Biology Projects 2007
The Scorpion's Glow: Understanding the function of an unusual biological trait
Faculty Mentor - Carl Kloock
Scorpions, when exposed to Ultra-violet light, fluoresce, or "glow". To date, only
a few possible functions of this unusual trait have been explored experimentally.
Using a combination of field and laboratory experiments, I am investigating the general
question of what function, if any, fluorescence serves in Scorpions. This summer's research
will focus on 3 areas: 1) Determination of the source of fluorescent contamination encountered
in a previous experiment; 2) Testing for an effect of fluorescence on intraspecific interactions
including mating, cannibalism, and competitive interactions; 3) Testing for the possibility
that fluorescence functions as either a form of camouflage or aposematic (warning) coloration.
Kloock Group Poster
Geographic Origin of the Glassy-Winged Sharpshooter in Easter Island, Chile: Analysis
of Mitochondrial DNA Gene Sequences
Faculty Mentor - Paul Smith
The glassy-winged sharpshooter, Homalodisca coagulata (Homoptera: Cicadellidae), is a
highly polyphagous insect species that is distributed throughout most of the southern regions
of the United States. In the last 10 years, H. coagualta has become established in California
and represents a significant threat to the state's $35 billion wine and table grape industries.
In a previous study, Smith (2005) utilized DNA sequencing analysis to characterize a portion of
the mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase I gene from 20 natural populations of H. coagulata
distributed in Tahiti, California, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida.
The results indicated that populations of H. coagulata are geographically structured into
two groups of haplotypes; a group of populations from east of the Mississippi River including
Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida and a group comprised of populations west of the
Mississippi River from Texas and California, and from Tahiti. The purpose of the present research
is to ascertain the geographic origin of a glassy-winged sharpshooter infestation in Easter Island,
Chile. To this end, workers in my lab will utilize the scientific method and a variety of molecular
biology techniques (e.g., DNA extraction, gel electrophoresis, polymerase chain reaction, DNA
sequencing and phylogenetic analysis) to investigate this question under my supervision.
Ultimately, the faculty mentor and the assigned research group will submit the results for
publication in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.
Smith Group Poster
Examination of Gene Expression in Arabidopsis thaliana
Faculty Mentor - Kathleen Szick-Miranda
The synthesis of proteins is an absolute requirement for growth and development in all
biological organisms, yet our understanding of the core component (the ribosome) and its constituents
(ribosomal proteins [r-proteins]) in plants remains limited. In the genetic model plant Arabidopsis
thaliana (Ath) the r-protein known as S15a Type II two different genes correspond to the S15a Type II
protein. The immediate question that arises is "Why are there two different genes in Ath that encode
the same protein?" One possible explanation is differential expression, a condition where one gene
may be turned on (expressed) in a specific portion of the plant (the leaf for example), while another
may be turned on in another portion of the plant (such as the root). We are currently analyzing the
expression of the two genes which code for the S15a Type II protein by isolating total RNA (a molecule
that links genes to protein production) from Ath 6-day old seedlings and a variety of other tissue
types (leaf, stem, floral bud, roots, etc.) and utilizing a molecular technique known as Reverse
Transcriptase-Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR). Our preliminary results indicate that the two genes
that encode Type II S15a are differentially expressed during development. The goal of this project is
to analyze the expression of the two genes encoding S15a Type II in Ath seedlings in response to
various environmental conditions which plants are normally subjected to, such as flooding, dehydration
and extreme heat or cold.
Participants in this research project will learn about the processes involved in gene expression
(transcription and translation) as well as the fundamentals of research design, analysis and
interpretation. In addition, they will acquire hands-on research experience by learning: 1) to handle,
germinate, plant and grow Arabidopsis, 2) to prepare Petri plates containing nutrient media,
3) Arabidopsis plating techniques, 4) to isolate total RNA from Arabidopsis seedlings, 5) RT-PCR and
6) how to perform agarose gel electrophoresis
Szick-Miranda Group Poster
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questions you might have.