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BIOL2018ALENIUS27660 BIOL

Can Specialists Generalize? Diets of Texas Horned Lizards (Phrynosoma cornutum) in Small Texas Towns

Type: Graduate
Author(s): Rachel Alenius Biology
Advisor(s): Dean Williams Biology Tamie Morgan Geology
Location: Session: 2; 3rd Floor; Table Number: 4

poster location

The Texas horned lizard (Phrynosoma cornutum) is considered a threatened species in Texas and Oklahoma, due to substantial range declines over the past several decades. Horned lizards are believed to be highly vulnerable to habitat alterations, due to extreme specialization on ants, particularly harvester ants (Pogonomyrmex spp.). I analyzed diets of Texas horned lizards from two small towns by identifying exoskeletons of prey items found in fecal pellets. I assessed dietary specialization by comparing diet to prey availability, based on pitfall traps and abundance of harvester ant colonies. My results found strong spatio-temporal variation with respect to prey abundance and consumption. Harvester termites (Tenuirostritermes cinereus) and big-headed ants (Pheidole spp.) accounted for over 70% of all prey consumed. Average consumption of big-headed ants was comparable to their abundance in pitfall traps, but consumption of harvester termites was much higher than their pitfall trap abundance. Consumption of harvester ants is strongly correlated with the number of harvester ant colonies within study sites and horned lizard home ranges. Dietary diversity and richness were positively related to the area of dense vegetation in sites and lizard home ranges. These results suggest horned lizards in these towns adjust diet in relation to prey availability, which is considered a characteristic of generalist predators. The superior nutritional value of harvester termites relative to similarly sized ants could explain the apparent lack of size-based prey preference in these horned lizard populations.

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BIOL2018BRUNS38844 BIOL

Reproductive effects of early life stage thyroid disruption in the fathead minnow

Type: Graduate
Author(s): Peter Bruns Biology Bethany Pierce Biology Mallory Seemann Biology
Advisor(s): Marlo Jeffries Biology
Location: Session: 2; Basement; Table Number: 1

poster location

Exposure to contaminants during development has the potential to cause adverse biological alterations that can persist through depuration periods and into adulthood. This study examined the effects of chemically induced, early-life-stage thyroid disruption on endpoints associated with thyroidal and reproductive function in the fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas). Fish were exposed to propylthiouracil (PTU) from 1 to 43 days post hatch (dph) to induce hypothyroidism. At the end of exposure, length and weight were measured and samples were taken for gene expression analysis. The remaining fish were transferred to un-dosed water and raised to maturity and, at 164 dph, a 21-day breeding assay was performed. At the end of exposure, fish exposed to PTU had significantly reduced length and weight indicating successful thyroid disruption. There were also significant differences in expression of several genes involved in the thyroidal and reproductive signaling systems. After maturation, there were no significant differences in any morphological variables. During the 21-day breeding assay, fish from the PTU exposure group had significantly reduced overall fecundity relative to controls. Based on data collected so far, it appears that this reduction in fecundity is due to either ovarian dysfunction or alterations in reproductive behavior. The results show that early-life-stage hypothyroidism can affect reproductive function later in life even after thyroid related endpoints have returned to control levels.

(Poster is private)

BIOL2018CALLAGHAN48892 BIOL

Identifying Cellular Proteins that Interact with Hepatitis C Virus Protein NS3/4A

Type: Undergraduate
Author(s): Kaitlyn Callaghan Biology
Advisor(s): Giridhar Akkaraju Biology
Location: Session: 2; 2nd Floor; Table Number: 9

poster location

Hepatitis C Virus is estimated to infect 3% of the world’s population and is transmitted by contaminated blood. HCV can be asymptomatic or lead to cirrhosis of the liver, liver cancer or hepatocellular carcinoma. Understanding the virus life cycle and the viral proteins generated by HCV will help generate new mechanisms of inhibition of the virus. HCV produces 10 viral proteins when it infects hepatocytes that increase the reproduction ability of the virus. The anti-viral response of the body uses transcription factors such as ATF-2, NFKB, and IRF-3 that translocated into the nucleus and bind to the interferon gene that produces interferon to alert the body of a viral infection. HCV viral protein NS3/4A acts as protease to cleave the polycistronic strand of viral proteins made by HCV and is known to inhibit IRF-3 movement into the nucleus to inhibit the production of interferon. HCV viral protein NS5A is known to inhibit the movement of transcription factor NFKB into the nucleus, thus inhibiting the anti-viral response. We are interested to see if NS3/4A inhibits the anti-viral response by blocking the movement of both transcription factors IRF-3 and NFKB into the nucleus.

