Walter Maxwell Gibson College of Science & Engineering

Research Symposium

Monday, November 7, 2011

Prevalence of Alcohol Consumption among Freshmen Students at Southern Utah University

Michelle Rees, Amber Dalton, Ashlee Dotson, Briana Bush, Emma Nielson and Alan Pearson*
Department of Nursing Southern Utah University

Abstract

The goal of this project is to be able to apply our questionnaire to a group of freshmen college students at Southern Utah University. This will help us develop an outcome of the prevalence of alcohol consumption among freshmen students Southern Utah University. This research project will also help to give an understanding of the effects of alcohol on learning in school. We will be able to apply the knowledge that we have learned/gained from our previous research class by developing our own research project.

An IRB was developed and submitted for approval on the research proposal of whether there is a higher incidence of drinking among freshman students at Southern Utah University. A standardized questionnaire is being used to gather data. The questionnaire will be presented to faculty with consent to distribute said questionnaire among students in University 1000 classes. Data collected will be collected from the class immediately and taken for analysis.

This project will provide SUU with numbers regarding alcohol usage and incidence among the currently enrolled freshmen. If the incidence is high, they can use these numbers to determine if intervention/teaching needs to be taught to the incoming students. They can then administer the survey again, and compare results. If the incidence is low, they can use this as a possible SUU promotion to entice students to attend SUU.

Rock-Climbing Wheel

Kendra Davis, Jared Tanner, Logan Butt and Glen Longhurst*
Department of Integrated Engineering

Abstract

Rock walls are expensive and immobile. They require harnesses, ropes, and lengthy preparation time to begin climbing, and can intimidate newcomers to the sport. Commercially available alternatives—such as climbing treadmills—are sparse in their climbing surfaces. Custom walls require very large amounts of space, as well as a free wall. Our project is designed to solve the problems of limited mobility, high cost, and minimal climbing space. This is accomplished by building a rotating rock wall in the shape of a pentagonal prism. Our design uses five 5’X8’ panels, for a total of 200 square feet of climbing surface. What’s more, each panel can be easily removed and replaced, allowing for an endless variety of climbing features. The structure has a maximum fall height of 10.5’, which makes it safe to climb without a harness, and sidewalls act as a safety measure to prevent falls over the edges. Rotation is caused by the weight of the climber, and is countered by a friction brake system. Thus, the speed of rotation is easily adjustable. One of the most convenient features of our design is its mobility. The structure is built on castors, and its compact shape is much easier to transport than the standard rock wall. Because of this, the Rock-Climbing Wheel is ideal not only for gyms and recreational areas, but also for travelling businesses, such as fairs and carnivals. This design is simple and effective, and provides a vast climbing surface that’s accessible to amateurs and professionals alike.

Impact of Diabetes Education on the HA1c Values of Type II Diabetic Patients

Emily Chappell , Katherine Dayton, Julie Goldthorpe, Patricia Weller, Cressa Yardley, Rebecca Rasmusson* MSN, APRN, FNP-BC, Nursing Department
Department of Nursing

Abstract

Diabetes is a wide spread health concern affecting communities nationwide with increasing incidence. Type II diabetes mellitus is a major health concern affecting 20.8 million Americans annually. Complications associated with poor management of the disease include increased morbidity, mortality, and financial burden. Group diabetes education programs in community settings have been shown to reduce disease complications and cost (Jeffreys, 2008, p. 1-2). Glucose control is key to improving the overall health of diabetic patients. Through hemoglobin A1c levels self management of glucose levels is easily monitored by physicians. For diabetic patients a HA1c level less than 7% is a general goal.

The research we are conducting is a data review study in which we will be accessing the HA1c values of 200 individuals who have had at least one formal diabetic education training session any time during 2005-2009. We hope to show that with more formal diabetic education sessions, type II diabetic patients will have improved HA1c levels. From the information of 200 individuals we will be able to generalize the importance of having formal diabetic education available to newly diagnosed type II diabetic patients.

The purpose of this study is to determine if diabetic education has a positive influence on improving type II diabetic patients self management of their glucose levels, through the evaluation of their HA1c levels.

Effects of Sound on Tadpole Growth

Taylor Cluff-Parr and Betsy Bancroft, Ph.D.*
Department of Biology

Abstract

Environmental stressors can have a large effect on the physiological, behavioral, and morphological characteristics of an individual, such as growth and sexual maturity. These environmental stressors include: temperature, food availability, and light availability. Environmental stressors can have both short- and long-term effects on individuals. Sound is a virtually unavoidable environmental stressor. It is known to cause lactation in female mammals and intense audible sounds have been shown to kill certain organisms, such as frogs, fish, and water fleas. Amphibian larvae are known to sacrifice their growth and become sexually mature faster in the presence of a predator (a biological stressor). I hypothesize that tadpoles exposed to sound will respond to this environmental stressor by accelerating their developmental rate and sacrificing their body growth, much the same as the response to predation. I will test my hypothesis on bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana) larvae by creating experimental containers with and without sound, replicated 10 times. I will monitor growth and time to metamorphosis in the larvae.

Spring Analysis of Ashdown Creek

Stephanie Child and Johnny MacLean, Ph.D.*
Department of Physical Science, Southern Utah University

Abstract

Located below Cedar Breaks National Monument in the Ashdown Gorge Wilderness are unidentified springs that have an unknown amount of discharge. At this location we can see the different physiographic provinces; above the stream system to the north is the Colorado Plateau and to the west the Basin and range province. Cedar Breaks National Monument is located in the western escarpment of the Markagunt Plateau, and is also located in the south east corner of the Escalate Desert watershed. This project is to locate and inventory the individual flow rate of the springs and the coinciding river system throughout the summer and fall of 2011. Due to early seasonal freeze, that inhibited field data collection throughout the winter months and into late spring, as a consequence data could only be collected from late May through early October. The location inventory of springs is recorded using GIS and GPS units and will be used for later analysis of the flow rate related to the full stream system.

