Biology Projects 2010
Scorpion Responses to Moonlight.
Faculty Mentor - Dr. Carl Kloock
revious experiments have shown that scorpions respond to low levels of ultraviolet (UV) light in the
laboratory, but it is not known whether this matters in their natural environment. This summer's REVSUP
project will look at the effect of moonlight on scorpion behavior and ask whether scorpions respond to
the UV light in moonlight by changing their refuge-seeking behavior. Activities will include collection
of scorpions from their natural environment, maintenance of a laboratory scorpion population, building of
experimental equipment (including potentially some light carpentry and electronics), videotaping of
scorpion behaviors in several contexts and analysis of those tapes. Please note: Scorpions are nocturnal
animals, so collection and videotaping must occur at night - thus participants will be expected to work
at night for much of this project
Identification of antifungal bacteria from invasive fouling bryozoa of California.
Faculty Mentor - Dr. Antje Lauer
Invasive Bryozoa (= colonial marine filter feeding invertebrates) such as Bugula sp., and Watersipora
sp. have outcompeted many native invertebrate species on California's coast. With the loss of diversity
of invertebrate marine species at California's coast, the general health of this ecosystem will become
out of balance which will have a considerable impact on other organisms as well. Furthermore, we also
loose potential sources for interesting metabolites produced by these invertebrates and their associated
microorganisms that can be potentially used against human pathogens and cancer. Bryozoan species that
possess associations with bacteria are usually among the most frequently encountered fouling bryozoans.
Beside of endosymbionts, epibiotic bacterial species on the frontal membrane of Bryozoa might be involved
in fighting off other invertebrate larvae and microorganisms, including potential pathogens that could
result in overgrowth of the bryozoa or cause disease. For example, antifungal metabolites produced
by epibiotic bacteria could prevent fungal overgrowth of bryozoa or an infection by a fungal pathogen.
The protective character of epibiotic bacteria is known for other organisms including humans. In this
project, we want to isolate and identify bacteria from Bryozoa and test them against different marine fungal
species that can be a possible threat to Bryozoa and against some species of dermatophytes that can cause
disease in humans. This work will advance our understanding about the adaptation in two invasive fouling
Bryozoa and elucidate the role symbiotic microorganisms' play in their extraordinarily successful invasion
of California's coast (and worldwide), but also investigates if natural products from these bacteria have
a potential of being used in human medicine.
Vascular Transport of California Native Shrubs
Faculty Mentors - Dr. R. Brandon Pratt
Wood, referred to as xylem by scientists, is a globally important commodity that has been important to humans
for building material, shelter, and fuel for millennia. In plants, wood makes up the water transport tissue that
is crucial for moving water and chemicals throughout the plant body to maintain healthy functioning. Understanding
how wood functions not only enables more efficient use of this important resource, but it also helps us understand
how plants are adapted to the environment, how ecosystems function, and plant evolution.
Although wood is commercially and physiologically important, many aspects of wood function remain a mystery.
Summer research will focus on the physiology of water transport in wood in a ecological context. Sampled species
will include some of California's beautiful and rare woody shrubs.
Dr. Pratt's laboratory includes a vibrant and fun loving group that includes undergraduates, Master's students,
and post-doctoral scholars.
Genetic Studies on the Endangered Bakersfield Cactus, Opuntia basilaris var. treleasei
Faculty Mentor - Dr. Paul Smith
The Beavertail Cactus, Opuntia basilaris, is a small prickly pear cactus that is distributed throughout the
southwest USA, mostly in the Mojave and Colorado Deserts (Fig 1A). The Bakersfield Cactus (Fig 1C), O. basilaris
var. treleasei, is an endangered species/variety of O. basilaris (Fig 1C), and is the only native cactus in the
Great San Joaquin Valley. The taxonomic status of the endangered Bakersfield Cactus is currently in a state of flux,
it has been treated as: (1) a separate distinct species, (2) a susbspecies, and (3) currently as a variety. There
are some morphological differences between Bakersfield Cactus and true O. basilaris to support specific status,
including pad shape and glochid structure (Bakersfield Cactus possess spines, whereas true O. basilaris do not). This
project will utilize modern molecular genetic methods to learn more about the genetic variation between Bakersfield
Cactus and true O. basilaris. Specifically, we will determine if there is genetic evidence to support the specific
status of the Bakersfield Cactus.
Figure 1. Opuntia basilaris. (A) distribution of O. basilaris proper. (B) True O. basilaris with spineless glochids.
(C) Bakersfield Cactus, glochids with spines.
Do bacteria found on the skin of the North American Bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana) play a role in protecting it
from the fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd)?
Faculty Mentor - Dr. Kathleen Szick-Miranda
This study focuses on the bacterial diversity found on the skin of the Northern American Bullfrog Rana catesbeiana,
an invasive species in California that is able to successfully outcompete other native amphibian species. One reason that
explains its success is that it is immune to a variety of amphibian diseases including Chydridiomycosis, a skin disease caused
by a fungus known as Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd). Chytridiomycosis is responsible for major amphibian declines
worldwide. The reasons why the bullfrog can get infected, but does not succumb to the disease are not known. Recent research
suggests that resident skin bacteria can play a role in protecting amphibians against Bd. Our study focuses on the diversity
and antifungal ability of the cutaneous bacteria of R. catesbeiana from three different locations in the Southern San Joaquin
Valley, CA. Participants in this research project will isolate skin bacteria and test their antifungal potential against Bd.
and other potentially pathogenic fungi. In addition, participants will learn the fundamentals of research design, analysis
and interpretation. The data collected from this project may have the potential to widely impact global amphibian conservation
as well as human health issues by identifying probiotics that can lead to the discovery of potential antibiotics or novel
chemotherapeutic compounds in the future.
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for the respective projects. Please feel free to contact either of the program directors with any
questions you might have.