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BIOL2018FREDIANI25359 BIOL

Effects of social isolation on LPS-induced hippocampal amyloid-beta expression and cognitive dysfunction in C57BL6/J male and female mice

Type: Undergraduate
Author(s): Gabrielle Frediani Biology Rachel Donaldson Biology Micah Eimerbrink Psychology Christopher Hagen Biology Julia Peterman Psychology Jordon White Psychology
Advisor(s): Michael Chumley Biology Gary Boehm Psychology Meredith Curtis Biology
Location: Session: 2; 2nd Floor; Table Number: 8

poster location

Psychological stress afflicts a considerable portion of the world’s population, and is linked, as both a risk factor and potential contributor, to dementia-related brain dysfunction in diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD). The brain dysfunction in AD is marked by an increase in Amyloid-beta, the protein responsible for plaque deposition in the brain. The present study aimed to explore alterations in the production of amyloid-beta in response to stress and inflammation. Specifically, we were interested in social isolation stress- and inflammation-induced differences in cognition and amyloid-beta production in male and female mice. Mice were subjected to acute social isolation (6 days) and chronic isolation (28 days) or control group housing. Results revealed that exposure to both acute and social isolation can lead to an exacerbated inflammatory response to lipopolysaccharide (LPS). Subsequently, we examined if the stressors altered amyloid-beta production following the same inflammatory stimulus. Animals received LPS or saline injections once per day for seven consecutive days after the completion of either stress protocol or group housing. The contextual fear conditioning paradigm (CFC) was utilized to assess cognition. Brain tissue extractions were performed to quantify amyloid-beta protein levels. It is hypothesized that isolated animals will demonstrate cognitive deficits in CFC as well as increased brain amyloid-beta following LPS injections.

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BIOL2018GERSTLE55536 BIOL

Mercury Risk to Piscivorous Wading Birds of the South Central United States

Type: Graduate
Author(s): Christopher Gerstle Biology Matthew Chumchal Biology Ray Drenner Biology
Advisor(s): Ray Drenner Biology Matthew Chumchal Biology
Location: Session: 1; 2nd Floor; Table Number: 6

poster location

Mercury (Hg) is a toxic heavy metal that has contaminated all aquatic food webs and can pose a health risk to aquatic predators. Piscivorous birds are apex predators in aquatic systems that are exposed to mercury through the consumption of Hg-contaminated fish. Although there is extensive data on Hg concentrations in fish, the data on Hg concentrations in birds is relatively limited. I used a previously published relationship between Hg concentrations in piscivorous bird blood and Hg concentrations in prey fish to estimated Mg concentrations in the blood of four species of piscivorous wading birds in the south central U.S. [Little Blue Herons (Egretta caerulea), Green Herons (Butorides verescens), Great Egrets (Ardea albus) and Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias)] from the concentration of Hg found in bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus). Estimated Hg concentrations in bird blood increased with the size of prey fish consumed and was lowest for Little Blue Herons and Green Herons, intermediate for Great Egrets and highest for Great Blue Herons. Estimated Hg concentrations in bird blood was greatest in ecoregions where conifer-adjusted mercury deposition was highest. Mercury risk to bird health varied with bird species and increased with Hg deposition. Little Blue Herons, Green Herons, Great Egrets and Great Blue Herons were at some level of risk in 14, 36, 86 and 100% of ecoregions, respectively. The threat of Hg to the health of piscivorous wading birds may not be unique to south central U.S. and may extend throughout the southeastern United States due to high Hg deposition and extensive forest coverage.

(Poster is private)

BIOL2018HANNAPPEL4893 BIOL

Mercury Risk to Gamefish in the South Central U.S.

Type: Graduate
Author(s): Madeline Hannappel Biology Matt Chumchal Biology Ray Drenner Biology Chris Gerstle Biology Spencer Weinstein Biology
Advisor(s): Matt Chumchal Biology
Location: Session: 1; Basement; Table Number: 9

