Many aquatic insects use polarized light to find water surfaces on which they reproduce, and where their larvae live and grow. Manmade objects and structures can sometimes mimic these water surfaces by polarizing light. Moreover, in some cases they can be more attractive to aquatic insects than water itself. This effect causes “ecological traps” that can lead aquatic insects to population decline or even extinction.
Previous studies have shown that the attractiveness of polarizing synthetic surfaces can be reduced if grids of non-polarizing lines are strategically placed on them. In his senior project, Theodore Black measured the effect of line thickness on the attractiveness of polarizing non-water surfaces. Early in the morning he would install his polarizing traps near the water stream, and late at night he would collect them. Then, for days and days, he would sort and identify insects trapped in oil under the microscope, classifying them into such poetically named groups as non-biting midges (Chironomidae), black flies (Simulliidea), caddisflies (Trichoptera), and mayflies (Ephemeroptera). This work allowed Theo to analyze and describe the effect of non-polarizing line thickness on the attractiveness of traps, which will help to protect aquatic insects from human interference. Using this new information, engineers will be able to design solar panels that are efficient, yet don’t trick aquatic insects into laying eggs on it, helping them to avoid an evolutionary trap.
The Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation has awarded a $5 million dollar leadership grant to support a scientific study that seeks to reduce Lyme disease in neighborhoods. If successful, the project will revolutionize Lyme disease prevention.
Bard College biologist Felicia Keesing and Cary Institute disease ecologist Richard Ostfeld will direct the scientifically rigorous five-year study. It will take place in Dutchess County, New York, which is home to one of the nation’s highest Lyme disease infection rates. Residents of 24 neighborhoods will be recruited from Lyme disease hotspots identified by the researchers and their partners at the Dutchess County Department of Health.
Link to the project web-page:
Full press-release from Bard.
What are the molecular processes distinguishing cell regeneration from cell development? Using zebrafish as a model organism, Sophia Zega studies one facet of this question by investigating the role of FAT2 protein in initial hair cell development, and in hair cell regeneration. Based on previous evidence we know FAT2 levels increase following hair cell ablation in preparation for regeneration. Sophia performs a knock down of FAT2 in zebrafish larvae, and then stains hair cells with dyes binding to actin and microtubules, to see how the FAT2 gene is important for hair cell development and regeneration.
David Hendler in interested in wildlife conservation. In his senior project he is trying to develop methodologies for surveying wildlife corridors in fragmented forest habitat. To study this question, David placed dozens of automatic wildlife cameras in the woods around the Town of Red Hook. Working under supervision of professors Felicia Keesing and Bruce Robertson, he collected thousands of photographs of various mammals, and analyzed them, to check whether animal diversity is different in in wildlife corridors compared to the larger habitats they connect.
On a picture: a collage of several photos, one showing a coyote, and another one with some deer.
For her senior project, Alessia Zambrano characterized biofilms produced by a bacterium Janthinobacterium lividum: a strain isolated from the Hudson River Valley area that plays an essential role in aquatic health and community diversity. Alessia took three-dimensional images of the biofilm using an atomic force microscope. These 3D reconstructions for the first time provide a detailed picture of the shape, size, and surface topography of individual cells of this bacterial strain.
Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) is a deadly pathogen of many species of amphibians. One of the most promising ways to combat its spread is to expose Bd zoospores to a purple pigment, violacein, which can kill Bd. Working with Professor Brooke Jude, Abby Soussan is determining whether Bd zoospores can sense and move away from the pigment, which would seriously inhibit the effectiveness of this potential treatment.
For her senior project, Yuanyuan Gao is asking whether infection with Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacterium that causes Lyme disease, affects the behavior of white-footed mice, Peromyscus leucopus, which are common hosts for the bacterium. In the lab at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, NY, Yuanyuan is comparing the activity levels of wild mice that have been vaccinated against B. burdorgeri to the activity levels of mice that have not.
The Summer Research Poster Session happened in RKC on Sep 24. Students presented results of their summer projects, both from the Bard Summer Research Institute (BSRI) program, and from various external research internships. About eighty people attended the session, which was quite a crowd for this late hour, and some incredibly interesting conversations happened at the posters.