Evolutionary Medicine: Principle vs. Public Practice

Scott Curtis, Tyler Hummel and Helen C. Boswell, Ph.D.*
Department of Biology

Abstract

Evolutionary medicine proposes that (1) human physiological mechanisms represent a balance between evolutionary adaptations and constraints, and that (2) coevolutionary processes shape host-pathogen interactions. We tested whether the general public put these two themes into practice by surveying individuals on their decisions regarding treatment of disease and illness. We surveyed 587 SUU students to determine if their decisions follow evolutionary constructs in the following three areas: treatment of fevers, regularity of immunizations, and knowledge of antibiotics. We hypothesized that demographic factors (gender, child/childless status), social factors (possession of health insurance) and educational background (major of study) would influence student responses. We found that decisions to treat fevers differed significantly between biology and non-biology majors and between students with and without children, but did not differ between genders or between students with and without insurance. Decision to immunize did not differ between any of the test groups. Knowledge of proper antibiotic use differed significantly between biology and non-biology majors. Overall, biology majors tend to make decisions and possess knowledge that better fit evolutionary constructs than do non-biology majors. We cannot, however, attribute a causal relationship to explain these results at this time. Biology majors may have garnered knowledge in their university studies that fit evolutionary constructs. Alternatively, people who make decisions that tend to fit evolutionary constructs may be those who go on to major in biology. Other factors influencing our results, including overall health/body condition of individual and pain and illness thresholds, will also be discussed.

Quantification of Tetrodoxin Levels in Feeding Taricha Torosa

Clinton Dowse and Daniel Eves, Ph.D.
Department of Physical Science

Abstract

Adult Taricha Torosa, a species of newt, secretes Tetrodotoxin (TTX), a neurotoxin, from their skin. Tetrodotoxin serves as a means of protection from predators, but it has also been shown to have another purpose. Adult Taricha Torosa exhibit cannibalistic tendencies towards larval Taricha Torosa and as such, larvae are sensitive to TTX. It has been shown that larval Taricha Torosa have increased mobility upon detection of the chemical. We would like to quantify the amount of TTX excreted from the adult animals and try to determine if the concentration of TTX will increase in the presence of different types of prey. We will employ both high-pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC) (the established method of quantification) as well as capillary zone electrophoresis on a microchip to determine the concentrations of TTX.

Society of Automotive Engineers Mini Baja Project

Hansen, L Scott, Ph.D.*, Cozzens, Richard*, Mitch Melissa, Josh Meacham and Russell Grimshaw
Department of Engineering Technology and Construction Management

Abstract

During the Fall semester of 2010 and Spring semester of 2011 Scott Hansen and Richard Cozzens worked with Mitch Melissa, Josh Meacham and Russell Grimshaw (CAD/CAM Engineering Technology students) in the design and construction of a Mini Baja. The objective of this project was to map out the process of designing and building a mini baja that could compete in the Society of Automotive Engineers annual Mini Baja competition. The idea of the competition is to “Go beyond textbook theory by designing, building and testing the performance of a real vehicle.” While this particular mini baja was not built to exact specs, students and faculty gained an in-depth understanding of what is required to build a mini baja to SAE competition specs.

Students gain an understanding of the design and building process which they do not get while in the classroom. Students gain an understanding of the concept of something working in theory while not working in reality. Students ran into this exact problem while constructing the mini baja and had to make corrections while in the lab setting.

Immediate plans call for finishing the mini baja with a 2 stroke gas engine. Future plans call for partnering with the Electronics Engineering Technology program to install 2 electric motors making the vehicle a hybrid.

Designing a Mobile Cross-Platform Application for Patent Education

Charles Hart, Alan Isaac Gifford, Dezhi Wu, Ph.D.* and Robert Robertson, Ph.D.*
Department of Computer Science and Information Systems

Abstract

Due to the advancement of mobile technologies, patients are now empowered to be more involved in their healthcare through patient education programs anytime and anywhere. In this project, we designed and implemented a cross-platform mobile patient education software application to provide more interactive engagement for both patients and doctors. Doctors can use it to educate their patients by providing a personalized custom portfolio of charts, diagrams, photos, pre-surgery instructions, and medical legal information that can be viewed during a doctor’s visit, at home or on the go. Patients are more knowledgeable on their health status and medical treatments through this cross-platform application. The cutting-edge mobile computing technologies including universal web standards of HTML5, CSS, Java script, and Objective C; as well as some customized APIs (i.e., Phonegap, Sencha Touch, iOS etc.) were utilized to develop this software. The multi-touch interfaces that we designed will provide an intuitive and effective way for patients to access the education application. We expect this software to be compatible with a variety of computing devices, such as smart phones, iPads, tablets, and PCs, as long as a modern browser is installed. In addition, we also made efforts to convert this mobile Web application into “native” software which does not require a constant Internet connection. In conclusion, this project provides a timely solution for physicians to make patient education programs more accessible through a variety of mobile devices, which will benefit the healthcare field at large.

Synthesis and Structural Determination of Novel Macromolecular Architecturess

Landon Haslem, David Jarvis, Joseph Phillips and Mackay B. Steffensen, Ph.D.*
Department of Physical Science

Abstract

Synthesis of dendrimers based on cyanuric chloride and piperidine with hydrazine linkages has been undertaken to investigate the physical properties of these novel material. X-ray diffraction of crystalized products is collected as a means of identifying the large molecules, proving the synthesis’ accuracy and understanding their physical properties. These dendrimers exhibit a reversible pH dependent color shift. Many of the larger synthesized dendrimers display characteristics of non-Newtonian liquids. These characteristics are being investigated further. The high Nitrogen content of the dendrimers and their similarities to proteins suggest they may be capable of specific substrate binding and chelation. Currently, the primary emphasis of this research their synthesis and determination of the dendrimeric atomic structures through X-ray diffraction.