poster location

Methyl mercury (MeHg) is a toxic heavy metal that contaminates all aquatic systems and can pose a risk to fish. Inorganic and elemental mercury (Hg) is emitted into the atmosphere primarily from anthropogenic sources and inorganic Hg is deposited on the landscape. In waterbodies, inorganic Hg can be methylated by bacteria and incorporated in the food chain, becoming concentrated in fish. Previous studies have found that MeHg concentrations in fish are high enough to pose a risk to fish in many parts of North America, but the risk to fish in the south-central U.S. has not been studied. In this study, we examine how Hg deposition, fish trophic position and fish length affect MeHg risk to fish. Mercury deposition sets the potential for MeHg contamination in fish while fish trophic position and length determines the realized MeHg contamination of fish. We used data from the Mercury Deposition Network to estimate average Hg deposition for 14 ecoregions of the south-central U.S. Fish were collected by government agencies from 728 sampling sites in the south-central U.S. We used the National Descriptive Model for Mercury in Fish to estimate average MeHg concentrations of five size categories of bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus), a low trophic position invertivore, and largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides), a high trophic position piscivore, at each site. We determined the percentage of sites where estimated MeHg concentrations in fish exceeded risk thresholds associated with potential 1) biochemical effects, 2) reproductive and behavioral effects and 3) growth effects. The percentage of sites where fish MeHg concentrations exceeded at least one risk threshold increased with Hg deposition, fish trophic position and fish length, with large-sized largemouth bass in ecoregions with high Hg deposition being at the greatest risk. Our results indicate that MeHg contamination in the south-central U.S. could negatively impact largemouth bass fisheries.

BIOL2018HUYNH84096 BIOL

Determine Phytoene Desaturase Gene Copy Number in Hydrilla verticillata

Type: Undergraduate
Author(s): Tu Huynh Biology
Advisor(s): Dean Williams Biology Matt Hale Biology
Location: Session: 2; Basement; Table Number: 4

poster location

Hydrilla verticillata is an invasive aquatic weed in the United States (U.S.) that has recently
developed resistance to the herbicide fluridone. In this study, we utilized genome walking and
quantitative real-time PCR to investigate the phytoene desaturase (PDS) gene copy number of
hydrilla samples with different ploidy levels. We asked 1) if copy number simply corresponds to the
ploidy level, and 2) if there is increased PDS copy number in resistant populations due to gene
duplication. Using qPCR and microsatellite loci to compare PDS copy number between diploid,
triploid and tetraploid samples, we found that diploid hydrilla from Africa showed higher PDS copy
number than triploid populations from the U.S. The results also indicated that there was no
significant difference in PDS gene copy numbers between the fluridone-resistant and -susceptible
triploid populations. Our study suggests that PDS amplification may not be a mechanism
responsible for fluridone resistance in hydrilla.

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BIOL2018KHAN19280 BIOL

Methylmercury Contamination in Terrestrial Spiders along the Trinity River

Type: Undergraduate
Author(s): Amal Khan Biology Garrett Wallace Biology
Advisor(s): Matthew Chumchal Biology Ray Drenner Biology
Location: Session: 2; 3rd Floor; Table Number: 8

poster location

Methylmercury (MeHg) is a toxic environmental contaminant found in all waterbodies on Earth. Aquatic emergent insects, such as mosquitoes and midges, can transfer MeHg from waterbodies to terrestrial ecosystems. Terrestrial shoreline spiders consume aquatic emergent insects and become contaminated with MeHg. Methylmercury-contaminated spiders can pose a risk to songbirds that consume terrestrial spiders. Because shoreline spiders have MeHg concentrations that reflect MeHg contamination of nearby aquatic ecosystems and are an important source of MeHg to songbirds, they have been proposed as a biosentinel species that can be used to estimate MeHg contamination of waterbodies. In this study, I used long-jawed orb weavers (Tetragnatha sp.) as a biosentinel species to examine MeHg contamination along the Clear Fork and the West Fork of the Trinity River, Fort Worth, Texas. The objectives of this study were to: 1) evaluate MeHg contamination in long-jawed orb weavers from two forks of the Trinity River, and 2) determine if the concentrations of MeHg in the spiders pose a risk to songbirds that feed on spiders. I collected 101 and 105 spiders along the Clear Fork and the West Fork, respectively. I used a Direct Mercury Analyzer to determine the total Hg concentration of the long-jawed orb weavers. Because MeHg is the primary species of mercury in spider tissues, I used total Hg as a proxy for MeHg. All spiders were contaminated with MeHg, with spiders along the Clear Fork having significantly higher MeHg concentrations than spiders along the West Fork. Methylmercury in spiders increased with spider size along the Clear Fork. Concentrations of MeHg in spiders along the Clear Fork and the West Fork were high enough to pose a risk to the physiology of nestling songbirds that feed on spiders.

