BIO-CUBISM – Lake Superior State University student Harry Dittrich deploys a cube in a fire-damaged area west of Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. His senior thesis project — the results of which will be presented next spring — uses time-lapse photography to compare biodiversity between fire damaged and adjacent non-damaged habitats. Twenty biology students are presenting their senior thesis project findings on Nov. 22-23 in LSSU's Crawford Hall. The public is welcome. (LSSU/John Shibley)
A print-resolution photo that runs with this caption can be found by clicking here.
SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. -- Introducing Honey bees to an area jumpstarts the activity of other pollinating insects, and the relatively rare Lake Sturgeon is reproducing Ontario's Garden River. These are just two findings that Lake Superior State University biology students will present during a senior research project symposium on Nov. 22-23.
The research symposium is in two parts. An informal poster session is Friday, Nov. 22, between 3 and 5 p.m., in the north hallway of Crawford Hall. Formal oral presentations will run concurrently 9 a.m.-noon on Saturday, Nov. 22, in Crawford Hall rooms 303, 304, 305 and 306. Refreshments will be served on Saturday during a coffee break at about 10:20 a.m.
"Twenty biology majors will share the results of their senior thesis research projects this year," says Jun Li, Ph.D., senior thesis coordinator.
"Senior thesis research is the capstone experience for LSSU students studying the sciences," says Li. "Under the guidance of faculty mentors, 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 students to design and complete, and generally address practical issues of local biological and environmental concerns.
The senior thesis experience for students in the sciences, engineering, and several other majors, is one aspect of LSSU that greatly sets it apart from other undergraduate programs.
Senior thesis research topics reflect a wide range of topics that biology students study during their years at LSSU:
Melissa S. Behrmann, of Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., studied the change of development over time in the Ashmun Creek Watershed, located in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. The composition of the watershed has changed from mostly agricultural land in 1939, to mostly developed with no agriculture, a few fields, and some forest in 2010. This research is important because development and "impervious surfaces" such as asphalt and concrete can have a negative impact on a watershed. The aim of this study is to aid Mike Ripley of the Soo Watershed Association and the Army Corps of Engineers in their assessment of the watershed and how to rehabilitate it.
Zachary Berry of Comstock Park, Mich., assessed fish populations in the Little Rapids area of the St. Mary's River in order to determine if the area was in need of restoration. His results showed that the area was, in fact, in need of attention. The fish species utilizing the area were fish common of lentic habitats; more desirable sport fish were nearly absent. The habitat that was historically present in the area can be nearly restored by the reconstruction of the causeway blocking flow into the area. With the reconstruction of the causeway, the return of spawning habitat and forage in the area could possibly cause an increase in the sport fish population. This research is important because it can potentially cause a jump in the salmonid/sport fish populations in the St. Mary's River and therefore creating an increase in tourism and revenue in the twin Saults.
Cody Besteman of Hudsonville, Mich., studied three methods of estimating population size of White-tailed deer at the Hiawatha Sportsman’s Club to assess the club’s current method of hunter surveys. His results revealed that each method differed in density estimates and should be used more as an index of the population rather than actually estimating density. These results are important to deer managers, as herd monitoring is an essential part of management programs.
Angela Cena of St. Ignace, Mich., studied the canine and molar teeth of domestic cats to determine if there was a significant difference between their fracture strength. Her results showed that although there was a difference in the fracture rate between the two teeth types, it was not enough to conclude a significant statistical difference. This research is important to the field of dentistry because the rate at which varying teeth fracture and need repair could potentially lead to more detailed and efficient care plans for human and animal patients and their health care providers.
Selena Creed of Cheboygan, Mich., compared two auditory methods — passive and call-broadcast — used to survey avian species. The purpose of this study was to determine which method was most effective at detecting vocalizations from Michigan’s resident owl species. Her results showed an increase in barred owl vocalizations using the call-broadcast method and an overall increase in barred owl vocalizations during the late-breeding season. The results of this study are important to the research of nocturnal avian species and can be applied to programs monitoring species at a population level.
Stephen Dishman of Clinton Township, Mich., assessed how brochures can help to inform the public on the issue of controlling invasive Phragmites australis, a large troublesome plant found in wetland areas. The plant is detrimental to wildlife, plants, and humans. A pilot brochure was distributed at five locations in Macomb County; a corresponding survey was put online to determine if the brochure was effective in this goal. Dishman's results indicate that the brochure is an effective tool, but pricey. This research is important because the invasive plant continues to spread and proper control methods are the only way to reverse this problem.
Greg Fedirko of Linden, Mich., studied the movements of bacteria in the water column and sediment at Brimley State Park in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. He was looking to see if sediment could act as a reservoir and source (allowing growth and accumulation) for pathogenic bacteria that oftentimes results in closures of the beach at Brimley throughout the summer swimming season. His results showed that bacteria counts are most likely due to other sources of runoff and not fully from the sediment itself. This research is important because if the bacteria reservoirs can be identified, officials can take measures to attack the sources of contamination, thus resulting in safer swimming water.
David Ferris of Buchanan, Mich., studied the presence of parasitic roundworms in the intestines of raccoons. His results showed that the number of infections are low in southwestern Michigan and, is lower in early summer than in the fall. This research is important because the roundworm poses a potential health hazard to humans and many species of wildlife, and numbers of infections vary throughout the country.
Audrey Fradette of Cheboygan, Mich., studied the prevalence and dietary influence of Iron Deficiency Anemia (IDA), a shortage of hemoglobin due to inadequate iron intake, in college students. Her results showed that IDA is not more prevalent in the college students she tested than it is among the general population, but those who were anemic had noted nutritional deficiencies. This research is important because IDA can contribute to problems with concentration and feelings of physical weakness. This can cause problems in an environment such as college.
