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Student Research Internships and Service Learning

Using the knowledge and skills from coursework, laboratory and field experiences to carry out a research project, internship, or service learning project can be transformative and is the type of experience that can set you apart when applying for employment or grad/professional programs.  The faculty of the department cannot overemphasize the value for personal and professional development that these types of experiences hold.

Here are some examples of student projects.
Dr. Natasha Vanderhoff and Dr. Jeremy Stalker led a group of five students (Ryan Rillstone, Faiht Nylander, Kalli Unthank, Katherine Halbert, and Erika Kinchen) to Wildsumaco Biological Station in Ecuador July 3 - 17 as part of a summer study abroad class on Tropical Biology


Biology student Katie Kara receives research grant from The National Park Service, Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve and the Timucuan Trail Parks Foundation

Danielle D'amato initiates program: Cats on JU campus to be trapped, spayed, neutered

The 2013 JU Symposium was held April 3-5.  Of the 74 talks, 32 were STEM, and 17 were from our department!  Click here to see the schedule, with the STEM talks highlighted (you may need to save the document and then open it to see the highlights).

Five students and 3 faculty gave presentations at the 42nd Annual Benthic Ecology Meeting in Savannah, Georgia,  March 20-23, 2013. Here are the abstracts of those 5 presentations:

The Effects of Elevated CO2 on Arm Regeneration in the Burrowing Brittle Star Ophiophragmus filograneus

Coia, Jodi; McClure, Anna; Shankle, Stephanie; Wenk, Laura; Clements, Lee Ann; Stalker, Jeremy
Faculty advisors: Clements and Stalker

BrittleStarPosterfinal BEM 2013.pdfBrittleStarPosterfinal BEM 2013.pdf

Ocean acidification may impact the calcification and growth of benthic invertebrates. This experiment shows the effect of two levels of increased CO2 on the regeneration of brittle star limbs. We hypothesized that increased CO2 would result in increased skeletal and tissue growth during regeneration. Three CO2 levels (control, elevated and high) were used to alter pH  in aquaria resulting in pH differences: control CO2 pH  ~8,  elevated CO2 pH  ~7.5, and  high CO2 pH  ~7. These pH levels reflect those reported by IPCC estimates. Ten brittle stars, each with one arm surgically removed, were placed in each of nine aquaria in a Latin square design. Temperature, salinity, pH levels, dissolved oxygen, and CO2 pressure were monitored daily and animals were fed every third day. After one month, the dry weight and ash free dry weight of regenerated and non-regenerated portions of each individual were determined.. Increased acidity and CO2 levels resulted in increased in arm regeneration and a decrease in overall body mass. Ophiophragmus filograneus are able to utilize the additional CO2 despite the decrease in pH, but there is a metabolic cost which decreases overall body mass.



Latitudinal variation among populations of Phragmatopoma lapidosa along the east coast of Florida (oral presentation)
Massey, Tayler;  McCarthy, Dan
Faculty Advisor: Dan McCarthy

The sabellariid Phragmatopoma lapidosa constructs sediment tubes forming sand mounds which enhance nearshore intertidal and subtidal hard bottom habitats along the east coast of Florida. The reefs created are believed to be important as nurseries, foraging grounds, and shelter for many invertebrate and vertebrate species. While the range that P. lapidosa occurs along the Florida coast is considerable (Melbourne to Miami), there has been no comparison of populations along this latitudinal gradient where environmental factors vary considerably. In this study, percent cover, fecundity, egg size, and density of P. lapidosa were collected for four populations along 140 miles of the east Florida coast. We found P. lapidosa percent cover decreased with latitude from north to south while worm lengths were similar among all locations. The density of individual worms was highest at the northernmost site while fecundity there was the lowest. It is likely that environmental conditions at the northern areas of the Florida coast studied are more favorable for survival and growth and thus explain the observed higher densities and coverage there. If the individuals sampled were similar in age, the observed fecundity trends may be a result of site-specific differences in cues to spawning or energy available for reproduction.
Presenting author status: Undergrad
Presentation preference: oral