(Poster is private)

BIOL2018MALMQUIST59917 BIOL

Development and use of a G. mellonella infection model to discover novel virulence mutants in B. anthracis

Type: Graduate
Author(s): Jacob Malmquist Biology
Advisor(s): Shauna McGillivray Biology
Location: Session: 1; Basement; Table Number: 10

poster location

Understanding bacterial virulence is important because it provides insight into the molecular basis behind bacterial infections. With the decreased efficacy of antibiotics due to the development of drug resistance, this knowledge could be used to identify specific targets for new pharmacological targets thereby strengthening our arsenal against these pathogens. Currently, our main mechanism by which to evaluate in vivo virulence is the mouse model (Mus musculus). While this model is effective, there are substantial ethical and resource constraints associated with vertebrate use. In order to provide alternative in vivo testing models, this study investigated the invertebrate wax worm larvae, G. mellonella, as an in vivo infection model for B. anthracis. To validate the ability of G. mellonella to discern attenuated bacterial strains, previously identified virulence mutants were constructed and assessed. This model proved capable of distinguishing between virulent and avirulent strains. Next, we tested whether G. mellonella could identify novel virulence mutants. A small collection of transposon mutants was screened for deficits in reactive oxygen species (ROS) survival and iron acquisition using in vitro screens. This yielded 10 attenuated mutants. These mutants were then assessed in G. mellonella and 2 were found to have an in vivo phenotype. These results demonstrate the potential effectiveness of G. mellonella as a future infection model and could increase the efficiency in the identification of novel bacterial virulence mutants.

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BIOL2018MARTINEZ52539 BIOL

Effects of water calcium concentrations on fertilization and early development of zebra mussels

Type: Undergraduate
Author(s): Julianna Martinez Biology
Advisor(s): Michael Misamore Biology
Location: Session: 2; Basement; Table Number: 11

poster location

Dreissena polymorpha, zebra mussels, are an invasive species of bivalves that have recently spread into bodies of water across North America. Calcium is a critical component of zebra mussel survival due to its function in numerous cellular processes and in shell production for both larval and adult stages. It is believed that reduced calcium levels in water can inhibit zebra mussel reproduction and growth, particularly in the early stages of development. The purpose of this experiment is to test the ability of north Texas zebra mussels to survive and reproduce in varying calcium ion concentrations above and below a threshold concentration of 12 g/L, which was previously found in other research projects. Mussels are spawned in water containing the varying concentrations and reproductive success is monitored over time to observe the viability of gametes and survival ability of larvae. This experiment will help to determine which waterways may not be a suitable environment for zebra mussel reproduction and subsequent infestation.

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BIOL2018MITCHELL9635 BIOL

Seasonality of Insect-Mediated Methyl Mercury from Emerging Odonates

Type: Undergraduate
Author(s): Will Mitchell Biology
Advisor(s): Matt Chumchal Biology Ray Drenner Biology
Location: Session: 1; 1st Floor; Table Number: 7

poster location

Methylmercury (MeHg) is an aquatic contaminant that can be transferred to terrestrial predators by emergent aquatic insects such as odonates (damselflies and dragonflies). We observed the effects of time on odonate-mediated MeHg flux (calculated as emergent odonate biomass MeHg concentration) in 20 experimental ponds and the potential risk to nestling red-winged blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus) posed by consuming MeHg-contaminated odonates. Emergent odonates were collected weekly from ponds containing four emergent traps per pond over an 9-mo period (February–October 2017). The MeHg flux from damselflies, aeshnid dragonflies, and libellulid dragonflies began in March and peaked in May, June, and July, respectively, and then declined throughout the rest of the summer. Nesting of red-winged blackbirds overlapped with peak odonate emergence and odonate-mediated MeHg flux. Because their diet can be dominated by damselflies and dragonflies, we tested the hypothesis that MeHg-contaminated odonates may pose a health risk to nestling red-winged blackbirds. Concentrations of MeHg in odonates exceeded wildlife values (the minimum odonate MeHg concentrations causing physiologically significant doses in consumers) for nestlings, suggesting that MeHg-contaminated odonates can pose a health risk to nestling red-winged blackbird.

(Poster is private)

BIOL2018NAGEL5118 BIOL

The Effects of Inflammation on Dendritic Spine Density

Type: Undergraduate
Author(s): Sarah Nagel Biology Frenki Behaj Biology John Figg Biology Christopher Hagen Biology Ryan Madigan Biology Claire Munster Biology Michaela O'Connor Biology
Advisor(s): Michael Chumley Biology Gary Boehm Psychology
Location: Session: 1; 1st Floor; Table Number: 4

poster location

Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is a neurodegenerative disease that is characterized by deficits in learning and memory. AD pathology is associated with neuronal death through the accumulation of amyloid beta (Aβ) plaques in the synapses. Our lab has previously demonstrated that Lipopolysaccharide (LPS), a component of gram-negative bacteria, induces an inflammatory response that increases Aβ found in the brain. Dendritic spines are projections on dendrites that may or may not be synapsing with an axon. Previous research indicates that there is a correlation between the number of properly functioning synapses and the number of dendritic spines. In this study, LPS was administered to induce inflammation, stimulating Aβ production. We then quantified dendritic spine density in order to compare dendritic spine density in the hippocampus of both LPS- and saline-treated groups. Contrary to our hypothesis, we saw a non-significant increase in dendritic spine density following LPS treatment, when compared to saline controls.

