Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program
Funded Projects: 2015
Richard Grabert,marine biology major, Nicholls State University
Faculty advisor: Raj Boopathy, Department of Biological Sciences
Tracking the presence of Vibro pathogens in Louisiana Seafood
The primary goal of the project is to monitor Louisiana seafood for the presence of various vibrio species for a period of one year in oysters, shrimp, fin fish and crab. The specific objectives are to monitor four species of Vibrio, namely, V. vulnificus, V. parahaemolyticus, V. harveyi, and V. chlorae. A second objective is to compare conventional culture based methods with a modern molecular mother using vibrio specific primer. A third objective is to observe seasonal differences in vibrio populations in Louisiana seafood. A fourth objective is to educate the public in a proper ways of cooking seafood to avoid vibrio infection.
Kathalina Tran, ecology and evolutionary biology major, Tulane University
Faculty advisor: Sunshine Van Bael, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
The Symbionts of Bald Cypress Trees along a Salt Gradient
The project objective is to collect, curate and identify the fungal and bacterial endophytes associated with bald cypress roots and leaves from four sites where bald cypress grows naturally in southeast Louisiana. Sodium levels in the soil will be measured to correlate endophyte communities with salinity. Additionally, a greenhouse experiment will be conducted to test how the presence or absence of symbionts affects the biomass and growth rates of new seedlings, rates of photosynthesis and root morphology.
Taylor Weakley, coastal environmental science major, Louisiana State University
Faculty advisor: Sibel Bargu, Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences
Evaluating How Rising Sea Surface Temperature Alters Estuarine Phytoplankton Growth
The overall objective is to investigate important, yet poorly understood, processes impacts or – potential shifts in phytoplankton communities and the bioaccumulation and bio magnification of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in coastal/estuarine food web systems to changing climate -regimes. To fulfill the objective, the researcher will quantify phytoplankton species shifts, zooplankton grazing preferences, and the bio magnification of toxic organic contaminants (e.g., methylmercury) at the base of the estuarine food web under current and predicted sea surface temperatures and pCO2 conditions.
Abigail Hagen, biology/pre-med major, Nicholls State University
Faculty advisor: Enmin Zou, Department of Biological Sciences
Effects of Triclosan on Activities of Epidermal Chitinolythic Enzymes in the Gidder Crab Uca pulilator: an Initial Mechanistic Look into the Inhibition of Crustacean Molting by this Pesticide
The project goal is to gain insight into the mechanism for inhibition of crustacean molting by the pesticide Triclosan (TCS) using the fiddler crab, Uca pugilator. The proposed research intends to address the question of whether TCS’ inhibition of crustacean molting involves suppression of activities of molting enzymes in the epidermis. Results of this project will enhance understanding of the effects of pesticide use on marine species.
Megan Chesnut, biological engineering major, LSU AgCenter
Faculty advisors: Terrence Tiersch, Aquaculture Research Station and and Todd Monroe, Biological and Agricultural Engineering
Fabrication and Quality Control Testing of a Novel Sperm Counting Device for Marine Species
The project goal is to create an economical device that can be mass produced and will standardize the method for determining sperm concentration and motility during on-site cryopreservation. The objectives for this project are as follows: (1) fabricate a reproducible and inexpensive novel counting chamber device using polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS), (2) evaluate fabrication precision and device reproducibility, (3) determine the accuracy and precision of the PDMS-based counting chamber in estimating the concentration of sperm cells, and (4) determine the accuracy and precision of the PDMS-based counting chamber in estimating the motility of sperm cells.
Michael Mahoney, ecology and evolutionary biology major, Tulane University
Faculty advisor: Jordan Karubian, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Effects of the Hypoxic Zone on Important Trophic Dynamics in the Gulf of Mexico
Analysis of telemetry data conducted by the Karubian lab thus far indicates that prey distribution is likely a major determinant of pelican foraging behavior. The extent of individuals foraging areas is also correlated to some degree with the extent of the dead zone in a given year, suggesting that over dispersion of menhaden could lead to decreased efficiency in pelican foraging (i.e. more dives per foraging trip and/or increased travel time). Using telemetry, fisheries data and environmental imagery in tandem, patterns will be revealed across multiple trophic levels to understand how hypoxia influences the demography of a top predator, with implications for other Gulf species as well as regions affected by hypoxia worldwide.
Emily Nall, biological sciences major, LSU
Faculty advisor: J. Cameron Thrash, Department of Biological Sciences
Characterization of a Novel Bacterial Isolate from Louisiana Coastal Waters with the Potential for Hydration Degradation
This project objective is to complete physiological characterization of LSUCC41, including growth optima, carbon sources, etc. Another objective is to complete genomic characterization of LSUCC41 (which represents a member of a new family of Gammaproteobacteria), including comparative analyses with HIMB30, bacteria common in the marine environment that is not harmful to human health.
Brandeus Davis, applied coastal environmental science major, LSU
Faculty advisor: Michael Polito, Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences
Impact of Climate-driven Shifts in Vegetation on Carbon Dynamics in Marsh Food Webs
The project will analyze the isotopic composition of primary producers (saltmarsh and mangroves, benthic microalgae, sediment organic matter) and available benthic consumers (nematodes, crabs, snails and bivalves) to determine how mangrove expansion may influence the basal carbon sources that fuel commercially and recreationally important coastal food webs. This will help inform how further winter warming and increases in mangroves will affect Louisiana’s coastal ecosystems.
Michael Gruden, coastal sciences, chemistry and psychology major, LSU
Faculty advisor: Mark Benefield, Department of Oceanography & Coastal Sciences
Documenting Spatial Distributions of Gelatinous Zooplankton in Louisiana Estuarine Environments with an Advanced Camera System (Zoovis)
The project has two phases. The first will involve construction of a smaller version of ZOOVIS (zooplankton visualization system) suitable for estuarine deployment from a small boat. The original ZOOVIS system was designed to operate to depths of 2,000 meters and is unnecessarily heavy and large for the estuarine work. The second phase will be to survey a transect from LUMCON facilities to the mouth of Terrebonne Bay in order to quantify the spatial pattern of gelatinous and other zooplankton in the system.
Nicholas Stevens, biological science major, SELU
Faculty advisor: Gary Shaffer, Department of Biological Science
Using Marsh Organs to Represent Species Effects of Nutrient Loading and Excessive Floording
It is proposed that we examine the effects of differential flooding and nutrient loading on above- and belowground biomass production of three common wetland plant species in coastal Louisiana. This project will use the varying heights of pipes in the marsh organs to simulate differential elevations in a wetland at the different and nutrient loading rates.