A genetic comparison of populations of the sabellariid polychaete Phragmatopoma lapidosa in the western Atlantic (oral presentation)

Staton, Joseph1; Massey, Tayler2; Shira, Jeannette1; McCarthy, Daniel2
1University of South Carolina-Beaufort, Bluffton, SC 29909; 2Jacksonville University, Jacksonville, FL 32211.
Faculty Advisors: Dan McCarthy and Joe Staton

The sabellariid Phragmatopoma lapidosa is a reef-building polychaete known to enhance the community of both invertebrates and fish found on nearshore hard bottom habitats in the fairly wide geographic range they are known to occur. While similar in function to that provided by tropical coral reefs, their ecology and robustness is completely different from that of most reef building scleractinians. Past genetic research has focused on broad scale measurements to understand possible species-level diversity, but we recently focused on genetic variation within P. lapidosa to make an assessment of their variability across their range from Brazil to Eastern Florida. We amplified a 710-bp fragment of the mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase subunit I (CO1) and the 420-bp fragment of the cytochrome b apoenzyme (cytb). The CO1 is weakly variable and can be comparable to published sequence data within the species, and the cytb is more variable and is a traditional tool for analysis of population genetic variation. Preliminary analyses of Florida populations demonstrate structuring in cytb variation along the coast (φST = 0.082; α=0.05, AMOVA) with the sample from Bathtub Reef, FL, being a significant contributor. This result may be related to their cycles of decline and reestablishment of reef over time.
Presenting author status: faculty
Presentation preference: oral

Ophiuroid communities associated with sabellariid polychaete mounds in Palm beach County, Florida (poster presentation)
Knight, Ashley; Flock, Anthony; Clements, Lee Ann; McCarthy, Dan
Faculty Advisors: Clements and McCarthy

Sand mounds created by the polychaete Phragmatopoma lapidosa are known to enhance shelter on nearshore hard bottom habitats along the east Florida coast. To date, most research has focused on fish and crustacean species associated with these “worm” reefs. Little is known about the diversity and abundance of other invertebrates that are likely to occur in these habitats. As part of a state funded project investigating the ecological function of nearshore habitats in Florida, P. lapidosa mounds were collected from four depth zones (0-1, 1-2, 2-4, 4-6 m) and two reef types (natural, artificial) during summer 2009. Collected mounds were broken apart and invertebrates encountered were identified and enumerated. In this portion of the study, we focused on the surprising richness of ophiuroids that were collected within these worm mounds. The number of individuals varied considerably between 0 and 18. There was high variability among depth and reef type treatments sampled. Since most brittle stars were small with all arms, they mostly likely were produced via sexual reproduction. However, it is unclear whether most migrated into mounds or recruited there as larvae. Regardless, all are known crevice dwellers and worm mounds in these habitats likely provide important shelter from predation.
Presenting author status: Undergrad
Presentation preference: Poster

The Effects of Elevated CO2 on Arm Regeneration in the Burrowing Brittle Star Ophiophragmus filograneus (poster presentation)
Coia, Jodi; McClure, Anna; Shankle, Stephanie; Wenk, Laura; Clements, Lee Ann; Stalker, Jeremy
Faculty Advisors: Clements and Stalker

Ocean acidification may impact the calcification and growth of benthic invertebrates. This experiment shows the effect of two levels of increased CO2 on the regeneration of brittle star limbs. We hypothesized that increased CO2 would result in increased skeletal and tissue growth during regeneration. Three CO2 levels (control, elevated and high) were used to alter pH in aquaria resulting in pH differences: control CO2 pH ~8, elevated CO2 pH ~7.5, and high CO2 pH ~7. These pH levels reflect those reported by IPCC estimates. Ten brittle stars, each with one arm surgically removed, were placed in each of nine aquaria in a Latin square design. Temperature, salinity, pH levels, dissolved oxygen, and CO2 pressure were monitored daily and animals were fed every third day. After one month, the dry weight and ash free dry weight of regenerated and non-regenerated portions of each individual were determined.. Increased acidity and CO2 levels resulted in increased in arm regeneration and a decrease in overall body mass. Ophiophragmus filograneus are able to utilize the additional CO2 despite the decrease in pH, but there is a metabolic cost which decreases overall body mass.
Presenting author status: Undergrad
Presentation preference: Poster