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BIOL2018PIERCE21782 BIOL

Seeing is Believing: Developing Methods to Assess the Effects of Pollutants on Vision

Type: Undergraduate
Author(s): Bethany Pierce Biology Julie Krzykwa Biology
Advisor(s): Marlo Jeffries Biology
Location: Session: 1; 2nd Floor; Table Number: 4

poster location

There has been mounting concern from both scientists and the public regarding the presence and biological effects of emerging contaminants (ECs) in the environment. ECs can be defined as contaminants that are not currently subject to routine monitoring programs or regulatory standards, but that have the potential to cause adverse environmental or human health effects. These pollutants are being found in increasing levels in aquatic environments, and as such, the possible health impacts of these contaminants have become a growing focus of scientific research. Some classes of ECs, especially those that disrupt neurological development or thyroid hormone levels, have the potential to alter the growth, development, and function of the eyes. For many organisms, eyesight is crucial to survival as it allows them to avoid danger, obtain food, and perform many other important activities. However, reliable methods for testing the effects of ECs on vision are scarce, so the full impact of many ECs remains unknown. As such, this project aimed to determine dependable ways to measure visual development and function in the fathead minnow, a small fish frequently used to screen for chemical toxicity and adverse effects. We found that the feeding assay was a straightforward and promising option for measuring vision because it estimated the average prey capture ability of a group in a relatively short amount of time. We also found that the optomotor assay, while compelling, presented no significant differences between groups for the variables tested. However, there were practical differences observed throughout the trials, indicating that although the assay is complex, further testing and development could transform it into a reliable source of data.

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BIOL2018QUINN40980 BIOL

Hybridization Potential Between the Invasive Zebra and Quagga Mussels

Type: Undergraduate
Author(s): Hunter Quinn Biology
Advisor(s): Mike Misamore Biology
Location: Session: 2; 3rd Floor; Table Number: 3

poster location

Zebra and Quagga mussels are aquatic and highly invasive freshwater bivalve molluscs native to Eurasia. They have spread at an exponential rate into bodies of water throughout the country by means of our interconnected waterway. Prior analysis of their distribution has determined a consistent global pattern in which a population of zebra mussels initially invades a body of water and subsequently, a population of quagga mussels is established in the same region. Despite differential habitat preferences, both species have been found to live and reproduce in the same location. Since both species exhibit broadcast spawning as a reproductive mechanism, the potential for hybridization exists; this potential was analyzed via evaluating the initial fertilization and early embryonic cleavage stages required for production of viable hybrid offspring. A series of hybridization crosses were performed and compared against a control. Fertilization events observed and analyzed included motility and chemotaxis, the acrosome reaction, sperm binding and entry into the egg cytoplasm, and finally cleavage and early development. Inability to produce viable offspring suggests a hybridization-block has been established between the two species at the level of fertilization or early development.

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BIOL2018SEEMANN60152 BIOL

Investigating the causes of reproductive impairment following thyroid disruption

Type: Undergraduate
Author(s): Mallory Seemann Biology Peter Bruns Biology
Advisor(s): Marlo Jeffries Biology
Location: Session: 2; 3rd Floor; Table Number: 7

poster location

Some classes of endocrine disrupting compounds in the environment have the ability to alter thyroid function. Such thyroid disrupting compounds are known to influence growth and development, but recent studies suggest that thyroid disruption can also have adverse effects on reproduction. A recent study in the Jeffries lab demonstrated that early-life stage thyroid disruption caused decreased reproductive output in fathead minnows (Pimephales promelas), even after a prolonged period of depuration. However, the mechanisms connecting early life stage thyroid disruption to altered reproduction during adulthood remain elusive. This study sought to determine whether alterations in reproductive success following thyroid disruption were a result of male or female reproductive performance in an effort to narrow potential mechanisms by which thyroid disrupting compounds alter reproduction. The results of this study bring insight to the underlying cause of decreased reproductive output following thyroid inhibition.

