Research Opportunities in Biology for Summer 2023
Carol Jansky – Racoon Predation Patterns
Raccoons and potentially other predators are depredating Indiana bats, an endangered species, during hibernation in the world’s largest Indiana bat hibernaculum at Sodalis Nature Preserve, Hannibal, MO. Pending USFWS approval, our objective is to estimate the number of different individuals that are eating the Indiana bats using DNA sequencing. Is it isolated to a few individual predators or is this widespread behavior? To that end, we will work on refining a method to isolate and amplify DNA from raccoon scat collected from this hibernaculum during the winter of 2023. If successful, we will have the DNA sequenced and attempt to determine an answer to whether this depredation is widespread behavior among predators, giving us valuable information for the management of the endangered Indiana bat.
Dave Mitchell – The Magic of Microorganisms
Microorganisms are often under a great degree of selection pressure or stress as they move into new environments or are challenged by changes in their environment. As a result, they become interesting study systems or models to ask and answer questions about bacterial adaptations and responses. In this project we will try to find interesting places to sample for microorganisms and create laboratory experiments that will try to force these organisms to adapt to survive. Organisms will hopefully be identified using sequencing technologies and other classic microbiological laboratory techniques.
Kristina Timmerman – Behavioral Ecology of Painted Turtles, Fishers, and Other Small Mammals at St. John’s
As part of this research, you will embark on one or more projects: the spatial use of Lake Sagatagan by painted turtles (trapping and tracking turtles); tracking the fisher presence and use of land in the arboretum; and/or using fluorescent powder to track the movement of small mammals such as voles, mice, and flying squirrels. Projects will require students to be comfortable hiking/hauling/paddling in various conditions, working early mornings or late nights, and a general desire to be outdoors.
Katharine Cary – Drivers of Spring Phenology in Plants
Some plants bud out much earlier in the spring than others, and our study will investigate what traits allow these plants to jumpstart their spring growth. We’ll use a variety of techniques, including measuring xylem morphology via microscopy. Research will involve time in the lab and on the computer, as well as fieldwork in the St. John’s Abbey Arboretum.
Demelza Larson – Investigating a Spontaneous Coat Color Mutation in Mice
This project involves characterizing the biological basis of a spontaneous coat color mutation in mice, which also causes fertility defects. Molecular, cellular, and histological approaches will be used to investigate these phenotypes.