"LSSU has a great reputation for placing students in graduate and professional schools. Many of my classmates from LSSU are now pursuing graduate and professional studies at some of the finest universities in Canada and the United States."
"The student-faculty interaction and the ability to conduct research at the undergraduate level really helped me to achieve success in a competitive graduate program. My professors at LSSU were always interested in helping us succeed."
Luke Ferra of Sault Ste. Marie graduated from LSSU in 2006 with a degree in biology and is now working toward a master's degree in epidemiology at University of Western Ontario in London. He plans to continue his studies in the medical sciences.
Luke Fera '06
School of Biological Sciences
Overview of Senior Research Projects
Other Research Projects: Aquatic Research Laboratory
LSSU Celebrates 25 Years of Atlantic Salmon Program
The First Salmon Release from the ARL
Spring 2013 Research Projects
Nick Arend of Stevensville, MI studied the digestive rates of eggs in round goby stomachs to determine the rate that they become unidentifiable. Round gobies are an invasive species that feed on native fishes eggs in the Great Lakes. His results showed that round gobies do not chew their eggs, but swallow them whole. After five hours of digestion an egg shell was still identifiable. This research is important because current digestion studies on round gobies do not prove they eat egg; but there is visual evidence that round gobies do eat eggs. Results from this study can be used to create a standard sampling procedure on round goby diets to detect the presence of eggs.
Trevor Asperger of Grass Lake, MI, studied the effects of tumors on the health of suckers spawning in the Rifle River near Omer MI, as well as the correlation between fish age and tumor incidence. His results showed no significant difference between the health of fish with and without tumors. A slight correlation between age and tumor incidence was found. This research is important because fishermen who consume these fish should be aware of the exposure of the fish to environmental toxins and carcinogens.
Erika Beyer of Holland, Michigan created two biological outreach programs for children pre-K – 3rdgrade at the Howard Miller Public Library in Zeeland, Michigan in collaboration with their summer reading program. Endangered canines and Great Lakes invasive or non-native species were the topics of the presentations. By working with a library, a diverse group of children attended each program. Fifteen children attended each program. She found that engaging a student’s desire to learn through reading helped to initially excite the children in the topic of each program. This research is important because biological education is important for people who aren’t exposed to biology and other sciences on a regular basis.
Michael Caputo of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, investigated the protective benefits of the antioxidant vitamin C against ultraviolet (UV) light, the most prevalent environmental carcinogen. Results of this experiment suggested that human skin cells treated with vitamin C were better protected against UV light-induced DNA damage. This study, along with a host of others, supports the consumption of a wide variety of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables as a strategy to help prevent disease and cancer.
Jordan Christie of Bath, Michigan evaluated the effects of environmental factors on Escherichia coli concentrations at four Chippewa County, Michigan beaches. Brimley State Park, Sherman Park, Sugar Island Township Park and Four Mile Beach are recreational swimming beaches monitored for harmful bacteria to protect the public health. A linear multiple regression analysis was conducted to determine the impact environmental conditions have on the Category I beach E. coli concentrations. These data suggest that chronic sources of pollution influenced by water temperature, turbidity, one day precipitation and two day precipitation uniquely explain E. coli concentrations at the four beaches. This research is important for beach managers to identify sources of pollution and develop effective management plans to keep beaches clean and public healthy.
Josh Cerasuolo of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario assessed patient satisfaction related to specialty healthcare by surveying the general public in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan & Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. He compared the two cities to see if there were significant differences in patient satisfaction between Canadians and Americans living in a rural community. His results indicated a contrast in satisfaction between patients of the border town communities; individuals surveyed from Sault, Michigan were more satisfied with their experiences involving specialty healthcare. This research is important to determine which system (private or public) could better serve an isolated rural community with specialty health care services based on patient perception.
Courtney Cochran of Sitka, Alaska compared the incidence rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea infection in Chippewa County, Michigan and the District of Algoma, Canada from 2002 - 2011. Both chlamydia and gonorrhea have high infection numbers not only in the United States, but globally as well. The average age of infection for both areas was consistent with the CDC average STI infection range of 20 – 24. The highest peak for Algoma was in 2009 with 3.5 infected individuals per 1,000. The highest peak for Chippewa was in 2011 with 2.5 individuals per 1,000. The purpose of this study was to observe and better understand disease incidence in similar geographic locations.
Joselyn Coullard of Brimley, MI studied the effect of Crest Whitestrips on the strength of human teeth. While tooth-whitening is the number one requested cosmetic procedure today, it can cause considerable damage to the teeth. Her results showed that the whitened teeth fractured more easily than non-whitened teeth. This research is important because many people today use tooth-bleaching products such as Crest Whitestrips and should be aware of its harmful effects.
