther chameleon.

4. Lauren Esposito
Effects of toxic and non-toxic strains of a dinoflagellate, Karlodinium veneficum, on a Rhode River rotifer, Brachionus plicatilis.

5. Amanda Eubank
The effects of glyphosate on the growth of a biofilm

6. Scott Gelman
Expression of 0-Arrestin1 and 2 in cancer cells

7. Theodore Heinrich
Modeling bird to human transmission of hypothetical poultry-endemic influenza

8. Rebecca Kincaid
 The influence of canopy gaps on species diversity in a Costa Rica rainforest

9. Dana Picco
DNA Extraction: a Preliminary Step to Using Promoters to Insert GFP into the Genome of Gregarina cuneata

10. Chris Richards
An examination of mutable collagenous tissue conservation in phylum Echinodermata and its potential use in the treatment of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.

11. Chrissy Sansone
Partial cloning of the c-kit gene from the Panther chameleon using RT-PCR

12. Jonathan Schultz
Formation of an all-inclusive identification key for the family Dryopidae (Coleoptera) in North America

13. Zeeshan Shaikh
The effect of heparin on biofilm formation on bacteria that commonly adhere to medical devices.

14. Kristen Warfield
Comparative analysis of Apicomplexa: Are rhoptry invasion proteins conserved across the phylum?

15. Katherine Williams
Comparison of population densities of Rana clamitans following a wildfire in the Pinelands of New Jersey.

16. Marina Wilson
Development of molecular diagnostics for North American nematode infections in sheep