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Students, Faculty Conduct Research in Summer Scholars Program

Summer_Scholars_13_2 (2)The College of Arts and Sciences’ Summer Scholar Communities hosted a poster session was Aug. 30 in the Hitch Science Building for students and faculty to showcase their work.

Summer Scholar Communities is a program in the that blends the structure of a summer session class with the format of a research team focused on a faculty-designed research project and differs from traditional undergraduate research in that students and faculty from various disciplines across the CAS meet regularly over the course of the summer to share results, to learn from each other, to present their research findings and discuss challenges and commonalities. The students will present their findings at Belmont’s Science Undergraduate Research Symposium (SURS) on Dec. 2.

Dr. Darlene Panvini, professor of biology, mentored a group of biology and environmental science majors investigating the “Impact of Exotic Plants on Abundance, Diversity, and Distribution of Earthworms.” The students participating were Sarah Gilmore, Kari Morse and Megan Swaine.  Little is known about the occurrence of earthworms in areas invaded by exotic plants, though the “biomass of invasive shrubs has been associated with biomass of exotic earthworms in eastern North America” (EREN proposal).  Earthworms play a crucial role in decomposition of leaf litter and the regeneration of carbon in the carbon cycle. The presence or absence of earthworms can affect nutrient cycling and levels of biodiversity in ecosystems.  In some instances, the presence of exotic earthworms has contributed to the loss of rare plant species and reduced seedling survival. Humans are the major vectors for earthworms; earthworm, exotic plant, and human movement “have been associated with land-use patterns, disturbance, and deer herbivory” (EREN proposal).  Not clear, however, is the impact of invasive shrubs on earthworm diversity or the vice versa effect.

Summer_Scholars_13_1 (2)Dr. John Niedzwiecki, associate professor of biology, mentored a group of biology and environmental science majors including Court Reese, Valini Ramcharan and Kyle Sullinger along with Hannah Martin. Court worked to determine the relationship between two populations of salamanders by comparing mitochondrial DNA. Valini and Kyle studied the effects of size and predator cues on snail behavior.  Hannah’s project used Geographic Information System to collect data about local environments.

Dr. Lori McGrew, associate professor of biology, had a group of biology majors who worked with zebra fish to explore the effect of different compounds on memory and anxiety in the fish. Two students, Allison McCoy and Jen Myer, used antidepressants to treat the fish and then measured the effect on the fish’s working memory. Katie Farrell tested the homeopathic compound, Bacopa, to determine whether this herbal supplement had an effect on working memory or anxiety in zebra fish. Finally, Jordan Gann measured anxiety in zebra fish following their exposure to the pesticide glyphosate.

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