Caryn Crane of Flint, MI evaluated local food use in the restaurants of Sault Ste. Marie for a Food Hub Initiative through the Michigan State University Extension Office. This program is looking at starting an online ordering service called the U.P. Food Exchange and implementing a Food Hub location in the Sault Ste. Marie area. The Food Hub would allow farmers to store and distribute fresh local produce in larger quantities to restaurants and institutions of the Eastern Upper Peninsula. She found that the restaurants are positively responsive to the imitative and would like to participate in incorporating more local foods into their menu. This program is economically important to the community because it can keep goods and services local.
Ashley Denome of Escanaba, MI, studied the relationship between cholesterol-reducing medications and vitamin D levels using patient medical records at War Memorial Hospital and Lakeview Internal Medicine located in Sault Ste Marie, MI. Her results showed that these medications had no effect on vitamin D levels in patients. Since cholesterol is needed to make vitamin D, this study was important for understanding factors that could reduce the amount of this vital molecule in the human body.
Sara Dimick of Rogers City, Michigan investigated round goby energy content across the Great Lakes. Round gobies are non-native fish that invaded the Great Lakes in the 1990’s. They cause harm by outcompeting and preying on native species. In recent years, round gobies are being consumed by native top predators such as lake trout, and water snakes. The goal of this study is to determine both the average round goby energy content and the variability in energy content across locations and seasons. Results showed that round gobies’ energy content varies among the Great Lakes, and varies with season. This information is essential for predicting growth of round goby predators and for understanding food-web linkages in the Great Lakes.
Tom Eitniear of Traverse City, Michigan assessed the water quality of Marquette State Fish Hatchery and the Cherry Creek (the hatcheries water source). Organic matter (total suspended solids), bacteria counts and temperature were analyzed to determine if there is a correlation. High air temperatures resulted in snowmelt that increased total suspended solids and bacteria counts. This research is important because knowing the relationship between snowmelt and bacteria can help the hatchery use preventative actions to prevent putting stress on the fish by increasing an ultra-violet light source to decrease bacteria during snowmelts.
Matthew Elya of Harbor Springs, MI studied how migratory fishes contribute nutrients during spawning runs in Great Lakes streams. Nutrients stimulate the growth of algae which is the base of stream food webs. Historically, only native fish species provided nutrients to streams during their spawning runs; however, introduced fish species now also contribute nutrients to streams during their spawning runs. As a result, stream food webs may be changing. This project compared the amount of nutrients provided to Great Lakes streams by a native species, white suckers, and an introduced species, Chinook salmon, which will ultimately expand our knowledge of their impact on Great Lakes streams.
Tiffany Escherich of Dafter, MI studied the influence of human disturbance on the nesting success of piping plovers in the Great Lakes. The piping plover is an endangered shorebird that has been the focus of management efforts over the past 20+ years. Her results showed that there was no significant difference between the successes of birds that nested in high human disturbance areas versus low human disturbance areas. However, Piping Plovers did show a greater tendency to nest near areas of relatively low human disturbance. This research is important to assist managers in determining how many people to employ to monitor each nest site during the breeding season. These management efforts aid in increasing the success of the Piping Plover’s population recovery efforts.
Logan French, of Columbus Michigan, assisted with gathering information to apply for a funding application through the Environmental Protection Agency. The funding will be used to develop a watershed management plan for the Waishkey River watershed which is done through a ten step program that supports assessment, monitoring and improvement of the water quality in the Waishkey River watershed. Rainfall and snowmelt runoff deliver pollutants across the landscape and deposit them in downstream water bodies. Data was collected to develop background information on the Waishkey River in order to have a better understanding of the current state of the watershed. This experiential learning project was important for developing a plan that would be beneficial to reduce degradation within the Waishkey River watershed.
Sarah Gallagher of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario studied the livers of waterfowl in order to determine the potential host species of the parasite causing swimmer’s itch within the Eastern Upper Peninsula. Waterfowl carcasses were donated by local hunters, the livers were removed, and then parasites were extracted and counted. Four of seventeen species collected tested positive: mallards, hooded mergansers, buffleheads and wigeons. This research identified the most likely species of waterfowl in the Eastern U.P. that can transport swimmer’s itch. Further studies of other factors such as water body type and aquatic vegetation, will be useful in predicting future outbreaks of swimmer’s itch.
Jason Gostiaux of Royal Oak, MI studied changes in growth and size structure of the yellow perch population in Cranberry Lake within the Hiawatha Sportsmen’s Club. Manipulations were previously done in order to establish a better environment for larger (≥ 8 in.) yellow perch by introducing predator fish and lime. His results showed that within five years the yellow perch did not respond their growth rate did not consistently increase. These findings are important because there are few examples of the effects of whole-lake manipulations. At the same time these results help the Sportsmen’s Club manage this lake by updating the members about the current status of the yellow perch population in Cranberry Lake.