Terrestrial Gastropods of the Loess Hills – A Survey

William H. Heyborne, Ph.D.
Department of Biology

Abstract

Despite the fact that terrestrial gastropods appear to be declining worldwide (Lydeard et al., Bioscience, 2004) the group remains poorly studied across much of the natural range. This is likely due in part to the small size of the organisms and a paucity of taxonomic expertise for the group. Consequently, few research groups currently work on this group of organisms – particularly with regard to the natural history of these animals. However, land snails may be an important group worthy of a more sustained research effort. Land snails are not only of concern from a conservation standpoint, but also from an ecological assessment standpoint as these animals may serve as important ecological indicators (Shimek, Ecology, 1930). Regarding the land snail fauna of the Loess Hills of Western Iowa, only a single recent study (Frest and Dickson, Proc. Iowa Acad. Sci., 1986) has been published, and this study was noted by the authors as being preliminary. Additionally, one of the present authors has received numerous questions from local land managers concerning local land snail species. Consequently, in order to address this apparent research need, the current study was initiated in the fall of 2008. Here we present early findings of a qualitative survey of terrestrial gastropods of the Northern Loess Hills of Western Iowa. To date our collecting efforts have been concentrated in Stone State Park and the Mount Talbot State Preserve in Woodbury and Plymouth counties.

Impact of nutrition education on behavior

Ashten Higbee and Cynthia Wright, Ph.D.*
Department of Agriculture and Nutrition

Abstract

Nutrition knowledge is helpful in making healthy diet choices day-to-day. Many college students eat a diet consisting of fast food, few fruits and vegetables, and high amounts of processed foods. A basic nutrition course is offered at Sothern Utah University (SUU) but is not mandatory. Nutrition courses may play a role in improving college students eating habits and overall lifestyle.

This study was intended to determine the impact of Scientific Foundations of Human Nutrition (NFS 1020) on the eating behaviors, physical activity level, and diet-related behaviors of SUU students.

A survey to assess behavior change was approved by SUU’s Institutional Review Board. A pre-test/post-test design was used and data were analyzed using SPSS 13.0. After taking NFS 1020, students made significant positive changes related to weight loss goals, consumption of three meals a day, eating breakfast, and an increase in consumption of dairy, whole grains, and water. There was also a significant decrease in the number of pounds a student gained within a two-month period, and in the consumption of soda and fast food.

Students who completed NFS 1020 made improvements in their diet and diet-related behaviors, but no improvements in their physical activity level. The results indicate that nutrition knowledge is a contributing factor in making healthy food choices. Future research should examine other factors that may influence nutrition-related behaviors.

Patient Satisfaction with Nursing Care in the Emergency Department

Chad Simmons, Amanda Franta, Zacharia Kearney and Selwyn Layton, M.S.N*
Department of Nursing

Abstract

This is a survey based research project focusing on overall patient satisfaction with nursing staff in the emergency department. The survey format being used was designed by Barbara Davis (copyright 1997) and is being used with her full consent. The Davis Consumer Emergency Care Satisfaction Scale (CECSS) has been proved to be reliable and acceptable for use in clinical setting. The purpose of this project is to identify ways to improve the level of nursing care patients receive in hospitals. The surveys are independent from Intermountain Healthcare. All surveys are voluntary and anonymous for all participants.

Moenave Formation at the Dinosaur Discovery Site in St. George, Utah

Brooke Losee, Lundyn Milne, Jennifer Hargrave, Ph.D*. and Jerry Harris*
Department of Physical Science

Abstract

Casts found in the Moenave Formation at the St. George Dinosaur Discovery Site in St. George, Utah, have been attribute to salt crystal growth or bivalve traces known as Lockeia. This project analyzes length, maximum/minimum width, and orientation data collected from casts on eight individual slabs. Little literature is available for comparing these casts with known crystal casts. Therefore, an experiment synthesizing three salts (gypsum, halite, and sylvite) that may be the source for these casts has been undertaken. Additionally, bivalves of similar character were used to attempt replication of the casts. The experimentally produce casts were compared to size and shape of the fossil casts in order to determine the possible source. The data collected from this project will provide additional knowledge about the depositional environments of the Moenave Formation as well as for other sites containing similar casts.

Two Phases of Contractional Deformation in the Carmel Formation, Cedar City Utah

Kimberly D. Richards and John S. MacLean, Ph.D.*
Department of Physical Science, Geology

Abstract

Cedar Canyon contains contractional structures that may be related to the Sevier Orogeny but have not been well characterized. Analysis of the structures provides insight into the geologic history of southern Utah. In this analysis, we measured contractional features within the Jurassic Carmel Formation and interpreted the structural history. We have distinguished multiple phases of deformation. Some of these structures have a principal stress (σ1) orientation parallel to the east-directed Sevier Orogeny. However, other structures found in the canyon are directed to the south. Similar south-directed structures have been recognized approximately 75 kilometers to the east in the Bryce Canyon region and have been related to the Ruby’s Inn Thrust Fault. The south-directed structures in Cedar Canyon could be an extension of a south-directed shear zone associated with the Ruby’s Inn Thrust.

Myth vs. Math: The Ties Between Astrology and Astronomy

Rochelle Rudd and Brent A. Sorensen *
Department of Physical Science

Abstract

“Myth vs. Math: The Ties Between Astrology and Astronomy” will be a poster presentation that explores the connections between the pseudoscience of astrology and the science of astronomy. In ancient times, the two developed very closely together, and my presentation will discuss how the search for astrological information depended on research and calculations done in astronomy and vice versa. The presentation will also briefly discuss the psychology behind why the idea of astrology is so compelling to many people and how astrologers use psychology to validate their predictions in the minds of the populace.

Immunization Education Among College Students

Robert Nielson SN, Kent Turek SN, Brian Huber SN, Dallin Staheli SN, Jessica Anderson SN, Alan Pearson DNP, FNP-BC, APRN*, and Rebecca Rasmusson MSN, APRN, FNP-BC*
Department of Nursing

Abstract

This research intended to determine whether there is a knowledge deficit among prospective parents regarding immunizations and if so, does this affect their opinions on whether or not to have their children immunized. We recruited participants by visiting randomly selected classes on campus and requesting class member’s participation. We determined that there is a knowledge deficit regarding immunizations among potential parents on Southern Utah University’s campus. Those with a knowledge deficit tend to have a less favorable opinion regarding immunizations than those with a higher level of knowledge.

