Category: CMS-Biology

Students Conduct Research on UCO’s Mediterranean Geckos

During the early surge of undergraduate research and transformative learning at UCO, we conducted a study of Mediterranean Geckos for which the data were collected by undergraduate students as part of a class project. For six consecutive Spring Semesters (2012-2017) students in General Biology for Majors – Principles (BIO 1204) conducted nightly censuses of Howell Hall, recording the presence of geckos on the walls of the building. Students were responsible for scheduling and conducting censuses, making and printing datasheets, entering and analyzing census data, collecting temperature data, and writing a report every year summarizing the data.

The original goal of the study was to document the date of spring emergence from hibernation. We assumed geckos hibernated during winter, because every other lizard species in Oklahoma hibernates. However, students made an interesting discovery during our study – geckos at UCO are active all winter. Geckos were active on the outside walls of Howell Hall on 343 of 391 censuses (88%), including 13 of 31 censuses (42%) when ambient temperatures were 0oC (freezing) or lower. It seems clear that this activity could not be sustained unless geckos were moving in and out of the building, using heat produced by humans to avoid the metabolic challenges of hibernation.

We recently published a manuscript about the study:
Stone, P. A., H. M. Marinoni, S. Laverty, and A. M. Fenwick. 2021. Winter activity in a northern population of Mediterranean Geckos (Hemidactylus turcicus). Herpetological Conservation and Biology 16:405-411.

Students were enthusiastic about the project, especially censusing geckos. A total of 193 students participated, and eventually, one determined student, Hillary Marinoni, spearheaded the effort to publish.

Biology Alumna featured in Association of American Medical Colleges Students and Residents Website

Christiana Obioma, a 2018 Biology-Biomedical Sciences graduate and current student at the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine, is featured in the online “Anatomy of an Applicant” series of the Association of American Medical Colleges. While at UCO, Christiana worked with Dr. Caroline Bentley, health professions advisor and associate professor of biology, to take the appropriate courses to fulfill medical school pre-requisites. She enlisted in the Army during her junior year, taking two semesters off while training to become an emergency medical technician. During her senior year, Christiana participated in a research project on wound healing with Dr. Melville Vaughan, professor of biology, and presented her research at the National Conference for Undergraduate Research (NCUR) and the Oklahoma Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation conference (OK-LSAMP). Christiana was named the Outstanding Biology Senior in 2018 and graduated cum laude.

Read more about Christana’s journey on the AAMC Students and Residents website, Compassionate Caregiver to Military Medic: Christiana’s Path to Medical School.

Dr. Christopher Butler Receives Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Grant

Dr. Christopher Butler, professor of biology, has received a four-year $332,100 grant from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. His project, “Comparing detectability and efficiency of multiple methods for surveying rails,” will improve detection rates of Black Rail and King Rail species on the Texas Gulf Coast.
The specific objectives of the project are: to conduct present-absence surveys using multiple approaches that include both detection and occupancy rates for rail species; evaluate whether FLIR-equipped (thermal) UAVs may be used to detect multiple rail species; refine a survey technique for long-term monitoring that, afterward, might be continued by TPWD staff for various rail species; and assess potential habitat associations that relate back to management practices conducted on state and federal lands.

 

Dr. Andrew Taylor Receives OK Department of Wildlife Conservation Grant

Dr. Andrew Taylor, assistant professor of biology, received a $119,361 grant from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. Dr. Christopher Butler, professor of biology will serve as a Co-Principal Investigator on the grant. The two-year project, “Detection and Occupancy of Bluntface Shiner (Cyprinella camura) in Wadeable Streams of Northeastern Oklahoma,” will update the known distribution and habitat associations of Bluntface Shiner. The extent of the species’ current geographic distribution is unknown. This project will perform targeted field collections of Bluntface Shiner across streams in 15 north central and northeastern Oklahoma counties. Over the course of the project, sampling will be focused among locations within the Verdigris River basin, upper Arkansas River basin, and the Ozark Mountains ecoregion.

Research Group Investigates Gene Transfer in Bacteria

Biology professor Dr. Jim Bidlack and his research group are investigating gene transfer in bacteria. Better understanding of how bacteria become multidrug resistant can help researchers develop new techniques that can control bacterial infections and save human lives. Coincidently, a new gene locus encoding for bile salt sensitivity in bacteria appears to be the same gene locus responsible for antibiotic resistance. Dr. Bidlack’s students are currently isolating that gene locus so that it can be sequenced and determine what part of the DNA encodes for antibiotic resistance. If successful, it may be possible to use that information to develop new drugs that will be more effective in fighting bacterial infections.

UCO Professors Collaborate on U. of Kansas NSF EPSCoR Grant

Drs. Robert Brennan and Sean Laverty are part of a multi-institutional NSF EPSCoR grant to research tick-borne diseases including Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. The four-year $3,921,229 grant, “Marshalling Diverse Big Data Streams to Understand Complexity of Tick-borne Diseases in the Southern Great Plains,”  is a collaboration among six universities in Kansas and Oklahoma, with the University of Kansas (KU) serving as the lead institution. Along with KU and UCO, the consortium includes Kansas State University, Pittsburgh State University, Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma. According to the project abstract, major components of the research include assembling detailed large-scale datasets on the occurrences of different tick species, genomes of the ticks and pathogens, and environmental variation across the region. Dr. Brennan, biology professor, director of the Center for Interdisciplinary Biomedical Education and Research (CIBER) and associate dean of the UCO College of Mathematics and Science, serves as a Co-Principal Investigator on the grant. Dr. Laverty, associate professor of mathematics and statistics and CIBER member, will provide data analysis.