All posts by khakhalin

Student research: Sarah Weiner

In recent years, many have speculated that climate change is the driving force behind the spike in cases of Lyme disease in the northeastern United States.  It would be really useful for the public if we could use climate data to predict places and times at risk for Lyme disease.  In her senior project, Sarah Weiner used public records from the United States Drought Monitor to create a climate index.  Then, with guidance from professor Felicia Keesing, Sarah built statistical models to see whether this climate index could be used to predict year-to-year variation in Lyme disease incidence at the county level.  Sarah found that climate is not a practical way to predict Lyme disease outbreaks, and that other factors, such as location, are much better predictors.

Microscopy tutorial

This spring semester, two Bard biology students (Maia Weisenhaus and Sadie Marvel) were enrolled in a microscopy tutorial with professor Brooke Jude. Every week they would come up with new ideas for projects, and then figured out how to do them as they went along. In the words of one of the students: “It’s fun to learn these microscopy techniques without the formal structure of being in a class. It’s very exploratory!”

You can see more photos from the tutorial on the tutorial tumblr.

Hudson Valley Life Science conference

Five biology students brought their senior project posters to the Hudson Valley Life Science Group (HVLSG) Spring Research Symposium, which was held at Vassar college this year. The conference was a blast, with about 30 students participating, and a great keynote lecture about frogs and owls (by Vassar professor Megan Gall).

Field Methods in Ecology course in Costa Rica

Bard students enrolled in the Field Methods in Ecology course, taught by professor Cathy Collins, spent spring break in Costa Rica at the Firestone Center for Restoration Ecology. Students designed and executed studies to characterize rainforest microclimates, estimate diversity and abundance of butterflies, and quantify the biomass removed from the forest canopy by leaf cutter ants–all while being surrounded by the sloths, monkeys, anteaters, tarantulas, and toucans!

You can read more about their experience on the course blog, and see more photos at the blog photo album!

Nine genome announcements from Brooke Jude’s lab

This winter the lab of professor Brooke Jude published nine draft genomes of bacteria endemic to the Hudson Valley watershed. This work is a result of several senior projects performed in the Biology program, and three graduated biology students (Alexandra Bettina, Georgia Doing, and Kelsey O’Brien) are now first authors on three publications!

Bettina, A. M., Doing, G., O’Brien, K., Perron, G. G., & Jude, B. A. (2018). Draft Genome Sequences of Phenotypically Distinct Janthinobacterium sp. Isolates Cultured from the Hudson Valley Watershed. Genome announcements6(3), e01426-17.

Doing, G., Perron, G. G., & Jude, B. A. (2018). Draft Genome Sequence of a Violacein-Producing Iodobacter sp. from the Hudson Valley Watershed. Genome announcements6(1), e01428-17.

O’Brien, K., Perron, G. G., & Jude, B. A. (2018). Draft Genome Sequence of a Red-Pigmented Janthinobacterium sp. Native to the Hudson Valley Watershed. Genome announcements6(1), e01429-17.

Biology Seminar: Spring 2018

  • 2/1 – Introduction and orientation
  • 2/8 – Chris Vecsey – Skidmore College – Sleeping on the Fly: Studying Fruit Flies to Learn About Mechanisms of Sleep Regulation
  • 2/15 – Kerri-Ann Norton – Bard College – The Influence of the Host Microenvironment on Breast Cancer Progression: Investigations Using a Computational Biology Approach
  • 2/22 – Susan Elbin – Audubon
  • 3/1 – Olorunseun Ogunwobi – Hunter College – MicroRNA-1207-3p in Prostate Cancer
  • 3/8 – Steven Franks – Fordham University – Evolutionary Responses to Climate Change Revealed by the Resurrection Approach
  • 3/15 – Carmen Melendez-Vasquez – Hunter College – Myelinating Glia Differentiation is Regulated by the Mechanical Properties of the Extracellular Matrix
  • 3/29 – Matteo Farinella – Columbia University – Comics and Science
  • 4/5 – Robyn Smyth – Bard Center for Environmental Policy
  • 4/12 – Bruce Robertson – Bard College
  • 4/19 – Felicia Keesing – Bard College – The Tick Project: Testing environmental interventions to prevent tick-borne diseases
  • 4/26 – Arseny Khakhalin – Bard College – Neural network connectivity in the brain of tadpoles that helps them detect impeding collisions
  • 5/3 – Student talks

New paper: Onshore Wind Speed and Microbial Aerosols at Urban Waterfronts

In this new paper, Bard professor Elias Dueker and collaborators study microbes that fly in the air, after small droplets of water get lifted from the ocean surface by the coastal wind. They found that depending on the wind speed, different amounts of microbes were picked up, and they were transported different distances into the city. They also described which types of microbes are more likely to get airborne, compared to those found below the water surface.

Citation: Dueker, M. E., O’Mullan, G. D., Martínez, J. M., Juhl, A. R., & Weathers, K. C. (2017). Onshore Wind Speed Modulates Microbial Aerosols along an Urban WaterfrontAtmosphere8(11), 215.

New paper: Susceptibility to ecological traps is sensitive to spatial isolation

Animals caught in ‘ecological traps’ prefer the worst available habitats. This happens when environmental change makes habitats look superficially attractive when they are actually dangerous. Ecological traps are increasingly common, but it remains unclear how susceptible animals are to them. Aquatic flies, for example, can be highly attracted to asphalt because it reflects polarized light the same way that natural water bodies do.

In this study, Bard professor Bruce Robertson and his students exposed seven ecologically similar species of aquatic flies to different levels of polarized light, including abnormally strong polarized light associated with man-made habitats that are dangerous to them. They found that, in every species tested, animals actually preferred levels of polarized light typical of asphalt where their eggs perish, over levels typical of natural ponds. We also found that the degree of their preference depended on whether the cue was closer or more distant from a natural river.

Citation: Robertson, B. A., Keddy-Hector, I. A., Shrestha, S. D., Silverberg, L. Y., Woolner, C. E., Hetterich, I., & Horváth, G. (2018). Susceptibility to ecological traps is similar among closely related taxa but sensitive to spatial isolationAnimal Behaviour135, 77-84.

Saw Kill Watershed Community grant

In the fall 2017, Assistant Professor of Biology, Eli Dueker, was awarded a grant from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation for his work with the Saw Kill Watershed Community (SKWC), which he founded. The goal of the project is to improve understanding about connections between land-use and stream/watershed conditions. SKWC will develop and implement long-term planning to help preserve the watershed and reduce threats and will expand regionally by reaching out to neighboring watershed community groups.

Read more: https://sagehouse.blog/2017/11/20/college-and-community-a-watershed-partnership/

Student Research: Biz Osborne-Schwartz

In her senior project, Biz Osborne-Schwartz’ 17 sought to improve oral rehydration therapies (ORT) for cholera patients. Working with her advisor, Professor Brooke Jude, Biz developed a protocol to study the attachment of Vibrio cholerae to chitin (a stand-in for a human intestinal cell) and other carbohydrates. This new protocol allowed her to test if adding a certain type of chemical compounds, called enzyme resistant carbohydrates, to ORT could decrease the number of bacteria in a patient infected with cholera. Biz observed a decrease in Vibrio cholerae attached to chitin beads when incubated in ORT with enzyme resistant starches, which means that more complex ORT are promising for cholera patients!