(Poster is private)

BIOL2018SMACK21567 BIOL

Prey Preference in the Carnivorous Pitcher Plant, Sarracenia alata

Type: Undergraduate
Author(s): Caleb Smack Biology Lauren Rogers Biology
Advisor(s): John Horner Biology
Location: Session: 1; 3rd Floor; Table Number: 10

poster location

Carnivorous plants occupy nutrient-poor soils and have evolved traits that allow them to obtain nutrients by capturing and digesting insects. The pale pitcher plant, Sarracenia alata, uses passive pitfall traps to capture their insect prey. Although studies have examined prey composition for S. alata, it is unknown whether this species is selective in prey capture or whether it captures insects in proportion to their abundance in the environment. The purpose of this study was to compare prey capture of S. alata pitchers with the available insects to determine whether this species is selective in prey capture. The available insects were sampled using artificial sticky traps in the vicinity of the pitchers. The insects in the study were identified first to the taxonomic level of order and then further identified to "morphospecies" as a means of examining preference on a finer scale. The relative proportions of insects in specific orders differed between artificial traps and plants. Although dipterans were a major component of capture in both artificial traps and plants, the relative proportions of morphospecies differed between the two. These results support the hypothesis that S. alata is selective in its prey capture, but further studies are needed that use different methods of measuring the available insects in order to avoid potential bias.

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BIOL2018SMITH20222 BIOL

The Effects of Microgravity on Penicillium Mold Growth

Type: Undergraduate
Author(s): Laura Smith Biology Ryder Huskins Biology Gabriel McCarthy Biology Ethan Moore Biology Ian Ray Biology Kenneth Sanders Biology
Advisor(s): Laura Smith Biology
Location: Session: 2; 2nd Floor; Table Number: 3

poster location

Our team will answer the question how Penicillium mold grows in a microgravity environment versus Earth’s gravity. This question answers or sparks several other questions such as is it a viable solution for some antibiotics in space or how do antibiotics like penicillin work in the body in space. Will it grow more or will it be the same or maybe grow less? The purpose of our experiment is to provide a viable solution to some bacterial infections in space. Bacteria in space tends to act more violently so maybe good bacteria or mold will act more furiously to kill those bacteria. Our hypothesis is that it will grow better. This is based off of the fact that in an earlier SSEP experiment the polymers absorbed more water. Which might be the same for organisms like mold so it would make it easier to absorb water. Plus with lower gravity organisms tend to grow larger at least that is many scientist hypotheses. So since there is practically no major gravity or forces in space may be the mold will grow larger than usual. Our group believes this based on the fact that we have researched.

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BIOL2018SMITH4000 BIOL

Crystal Clear View On Insulin

Type: Undergraduate
Author(s): Laura Smith Biology John Gage Andrews Biology Joe Daniel Collins Biology Alexander Ferguson Biology Ty Vander Laan Biology
Advisor(s): Laura Smith Biology
Location: Session: 2; 2nd Floor; Table Number: 3

poster location

Our experiment is about diabetes and Humalog synthetic insulin crystallization in a microgravity environment. We feel like this is a good experiment to design because we could find out if there is a way to prevent crystallization of insulin, especially if we understand how it happens in microgravity. When insulin crystallizes, the bacteria that usually makes it viable stops working. This would cause it to be ineffective for patients in dire need of this medication. To complete this experiment we are going to keep the insulin in a type 1 FME at the International space station (ISS) at above 65℉ to see if it crystallizes within a certain amount time. We will keep the experiment refrigerated at or below 40℉ during transportation to the ISS and again on arrival back to Earth’s gravity. Refrigeration slows the crystallization growth and this is how it is stored on Earth. Keeping our experiment refrigerated during transportation is an important step because the insulin crystallization growth should only be measured while in microgravity. We will be conducting the same experiment, using the same time frame and refrigeration needs before and after, for our earth bound experiment.

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BIOL2018SMITH57956 BIOL

The Effect of Microgravity on Hornwort Growth and Purifying Water

Type: Undergraduate
Author(s): Laura Smith Biology Megan Adams Biology Olivia Gardner Biology Macie Grosskurth Biology Cameron Pewitt Biology
Advisor(s): Laura Smith Biology
Location: Session: 2; 2nd Floor; Table Number: 3

poster location

Our experiment is how well will a hornwort plant purify polluted water in microgravity. We will see how it will purify at the same rate as it does in full gravity. We chose this plant because they can purify water and they grow at a fast rate. This will help astronauts because if they run out of water they can grow hornwort even if the only water they have is polluted. Also, it will help them to have purified water if their water system breaks down. The hornwort plant will be growing on the way from Earth to the ISS. The experiment will be purifying the polluted water in microgravity for 5-6 days. Then the formalin will be added to the plant to stop its growth and preserve the sample. We are polluting the water with Cyanobacteria, which is more commonly known as blue green algae. We will know it has worked if the polluted water has become purified after it has been tested.