Effect of Concentration on Molecular Distribution of Cyanine Dyes in Aqueous Solutions

Alicia ashten, Leen Samha, Radhika Nair,Ph.D.* and Hussein Samha, Ph.D.*
Department of Physical Science

Abstract

The molecular distribution of the cyanine dye, 3,3’-disulfobutyl-5,5’-dichlorothiacarbocyanine (NK-3796) at a concentration of 9.04x10-4 M, in aqueous solution was investigated through absorption spectroscopy. The equilibrium, n(monomer)↔.5n(dimer)↔(H-aggregate)n, was observed over a series of dye concentrations ranging from 8.22x10-5 M to 4.93x10-4 M. At concentrations less than 8.22x10-5 M, the dye exists mainly in the monomeric form in solution. However, dimers become more significant when the concentration of the dye exceeds 3.29x10-4 M. The dye tends to form H-aggregates at higher concentrations (>10-4 M).

Electrophoretically-driven interaction and recovery of membrane species in supported lipid bilayers.

Mike Trujillo, Rebecca Powell, RJ Corry
Department of Physical Science

Abstract

Membrane species, particularly membrane proteins, are difficult to investigate using current techniques but are crucial in many aspects of pharmaceuticals, biology, medicine, and biochemistry. Supported lipid bilayers are used as model cell membranes for the investigation and isolation of membrane species, including membrane proteins. We present our initial work toward the investigation of three distinct systems involving supported lipid bilayers. First we will investigate the recently discovered phosphatidylserine-copper (II) interaction electrophoretically. In this investigation, we will elucidate the effect of the reporter group size (fluorophore vs. copper ion) on electrophoretic mobility as well as the general behavior of the phosphatidylserine-copper (II) complex. Second, we will develop a method to repackage supported lipid bilayers into lipid vesicles. This is a necessary but until now overlooked step for the use of supported lipid bilayer separations in functional assays and interaction investigations. Third, we will develop a method to electrophoretically investigate the interaction of membrane species via a passing assay.

Effects of Alcohol and Nicotine on Cortisol Levels and Growth in Tadpoles

Jared Wenn and Betsy Bancroft, Ph.D.*
Department of Biology

Abstract

Cortisol is a hormone that is released after vertebrates go through stress for a prolonged period of time. High and prolonged levels of cortisol in the blood may have negative effects on the human body such as hyperglycemia, hypertension, lowered immunity response, and higher levels of LDL cholesterol. In human fetuses, exposure to alcohol and nicotine increase the release of cortisol. I hypothesize that these stressors will increase coritisol release in all vertebrates, including amphibians. I propose an experiment measuring cortisol levels in tadpoles after exposure to alcohol and nicotine. I will use 10 tanks per treatment. One treatment will be the control group with de-chlorinated water. The second treatment will contain alcohol in de-chlorinated water. Nicotine will be placed in the de-chlorinated water for the third treatment. For the fourth treatment, I will place alcohol and nicotine together in de-chlorinated water. At the conclusion of the study, I will be using analysis of variance (ANOVA) to compare growth, survival, and time to metamorphosis and cortisol levels. This experiment will give a clearer understanding on how vertebrates respond to certain stressors.

Parental care in Utah Leeches

Jennifer Young and Fredric R. Govedich, Ph.D.*
Department of Biology

Abstract

Leeches from the family Glossiphoniidae show several types and high levels of parental care, which often include a cost to the parent providing that care. These costs often affect foraging behaviors by either slowing down the leeches or cutting down the time actually spent to go out and forage. My hypothesis is that in local populations around Southern Utah, non reproductive leeches will be quicker to start hunting and also hunt more often than those leeches that are involved in parental care. Delay in prey foraging time will be used to indicate the effects of parental care.

A Stable Numerical Scheme for a Predator-Prey Equation

Dane Bartlett and Jianlong Han, Ph.D.*
Department of Mathematics

Abstract

We discuss the boundedness and convergence of a numerical difference scheme for a predator-prey equation. We prove that the scheme is uniquely solvable and the numerical solution will approach the true solution.

Only YOU protect the Earth from black holes!

James R. Chisholm, Ph.D.
Department of Physical Science

Abstract

In this talk I will describe two research projects – one current and one future – concerning black holes (BHs) in which undergraduate students could become involved. Primordial Black Holes (PBHs) are relatively small BHs that could have been formed in the early universe – a current research project is theoretically researching various ways in which these PBHs could be discovered in our universe. Isolated Remnant Black Holes (RBHs) are relatively larger BHs that form from the collapse of stars within our galaxy: we know that they’re there but have yet to find them. A planned research project is to search through available observational data to look for signals from RBHs that could then be followed up with future telescope observations.

Microdiamond in Utah: Too small to sell, so what's the Big Deal?

Mark R. Colberg, Ph.D.
Department of Physical Science

Abstract

The Beaver Dam and Virgin Mountains in Utah and Arizona lie on the boundary between two major Precambrian crustal blocks; the >2.5 Ga (billion year) Mojave Province and the 1.85-1.70 Ga Yavapai Province. These mountain ranges preserve evidence for continental collision and subducation of sediments to great depths. Most important are retrograded garnet peridotite in the Virgin Mountains and the presence of microdiamond in the Beaver Dam Mountains. The garnet peridotite originated deep in the Earth's mantle but occur as blocks within metamorphosed granite and metamorphosed sediments. The microdiamond occurs within a garnet-rich metapelite. The presence of diamond and mantle rocks in supracrustal rocks could only occur if continental material were subducted to great depths. Diamond documents pressure conditions of at least 4.0 GPa (4X105 atm) and depths of at least 150 km. These rocks record ultra-high pressure (UHP) metamorphic conditions. These are the only UHP rocks documented in North America, and at 1.73 Ga, are the oldest known UHP rocks on earth. Importantly, these rocks push back the known age of UHP metamorphism by over 1 billion years. Deep subduction and subsequent UHP metamorphism of supracrustal material is considered a fingerprint of modern-style plate tectonics. The occurrence of UHP rocks in the Beaver Dam and Virgin Mountains documents, for the first time, the establishment of a modern-style plate tectonic regime by the early- to mid- Proterozoic time. The longstanding argument about when a modern plate tectonic regime was established on planet Earth may finally be settled.