Nichole Johnson of Armada, MI studied the effects of Acetaminophen, a common compound found in various pain killers, on a species of water flea (Daphnia magna). Her experiment observed heart rhythm, mortality, reproduction rate and the number of eggs produced by the organisms. The results showed dramatic decrease in the heart rate. The medication concentrations would have eventually been lethal if the medication dosage had continued to be increased. The research is important because it tells us the effects of improper over the counter medication disposal on water systems and its effects on aquatic life.
James Miller of Woodhaven, MI studied a series of environmental and biological factors and how they affected variability in largemouth bass abundance (called recruitment) from year to year in Soldier Lake, near Raco, MI. This lake has a highly variable recruitment from every year. Factors that were chosen to explore this variability included warming rate, temperature variability, high winds, and the abundance of both yellow perch and largemouth bass. James’ results showed that both high winds and high abundance of largemouth bass from the previous year decreased following year’s recruitment. This research shows that the recruitment of the largemouth bass, a well-known game fish in the United States, is dependent on both climate and biological pressures.
Jimmy Osga of Frederic, MI studied the spatial distribution and aggregation patterns of adult sea lamprey in the St. Marys River. His results displayed various distribution patterns which seemed to depend on the spawning season of lamprey. The study also exhibited areas within the river in which specific, untreated, habitats were selected more frequently than others by sea lamprey throughout the summer months. This research is important to the future management and removal of a popular invasive species, in order to help conserve the Great Lakes food web.
Shanelle Pearse of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario studied the effect of capsaicin on the growth of Streptococcus gordonii, a bacterium of the human mouth. In other words, “can the active chemical compound in hot chili peppers inhibit the growth of a dangerous oral bacterium?” Streptococcus gordonii infections, if allowed to reach the blood stream can cause formation of blood clots, restriction of blood flow, and eventual acute congestive heart failure. Capsaicin not only generates the sensation of heat upon ingestion but also it is responsible for many of the peppers’ disease-fighting properties. This research is important because it would give facts and advice about a complex public health issue and also give the general public an easy, tasty way of promoting his/ her own health.
Scott Pekel of Holton, Michigan completed an Experiential Learning Project that involved planning and implementing an environmental restoration project adjacent to a motorsport trail within the Manistee National Forest. The Cedar Creek motorsport trail had numerous locations that were experiencing severe erosion, and this led to terrestrial and aquatic habitat damage. The project involved planning the project by writing a grant to obtain funding, finalizing budget figures, ordering materials and then building erosion control devices on site and installing them. The erosion control devices, called water bars, function by retaining soil and letting water pass through. This helps return the hillsides to a more natural state, and improves habitat in the project area. Along with the implementation of the project for this year, future restoration sites were surveyed and a grant was written to fund project work for summer 2013.
Ashley Poehls of Baraga, MI studied the effects of ocean acidification on the growth rate, culture density, and cell size of a calcifying marine microalgae. This algae contributes to many chemical and biological processes in the oceans, making it important to understand how it is being affected by our changing oceans. Her results showed a reduced growth rate and lower culture density with increasing acidity, as well as greater cell sizes in the higher acidity environment. In conjunction with other studies, this research will provide a better understanding of how ocean acidification will affect these calcifying primary producers and them any chemical and biological processes associated with them.
Kyle Marc Point of St. Clair Shores, MI looked at the diets of hunter harvested diving ducks and sea ducks in the eastern Upper Peninsula of Michigan. He found that ducks in this region ate a variety of plant and animal foods. He did not find conclusive evidence that any ducks in the study consumed zebra or quagga mussels, which are invasive species. This research is important because it is the only duck diet study that has been conducted in the eastern Upper Peninsula. The results also differ from duck diet studies on the lower Great Lakes, where invasive zebra mussels are a common food source and a concern for waterfowl managers.
Jeffrey Salvin of Walker, Michigan studied northern pike movement after dam removal in the Potagannissing River. His results showed that northern pike were moving upstream successfully with the rock ramp system that is currently in place. The amount of adult northern pike moving upstream could suggest higher reproduction due to more spawning habitat being accessible. The increased amount of habitat could be a step toward increasing the low population. This research is important because northern pike is a popular fish species in the St. Marys River basin and northern pike populations have been decreasing in the system.
Fisheries and Wildlife
Thaddeus assessed habitat changes over the past 11 years at the Vermilion Ecological Research Station, located some 10 miles west of Whitefish Point on Lake Superior. He compared vegetation records with a survey of current plant communities to describe aspects of ecological processes at the site. While changes to the landscape have occurred during the past decade, the effects may not significantly impact animals such as the Great Lakes endangered Piping Plover.