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BIOL2018SOTO62757 BIOL

Uncovering the basis of sex-specific differences in immune function: the role of estrogens

Type: Undergraduate
Author(s): Arantxa Soto Biology Miranda Finch Biology Marlo Jeffries Biology Kyle Roush Biology Leah Thornton Biology
Advisor(s): Marlo Jeffries Biology
Location: Session: 2; 3rd Floor; Table Number: 6

poster location

Previous studies, including those in the Jeffries lab, have shown that female animals are able to fight and survive infection better than males. However, the underlying cause of this difference remains unclear. Because many differences between males and females are due to differences in sex steroid hormone (e.g., estrogen, testosterone, etc.) concentrations, it is possible that differences in immune function are also due to such differences in hormone levels. The objective of this study is to uncover the role of sex steroid hormones in the immune response of fathead minnows (Pimephales promelas). Because females exhibit better pathogen resistance than males, it is hypothesized that estrogen (a “female” hormone) enhances immune system function. The results of this study provides insight into the potential crosstalk between the reproductive and immune systems, as well as a better understanding of the role of sex hormones in the organism.

(Poster is private)

BIOL2018STEPHENS346 BIOL

Toward the Development of Larval Fathead Minnow Screening Assay for the Detection of Thyroid Disrupting Compounds

Type: Undergraduate
Author(s): Lydia Stephens Biology Elise Path Biology Mallory Seemann Biology Leah Thornton Biology
Advisor(s): Marlo Jeffries Biology
Location: Session: 1; 2nd Floor; Table Number: 7

poster location

The fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas), a small fish model often used to screen for reproductive endocrine disrupting compounds, has recently been used by some investigators to screen for chemicals with thyroid disrupting capabilities. However, it is uncertain how known thyroid disruptors affect various markers of thyroid disruption in this species. This study aimed to fill this gap in knowledge by assessing the sensitivity of endpoints known to be responsive to thyroid disruption in other closely-related species in larval fathead minnows. In addition, we sought to uncover how the timing and length of exposure influenced the response of these endpoints. To accomplish these objectives, larval fathead minnows were exposed to various doses of propylthiouracil (PTU; a known thyroid disruptor) and thyroxine (T4; a known thyroid stimulant) for 35 days. Several metrics indicative of alterations in thyroid hormone status (e.g., thyroid related gene expression, growth, thyroid cell follicular height, etc.) were measured on day 7, 21, and 35. The results of this study provide valuable information that can be utilized in developing fathead minnow thyroid disrupting chemical screening assays.

(Poster is private)

BIOL2018STEVENS39164 BIOL

Creating Habitat Maps for Avian Communities Using LIDAR

Type: Graduate
Author(s): Thomas Stevens Biology
Advisor(s): Amanda Hale Biology Tammie Morgan Environmental Science Dean Williams Biology
Location: Session: 1; 3rd Floor; Table Number: 4

poster location

Habitat maps derived from remotely sensed data are strong predictors of wildlife distributions, outperforming traditional on the ground vegetation structure surveys. Texas Parks and Wildlife created a statewide habitat map in 2014 featuring 398 vegetation classes to 10-meter resolution. The Great Trinity Forest is the largest urban forest in the United States, with 3,000 continuous hectares within the city of Dallas. As part of our wider study of the forest’s wildlife, we edited Texas Parks and Wildlife’s habitat to more accurately and meaningfully reflect habitat distinctions in the Great Trinity Forest. First we adjusted the locations and boundaries of waterways to reflect changes in their location over the past four years. Then we reclassified the bottomland hardwood forest habitat type (BHF) to reflect different succession stages of forest growth. Using LIDAR and aerial images we calculated canopy heights and reclassified BHF using those heights as primary BHF, secondary BHF, or early successional bottomlands.

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BIOL2018THALHUBER4191 BIOL

Hot Spot Analysis of Mercury Contamination of Nestling Red-winged Blackbirds

Type: Graduate
Author(s): Thomas Thalhuber Biology
Advisor(s): Ray Drenner Biology Matthew Chumchal Biology
Location: Session: 2; 2nd Floor; Table Number: 4