Conservation genetics and gene flow in American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) populations on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica

Laurie A. Cotroneo, Ph.D. and James R. Spotila
Department of Biology

Abstract

Maintaining genetic diversity is crucial to the survival and management of threatened and endangered species. In this study we analyzed the genetic diversity and population genetic structure of five American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) populations (Las Baulas (LB), Santa Rosa (SR) and Palo Verde (PV) National Parks, Rio Tarcoles (RT) and Area of Conservation Osa (ACOSA)) along the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. Nine microsatellites were used to genotype 183 individuals and investigate genetic diversity and gene flow measures. We found that no population was at Hardy-Weinberg Equilibrium over all loci tested and a small to moderate amount of inbreeding present. The average heterozygosity (H) for the entire Pacific coast was 0.57 with individual heterozygosities ranging from 0.51 (SR) to 0.64 (PV and ACOSA). All populations were significantly differentiated from each other with both FST and RST measured of population differentiation. We observed a total of 2.4 effective migrants per generation along the entire coast and the presence of population structure. The coast segregated into three populations using a model-based clustering analysis. The level of population subdivision supports the presence of metapopulations along the Pacific coast of Costa Rica and not one panmictic population. An effective management plan that maintains the connectivity between populations is critical to the continued success of Crocodylus acutus in Costa Rica.

Comparing the production of nematocysts of starved and well-fed Aiptasia pallida anemones

Veronica Garcia, Amy Christofferson, Caitlyn McLean and Betsy Bancroft, Ph.D.*
Department of Biology

Abstract

The destruction of coral reefs endangers thousands of species that rely on that environment such as fish, marine plants, and hundreds of other invertebrates. The sea anemone Aiptasia pallida is closely related to corals and exhibits many similar characteristics. Unlike corals, however, A. pallida is easily maintained in the lab. Both A. pallida and corals are cnidarians and have specialized cells used for feeding and defense called nematocysts. We are testing the effects of feeding frequency on nematocyst production in A. pallida. We have ten 2 ½ gallon tanks containing 2-5 anemones. Five tanks are fed twice a week (well-fed) and the other five are fed once a month (starved). We will cut a tentacle from a random anemone in each tank and measure the number of nematocysts and the amount of protein to determine the nematocyst production per gram of protein in the tentacles. Our expected results are to find higher nematocyst production in the starved anemones. This is because they aren’t being fed as often so the anemones might increase the density of stinging cells to capitalize on any prey availability. This study will help understand the relationship of nematocyst production in starved verses well-fed Aiptasia which will contribute to our understanding of cnidarian response to prey availability and may provide insight into coral biology.

An Investigation of Polyploidy in Commercial and Native Populations of Hierchloë ordorata (Poaceae)

Eric Hammer, Mary Jo Tufte, Terri Hildebrand, Ph.D.*
Department of Biology

Abstract

Polyploidy refers to additional sets of chromosomes in an organism’s cells. Most extant plants are thought to have derived from ancient hybridization events and, as such, are polyploids. Hierchloë ordorata (Poaceae), or Sweetgrass, is a plant widely studied for its pharmacological, ceremonial, and medicinal properties, but investigations exploring the evolution of populations have been more limited. Variation in Sweetgrass ploidy levels has been suggested, but increased ploidy in North American populations has not been identified. This study assesses ploidy relationships among two commercial strains, one diploid and a purported polyploid, as well as a native population from Boulder Mountain, Utah. Guard cell length, a measure known to correlate with increased ploidy level, was used as an indicator of increased chromosome number. Growth rate, per plant biomass, rhizome length and branch number were also recorded and examined in relationship to guard cell length. A significant increase in guard cell length in the purported polyploid strain was recorded in addition to modifications in stomata arrangement on leaf surfaces in native population representatives. Rhizome length, shoot number, and plant biomass differed between commercial strains, but aboveground growth rates were not significantly different. Experimental results from this study serve as an initial investigation of polyploidy in North American Sweetgrass populations. They also provide a foundation for further studies that will explore secondary metabolites in H. odorata populations, a plant response often suggested to have evolved from selective pressures exerted by native soil microbes.

Fossil avifauna of the Pleistocene Fossil Lake Formation (Oregon): Can birds be used as a proxy to determine paleoclimatic conditions?

Jennifer Hargrave, Ph.D.
Department of Physical Science

Abstract

Lacustrine sediments of the Pleistocene Fossil Lake Formation of Oregon, record packages of upwardly fining sequences that are fossiliferous, including a large collection of bird fossils. This paleo-lake was studied to determine whether stratigraphically collected bird fossils are a useful tool to infer broad climatic conditions of ancient lacustrine systems. Depositional environments were determined for sediments deposited from 646 ka to 10 ka as the lake waxed and waned. A subsample of 350 bird fossils are divided into 3 eco-groups based upon their feeding preferences. Changes occur in eco-group abundances with changes in water depth. The lake sediments were primarily deposited during pluvial episodes. As with many fossil collections, inferences made solely from fossil avifauna may be limited. However, fossil avifauna with stratigraphic control can be combined with other datasets to better construct broad paleoclimatic conditions, such as warm or cold and dry or wet.

Computing and Education

Cecily Heiner, Ph.D.
Department of Computer Science and Information Science

Abstract

My research explores how computers can facilitate the educational process. I am specifically interested in creating automatic feedback for free-forms student input using a variety of natural language processing, machine learning, and data mining techniques. In previous research, I created a system to collect source code and natural language snapshots when introductory programming students asked questions, and categorized the data with the goal of creating a system that can automatically answer questions. An offline analysis suggests that the system can answer the majority of the questions correctly, but unfortunately it does not have the metacognitive skills to accurately assess which questions it can and cannot answer. In my research here at SUU, I am interested exploring opportunities for online education at the secondary level. Online education has the potential to be a solution to the pipeline problem, especially for students who are located in rural areas, such as southern Utah.