Stephanie Gaff of Grayling, Mich., investigated how introducing honeybees to an environment would affect the number of local pollinators present. Her results showed that over the duration of one summer, the number of all pollinators increased. The ratio of bees to other pollinators was much greater at the location where bees were introduced. This relationship shows that the bees that were introduced expressed dominance in their relationship to other local pollinators.
Courtney Gaskell of Grand Rapids, Mich., studied the effects of caffeine on the observable behaviors of the Emerald shiner (Notropis atherinoides). Her goal was to determine a relationship between caffeine concentration and abnormal behaviors of that species. Kolmogorov-Smirnov tests were run and no significant difference was seen between caffeine concentration and fish behavior. Further research is important to assess the negative effects that contaminated wastewater may have on fish species and to see if different caffeine concentrations alter behavior.
Sarah Keetch of Oscoda, Mich., studied the concentration of the enzyme alpha-amylase in carnivores, omnivores, and herbivores to determine if there was any significant difference between each species with a targeted diet. Her results were inconclusive because the assay used to detect the alpha-amylase was not able to reliably pick up the concentrations in carnivores or herbivores. It was expected that there would be the most alpha amylase in herbivores, than omnivores and carnivores with the least amount of the enzyme. This research is relevant because it is important to know how the species evolved in comparison, as well as maintaining proper diets.
Fred Kirby of Redford, Mich., studied the effects of introducing non-indigenous brown trout into a native brook trout stream in order to document the long-term changes on the native brook trout populations. His results showed that after the introduction of brown trout, brook trout populations declined to approximately 40% of their original population. The leading cause of this was determined to be that young-of-year brook trout numbers declined due to a lack of habitat and food when in competition with brown trout. This research is important because it gives fisheries managers a better understanding on how to preserve, protect, and manage brook trout streams throughout Michigan.
Adam Mackey of Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., studied antibiotic resistance in Aeromonas bacteria. His objective was to determine if there were other antibiotics that could be used to prevent the overabundance of this bacteria in river systems. His findings showed that though there was effective susceptibility to antibiotics already tested in other research, new antibiotics were also tested that showed susceptibility as well that could not be found in present research. This research is important because both fish researchers and physicians are finding it more difficult to protect against infections using antibiotics.
Samantha Palmer of Elmira, Mich., studied the population effects of removing beech trees in areas with beech blight on resident bird species of Hiawatha Sportsman’s Club property. Her results showed that the removal of trees, and the resulting surge in understory growth, caused the bird species composition to shift from birds found in open forests to birds found in brushier habitats. With the spread of beech blight and the need for control increasing, it is important to see the effects that management efforts are having on local wildlife in order to determine future actions.
Jessica Phal of Alpena, Minch., studied the effectiveness of the Aquatic Research Laboratory’s filtration system in Sault Sainte Marie, which is designed to reduce disease on Atlantic salmon stocks. Bacterial removal from the system at different sampling sites over seasonal changes was analyzed. Her results showed notable differences of bacterial removal between unfiltered and filtered river water. There were no significant differences of bacteria growth between the components of the filtration system. Phal's findings also showed that bacterial levels were at their highest peak during colder temperatures. In addition, she studied antibiotic resistance against certain bacteria from this filtration system. Chloramphenicol was the most effective antibiotic agent against the resulting bacteria. This research is important because these findings could be connected to Atlantic salmon diseases during the earlier stages of the Atlantic salmon growth and development. Further research should be conducted.
Troy Pine of Garden River, Ont., studied Lake Sturgeon reproduction in the Garden River by trying to determine if there was a correlation between larval drift density and temperature. His results showed that Lake Sturgeon are using the Garden River for reproduction. In total, 97 larval Lake Sturgeon were captured using D shaped larval drift nets. All larval Lake Sturgeon were captured in water temperatures between 16 °C and 19°C. This research is important because not only are Lake Sturgeon culturally-important to First Nations people, but sturgeon populations are also on the decline, which is why it’s important to participate in management efforts to sustain future numbers.
Zach Prause of Grand Rapids, Mich., studied the effects of using a buffering solution to modify the pH of Muskellunge eggs to improve fertilization success. When tested, eggs not treated with the buffering solution provided an average fertilization of approximately 18.8%, while eggs treated with the buffering solution had an average fertilization of between 57.3 and 70.5%. Use of a buffering solution while artificially spawning Muskellunge was very successful in increasing fertilization success. This research is important because it means buffering solutions can be used by other hatcheries to improve not only Muskellunge production, but other fish with low fertilization rates as well.
Michael VanBuren of Rockwood, Mich., compiled data from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula on the number of trappers pursuing American Martens and the amount of effort with which they did so. These were compared to bag limits, season length, and pelt prices to determine what factors motivate trappers. VanBuren found that pelt prices have no short-term effect on the number of trappers or the effort with which they pursued martens. Season length did have an increasing effect on the number of trappers; however it did not increase the effort at which they hunted. This research can be used to help determine the factors the motivate people to target Martens when trapping.
Blake Vandenberg of Grand Haven, Mich., studied the effects of improperly installed road-stream crossings on natural connectivity of stream ecosystems. His results showed that most parameters, such as water quality and habitat, showed no statistical differences when averaged throughout the reach of the study. However, there were measureable, localized effects in the immediate areas of road-stream crossings, which suggest that changes do occur. This research is important because it will help minimize impacts of future road-stream improvements.
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. Jun Li, biology senior thesis coordinator, e-mail, 635-2094.