poster location

Methylmercury (MeHg) is an environmental contaminant that can have adverse effects on wildlife. Because inorganic Hg is converted to MeHg primarily in aquatic ecosystems, studies of MeHg contamination of food webs have historically focused on aquatic organisms. However, recent studies have found that emergent aquatic insects (e.g. mayflies and dragonflies) can transport MeHg to terrestrial predators like songbirds, and this could have implications for species in decline such as Red-winged blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus). Red-winged blackbirds are odonate (dragonflies and damselflies) predators, and odonates can make up 50 – 90% of a Red-winged blackbird’s diet during the breeding season. Red-winged blackbirds have declined throughout their range by 30% over the last 50 years. Their decline is due in part to loss of wetland habitat, but the consumption of MeHg contaminated prey items could also be having an effect. Several studies have reported MeHg contamination of Red-winged blackbirds, and yet, the potential effect of diet on MeHg contamination in Red-winged blackbirds has not been studied. I collected data on blood MeHg level of Red-winged blackbird nestlings and the emergence rate of odonates during the summer of 2017 at the Eagle Mountain Hatchery Experimental Pond Facility in Tarrant County, Texas. I used the ArcGIS Space Time Cube to identify spatiotemporal hot spots of nestling MeHg level and odonate emergence, and I used linear regression models to see how well proximity to odonate emergence hotspots predicted nestling MeHg hotspots.

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BIOL2018TRULY22989 BIOL

Design and Testing of Organometallic, Targeting Anticancer Drugs

Type: Undergraduate
Author(s): Tate Truly Biology Dr. Giridhar Akkaraju Biology Marianne Burnett Chemistry & Biochemistry Dr. Kayla Green Chemistry & Biochemistry
Advisor(s): Giridhar Akkaraju Biology
Location: Session: 1; 3rd Floor; Table Number: 5

poster location

Cancer is the second leading cause of death and will directly affect approximately 40% of the people in the United States over the course of their life. Chemotherapy has been shown to be an effective therapeutic strategy, but it lacks specificity, resulting in a multitude of negative side effects. Targeted therapies such as Herceptin, Iressa, and Nivolumab have shown increased effectiveness against cancer by attacking specific molecules in the target cell. For example, Herceptin inhibits the HER2 protein, which is overproduced in some breast cancer cells, and stops cell division. Biotin is an innate coenzyme for carbohydrate, lipid and protein metabolism. Certain cancer types overexpress biotin transporters on the surface of each cancer cell in order to increase biotin absorption necessary for metabolic processes. Furthermore, the intracellular environment in cancer cells is more reducing compared to non-cancer cells due to increased metabolism. Ferrocene is an iron-based organometallic molecule that has been shown to generate reactive oxygen species (ROS) in the reducing environment of cancer cells. Given that certain cancer cells absorb biotin with a higher efficiency, we hypothesize that linking biotin to ferrocene will increase the efficiency of ferrocene entering the cell and result in selective cancer cell death. Therefore, we have produced a library of biotin-ferrocene conjugates to selectively target cancer cell lines that over express biotin receptor sites. Experiments were conducted utilizing ferrocene and a variety of ferrocene-biotin conjugates (C1, C2, 2) in both cancer (MCF-7) and noncancer (HEK 293) cell lines in order to compare the relative toxicity between compounds.

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BIOL2018WEINSTEIN16743 BIOL

Should I stay or should I go? Analyzing the genetic basis of migration-related traits in rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss).

Type: Graduate
Author(s): Spencer Weinstein Biology Matthew Hale Biology
Advisor(s): Matthew Hale Biology
Location: Session: 2; Basement; Table Number: 7

poster location

Many rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) populations exhibit partial migration, where resident and migrant individuals coexist in a single population. Due to anthropogenic, environmental, and population-specific factors, migratory individuals have been decreasing in frequency across the continental United States. Biologically, whether an individual will migrate is determined by both genetic and environmental factors. Although migration in many salmonids is known to be highly heritable, the environment plays an overriding role. Previous studies investigating the genetic basis of migration have failed to control for environmental variance and, consequently, the genes and regions of the genome underlying the development of the migratory phenotype remain unknown. We used data from a common garden experiment to identify single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) significantly associated with migration in the F1 generation of a resident-by-resident and a migrant-by-migrant cross. We genotyped 192 F1 individuals on an Affymetrix SNP chip at 57,501 known polymorphic locations throughout the genome. We identified 5002 significant SNPs in the migrant-by-migrant family and 429 significant SNPs in the resident-by-resident family, using an FDR-corrected p-value of 0.01. For the migrant cross, we located significant markers associated with 28 genes whose functions are connected to pathways previously hypothesized to be important in migration. Five genes on three chromosomes were associated with migration in both familial crosses, suggesting that these regions are important in determining life history regardless of familial origin in this population. These data will be further used to develop a model to predict life history in individuals that are yet to make that determination. Understanding the genetic factors involved in the decision to migrate, through the identification of polymorphisms associated with migration, will assist fisheries managers in restoring and maintaining migratory rainbow trout populations.

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