Biological & Biochemical Characterization of Venoms of the New World Vine Snakes: Oxybelis aeneus and Oxybelis fulgidus

William H. Heyborne, Ph.D.
Department of Biology

Abstract

Although the toxic oral secretions of some venomous snake species have been relatively well studied, most have not. This is particularly true of venoms produced by members of the paraphyletic family ‘Colubridae.’ In our laboratory we have been working toward a better understanding of these biologically diverse creatures and the venoms they produce. Here we report the findings of a study initiated to examine the venoms from two members of the genus Oxybelis, O. fulgidus and O. aeneus. While several accounts of these animals have reported them to be venomous, this study represents the first quantitative data for the venoms of these species. Mass profiling of the venoms was accomplished using SDS-PAGE and MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry. Enzymatic activities and toxicity were assayed using appropriate in vitro and in vivo techniques. Both species had moderately complex venoms, with three major size classes of proteins present: 8-9 kDa, 25 kDa, and 50-80 kDa. Both species showed moderate metalloprotease activity toward azocasein and weak phophodiesterase and L-amino acid oxidase activity. Oxybelis fulgidus also showed moderate acetylcholinesterase activity. Neither venom showed any phopholipase A2 activity. The venoms were found to be toxic to both endothermic and ectothermic prey animals, with LD50 values varying widely between taxa. Oxybelis venoms, like other colubrid venoms, are chemically complex and homologous to the venoms of front-fanged snakes. As Oxybelis do not use constriction, a primary role of the venom is rapid immobilization/quiescence of prey.

Synthetic Differential Geometry

Vishal Lama and Sarah Brown, Ph.D.
Department of Mathematics

Abstract

Synthetic Differential Geometry provides a foundation for synthetic reasoning in differential geometry using tools from Category Theory. We look at formulations of several geometric concepts in differential geometry in the language of Topos Theory in the context of an intuitionistic logic, which requires a rejection of the law of the excluded middle that characterizes the familiar (boolean) logic of the Category of Sets. We examine space forms in terms of basic geometric and conceptual constructions, which are morphisms that constitute the base category in which we work, the space forms being objects of this base category. Such a category is cartesian closed since given “spaces” A and B, we can form BA, the “space” of all morphisms (functions) from A to B. Our universe of spaces, therefore, is a cartesian closed category consisting of smooth morphisms between smooth spaces. In this synthetic theory, we examine concepts of ordinary and partial derivatives, Taylor formulas, tangent vectors and tangent bundle, Lie bracket and directional derivatives in a manner that is both geometrically intuitive and mathematically rigorous.

Preliminary Field Investigation into the Relationship Between Hoodoo Formation and Footwall Shearing of tje Ruby's Inn Thrust Fault, Bryce Canyon, Utah

Roger Leavitt, Skyler May; and John MacLean, Ph.D.*
Department of Physical Science

Abstract

The Ruby’s Inn Thrust Fault, located in the Bryce Canyon region, is an uncharacteristic demonstration of a south-directed shortening episode located near the predominately east-directed contractional structures of the Sevier Orogeny. The Paleocene to Eocene Claron Formation in the footwall of the Ruby’s Inn Thrust contains conjugate shear sets and vertical fault planes with slickensides and slickenlines, indicating complex multidirectional shearing. George Davis, in his 1997 Field Guide to the Geologic Structures in the Bryce Canyon Region, Utah, stated that these footwall structures are relatable to the Ruby’s Inn thrusting. Davis also suggested that the formation of the hoodoos in Bryce Canyon may have been caused, in part, by the deformation associated with the faulting and not solely by vertical jointing and differential weathering and erosion. During the 2011 field season, we found that structures within the hoodoo outcrops of the Claron Formation also demonstrate displacement along both vertical and sub-horizontal conjugate shear structures. In this study, we characterized the orientation, intensity, and geographical extent of these conjugate shear structures, vertical fault planes, and slickenlines in the Claron Formation. We found that the deformation in the footwall in varies in intensity on a roughly north-to-south transect of outcrops about two kilometers outside the western boundary of Bryce Canyon National Park. This deformation begins directly south of the main thrust described by previous researchers. Our research supports the idea that the deformation structures may play a significant part in the formation of hoodoos found in the Claron.

Ground-shaking Implications on the Mysterious Racetrack Playa, Death Valley, CA

John Lewin, John MacLean, Ph.D., Laura Cotts*
Department of Physical Science

Abstract

The mysteriously moving rocks of the Racetrack Playa in Death Valley have been investigated for more than a century, invoking numerous hypotheses to explain this phenomenon. Some of the prominent hypotheses include slippery surfaces, high speed winds, and ice sheets. However, these hypotheses do not explain all of the observed phenomena. Indeed, the behavior of the rocks as marked by their paths or “racetracks” remains an enigma. The observations most difficult to explain include acute direction change, large rock displacement, parallel motion, and adjacent rock divergence.

We submit that rocks on the Racetrack Playa have moved due to event-induced vibrations. Although dry static friction of the playa would likely require high amplitude vibration to set the rocks in motion, previous studies of the Racetrack Playa have shown occurrences of low friction surface states due to conditions such as partial water saturation. Even a low amplitude vibration event that coincides with a low friction surface state could allow the rocks to glide across the playa surface. Furthermore, the erratic path behavior exhibited at the Racetrack Playa is typical of object displacement behavior due to surface vibration. Preliminary results from attempted replication of these phenomena appear viable.

Theoretical Investigation of Novel Photonic Crystal Architectures

Joseph M. Ruesch and Matthew R. Jorgensen , Ph.D.*
Department of Physical Science

Abstract

In order to meet growing demands in solar energy, information processing, lasers, and lighting technologies a greater control over light is necessary. Photonic crystals (PCs), a breakthrough class of periodic optical materials, are capable of addressing these challenges. While PCs have been theoretically investigated for 30 years, the focus has been on PCs possessing a certain quality – a full photonic band gap – that was believed to be required for technological applications. Recent experimentation has shown that this quality is not necessary for use. This allows the opportunity for further theoretical investigation of new PC structures. Using MIT Photonic Bands, various photonic crystal structures were created and tested for photonic gaps. 3D geometric shapes were cut from a dielectric material at face-centered-cubic lattice points. The results varied with some structures showing promise for use in controlling light. This presentation delves into the structures and possible further directions for research.

Water Adsorption on Copper Tubing Walls

Glen R. Longhurst, Ph.D., PE, Collaborating with W. L. Kuhn, W. G. Luscher, and D. L. Baldwin, Pacific Northwest
National Laboratory, Richland, Washington
Department of Integrated Engineering

Abstract

The fuel for nuclear weapons and fusion reactors includes tritium (3H) the radioactive isotope of hydrogen. Experiments concerned with the production and release of tritium from the ceramics from which it is bred, are conducted in nuclear reactors and require transporting very small quantities of tritium through long tubes from the reactor core to the analysis stations where the tritium can be detected and measured. Most of the tritium produced in these experiments is oxidized into water, HTO. Water adsorbs onto the surface of the copper tubes, and when the quantities of HTO are very small, there is a distinct possibility that the HTO will not be seen at the outlet end of the tube in the time allotted for the experiment, being adsorbed on tube walls before it can pass through the length of the tube. Research being conducted in the Department of Integrated Engineering, using nonradioactive deuterium (2H) in lieu of tritium and mass spectroscopy in lieu of radioactivity counting, is exploring the phenomenon of water adsorption and isotopic replacement on the walls of copper tubes. It has been demonstrated that there are two distinct reservoirs for adsorption. One is associated with physisorption in which the adsorbed water concentration is proportional to the vapor pressure of water in the gas above the tube surface. That inventory may be removed by evacuation or passing a dry sweep gas over the surface. The other inventory is associated with chemisorption. HTO molecules in that inventory can only be released by heating or by isotopic exchange with other water molecules such as ordinary H2O. Of particular concern is the linearity of this adsorption with the concentration of water molecules in the sweep gas carrying the HTO through the tube. Predictions made on the basis of measurements made in these experiments have indicated good linearity and have alleviated concerns for the adequacy of in-reactor experiment designs with regard to observability of tritium production transients.

Age and growth of Channel Catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) in the Green River

Jake Mecham and Betsy Bancroft, Ph.D.*
Department of Biology

Abstract

Little is known about the growth rates of invasive channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) in Utah. One of the few studies conducted in Utah found that growth rates of channel catfish were slower than in their native range east of the Rocky Mountains. I compared average size of channel catfish and growth rates in two different habitat types in the Green River (main channel and side channel habitat). Different habitat types can have important differences in food availability, temperature, and water flow, which can influence growth in many fish. It has been found that adult channel catfish occupy both main channel habitat and side channel habitat. I am testing the relationship between growth and habitat in channel catfish in Utah. Catfish were sampled from three different sites on the Green River composed of main channel and side channel habitat. Total length measurements for each fish sampled were taken and pectoral fin spines were removed. Cross sections of these spines will be used to age the fish. Using the R statistical package, a one way ANOVA test was run on the fish length data, which resulted in a p-value of .01496 suggesting the mean length of fish was greater in main channel habitat compared to side channel habitat. Age and growth information is currently being obtained via the pectoral spine cross sections and will soon be available to determine if growth rates differ among habitat type, or if different sized fish of the same age use different habitat types.

Topology of Solenoids

Mark Meilstrup,Ph.D., Greg Conner, BYU Mathematics Dusan Repovs, University of Ljubljana
Department of Mathematics

Abstract

Solenoids are a type of infinitely complicated topological space that is based on circles wrapping around themselves. We will discuss geometric realizations of solenoids in 3-dimensional space as the intersection of solid tori. This can be done in both knotted and unknotted manners. We can distinguish the different embeddings of solenoids by considering the fundamental group and the geometry of the solenoid complements.

Using Mathematica to investigate the position of maximum deflection in a simple beam.

Des Penny, Ph.D.* and Randy Melancon
Department of Integrated Engineering

Abstract

We wish to consider a simple beam with a moving point load. We will discuss the relationship between the position of maximum deflection of the beam and the location of the point load. We will use Mathematica to discover this functional relationship. We will also investigate the situation for a uniform load on the beam. We will compare the two cases and draw general conclusions about any combination of downward load on a simple beam.

Synthesis and Characterization of Platinum-Schiff Base Complexes Derived from Purines and Pyrimidines, and Exploring their Potential Applications as Anticancer Drugs

Radhika P. Nair, Ph.D.
Department of Physical Science

Abstract

The building blocks of nucleic acids (DNA and RNA), purines and pyrimidines, constitute an important class of N-heterocycles. Synthetically produced purine and pyrimidine based compounds play a vital role in the pharmaceutical arena. Such compounds are found to exhibit anticancer, anti-HIV, antiviral, and antibacterial activities. The biological importance coupled with medicinal applications has spurred research in the field of purine and pyrimidine chemistry. Since the discovery of Cisplatin, a variety of platinum complexes have been reported to exhibit anticancer activity. This research proposal involves the synthesis of novel schiff base ligands by the condensation of purines and pyrimidines with appropriate aldehydes. The resulting schiff base ligands will be complexed with platinum. Both the ligands and their platinum complexes will be characterized using 1H NMR, IR, and X-ray crystallography. As a contribution to the research in the development of new platinum anticancer drugs with improved clinical advantages, the platinum-schiff base complexes will be tested for anti-cancer activity.

The Effects of Temperature Change and Water Fluctuation on Feeding Behavior and Growth in Amphibian Larvae

Katrina E. Slabaugh, Betsy A. Bancroft PhD*, Jessica Hunt, Jaynee Ferrin, and Zach Limb
Department of Biology

Abstract

The recent rapid changes in climate have the potential to negatively affect many species, including amphibians. Projected changes in climate include regional changes in temperature and precipitation. We intend to study and compare the larval growth rate and time to metamorphosis in two species of salamander larvae in experimental fluctuating hydroperiods and then study the larval growth rates and feeding behavior in bullfrog larvae in experimental fluctuating temperatures. The larvae in the fluctuating hydroperiods will be subjected to one of three treatments: continuous high water level (control); weekly reduction in water level (reduction); or a fluctuating treatment where water will be reduced one week and added the next (fluctuating). The larvae in the fluctuating temperatures will be subjected to one of four treatments: consistent temperature at 15 degrees Celsius (control); weekly increase in temperature; weekly decrease in temperature; or a fluctuating treatment where the temperature will increase or decrease weekly. Each treatment will be replicated 10 times. We expect that the amphibians in the fluctuating treatments will show the highest growth and the most variable behavior whereas larvae in the decreasing/reduction treatments will show the lowest growth and the least variable behavior.

Synthesis and Photophysical Properties of New 1,8-Naphthalimides

Sean Natoli, James Christensen, Joseph Brewer, Noe Sorriono, J. Ty Redd, Ph.D.* and Hussein Samha, Ph.D.*
Department of Physical Science

Abstract

New 1,8-naphthalimides; 4-[N-methyl(2-methylamino)ethylamino]-N-(3-propanol)-1,8-naphalamide (1) and 4-[2-aminoethylamino]-1,8-naphalamide (2) have been synthesized in high yields, and their fluorescence behavior in the presence of several metal ions has been investigated. The fluorescence of these compounds is quenched when metal ions (Cu2+, Fe2+, Co2+) are added. This result suggests that this class of compounds have sensing capabilities towards some metal ions and maybe towards other small molecules as well. Therefore, they could have potential applications as sensing probes and be useful in environmental research.

Hey you, want to fight?! Understanding the neural mechanisms of aggression

Matt Weeg, Ph.D.
Department of Biology

Abstract

Aggression plays an important role in the social interactions of most animals, including humans. Males in particular produce aggressive behaviors for a number of reasons, including acquisition and defense of resources, courtship of females, and establishment/maintenance of social dominance hierarchies. The neural mechanisms underlying aggression have received a great deal of attention, especially as scientists attempt to discover the cause of pathologically aggressive behaviors in humans. Of particular interest is a link between levels of serotonin in the brain and aggression. Studies have shown an inverse relationship between serotonin levels and aggression levels, suggesting that serotonin may serve as an important modulator of aggression levels by regulating the brain circuitry involved in producing aggressive behaviors.

The Siamese fighting fish, Betta splendens, is a highly aggressive fish. If two males are allowed to interact, they will produce stereotyped aggressive behaviors that consist of flaring the gill covers and fins. These displays are reduced in fish given a drug that increases brain serotonin levels. These results, coupled with a relatively simple brain, make these fish ideal model systems for studying how serotonin affects aggressive brain circuitry. I am currently mapping out the location of serotonin-producing neurons in the Betta brain, with the goal of determining how these neurons are connected to sensory and motor brain regions involved in aggressive displays. These studies will provide the anatomical link between modulatory neurons and behavior-producing neurons, which will then allow more detailed study of how serotonin modulates aggressive behavior.

Wheels of Fire and Water: On the Coexistence of Extragalactic OH and H2O Megamasers

Brandon K. Wiggins, Dr. Victor Migenes, Ph.D.* (Brigham Young University: Department of Physics and Astronomy), Brent A. Sorensen, Ph.D.*
Department of Physical Science

Abstract

OH and H2O Megamasers are employed in the study of the internal kinematics of distant galaxies. OH masers appear to be radiatively pumped through FIR, while H2O masers have been found to be pumped collisionally at higher densities and temperatures. Though the physical pumping mechanisms involve processes which appear to be mutually exclusive, megamasers of both species have been detected in a very small number of objects. In this paper, we report the results of a study of NGC 3079, an object which exhibits masing activity from both H2O and OH maser species. We seek to identify physical mechanisms to better shed light on the apparently unique physical processes taking place within this object. Interferometric data from the European Very Long Baseline Interferometry Network (EVN) and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) were reduced using the Astronomical Imagining Processing Software (AIPS) suite. We detect the molecular disk in NGC 3079 and superpose the OH maser reported in Baan et al. (1995). Archival data of radio continuum emission on the kiloparsec scale suggests an outflow with a position angle differing significantly from the outflows on subparsec scales, perhaps indicating the presence of a precessing jet to power outflows. A warped/precessing disk model is proposed to explain the wide angle outflow and chaotic structure of the molecule disk. Brief discussion is provided on the OH maser discussed in Baan et al. (1995).

The Effects of Thyroid Hormone on Tadpole Growth and Development in the Amphibian Rana catesbeiena

Rachel Wright, Whitney Lee and Betsy Bancroft, Ph.D.*
Department of Biology

Abstract

Thyroid hormones (TH) are tyrosine-based molecules secreted by the thyroid gland upon detection of the thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) released by the anterior pituitary gland. In humans, and, presumably all mammals, excess TH (hyperthyroidism) results in a plethora of abnormal metabolic functions. In amphibians, mammalian thyroid tissue was found to initiate larval metamorphosis. Increased TH production could accelerate apoptosis in the tail and intestines of amphibians. However, the effects of increased TH on morphological characteristics of amphibians have not been studied. Our preliminary work suggests that TH can also influence morphological characteristics of anuran larvae. Preliminary data showed a decrease in abdomen width in the increased T3/T4 treatment group. Also, between weeks two and four we recorded a smaller head length, head width and overall length from head to tail compared to the control and other hormone treated groups. However, tadpoles under this dose were only allowed to develop for four weeks creating uncertainties on long-term survival and development rate. This study will investigate if increases in TH concentration from the environment will affect the timing of metamorphosis and duration of the larval period. Also, we will investigate the overall length from head to tail and the width of the abdomen of Rana catesbeiena when the onset of metamorphosis occurs. Morphological characteristics of amphibians prior to metamorphosis can influence fecundity in the adult stage.