 



Becca Massip - Internship with Laguna Ocean Foundation
Faculty Advisor: Nisse Goldberg

Becca Massip spent the 2012 summer as an intern for the Laguna Ocean Foundation. The Foundation’s mission is to preserve and protect the beaches, intertidal zone, watersheds, and ocean waters of Laguna Beach and to educate the public about these resources. The total number of visitors each day at the tide pools was counted, visitors were educated on the organisms growing in the tide pools, and any  incidents were recorded (live collecting, handling, trampling, swimming, rock turning, and fishing). In the months of May to July, visitor numbers were greatest in June and on the weekends. The number of incidents was also greater on the weekends relative to weekdays. Becca designed an educational brochure for visitors of the tide pools, highlighting organisms and their interesting lives.

 

 

Jenell Larsen -Chiswell Intership at the Alaska SeaLife Center
Faculty Mentor: Nisse Goldberg

Using remote video technology, Jenell Larsen conducted census counts on a population of Steller Sea Lions on Chiswell Island in Alaska and monitored their behaviors during the summer months, 2012. She learned to identify individuals based on markings. She counted the numbers of TB: territorial bull (a male holding territory), HB: harem bull (a territorial bull with females), SAM: sub-adult male and Yrl: yearling. During the pupping season, she recorded the number of pups and the identity of the mothers, and also the number of copulations. These data will be used to by researchers to better understand why the western populations of Steller Sea Lions in the Gulf of Alaska and the Aleutian Islands have not recovered since the 1970s.





 

Virginia Iwinski - Independent Research: Diatom diversity at Huguenot Park, Florida
Faculty Mentor: Nisse Goldberg

Virginia Iwinski identified 37 diatom taxa from samples collected at Huguenot Park in October and November, 2011.  There were 29 diatoms identified from the river mouth, sandy beach, and inlet at Huguenot Park in October and 26 diatoms identified from the three sites in February, 2012. In October, diatoms that appeared to be the most prevalent throughout all samples included Chaetoceros, Coscinodiscus, Diatoma, Ditylum, Nitschia, Odontella, Pleurosigma, Rhizosolenia, Skeletonema, Stephanopyxis, and Synedra.  Diatoms that appeared to be the most prevalent throughout all samples taken at Huguenot Park in February included Thallasionema, Chaetoceros, Coscinodiscus, Diatoma,  Rhizosolenia, Pseudo-nitzchia, Ditylum, and Stephanopyxis.  Diatoms that were prevalent in all samples that were viewed included Chartoceros, Coscinodiscus, Diatoma, Ditylum, Rhizosolenia, Stephanopyxis, and Skeletonema.


Christina Adams
- Independent Study: Invasive Plants Bought, Sold & Grown in Florida
Faculty Mentor: Nisse Goldberg

Christina Adams researched the number of Category I invasive exotic species that are grown by members of Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association (FNGLA), sold in major retailers (Lowe’s, Home Depot, Ace Hardware), and found growing in Florida. Of the 37 Category I species, 8 were reportedly grown by FNGLA members and 6 species sold in the major retailers. Education of the public is critical because retail of these species is not regulated.


Ryan Rillstone
- Independent Research: Survey of spoil and natural islands in the salt marshes of the St Johns River, FL
Published in the
The Journal of the Torrey Botanical Society: Abstract is here
Faculty Mentor: Nisse Goldberg

In May through July, 2011, plant assemblages in the intertidal marsh and maritime hammock and dredge spoil islands were surveyed in the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve, along the Sisters Creek tributary of the St. Johns River, northeastern Florida. The intertidal assemblage was typical of salt marshes located in southeastern United States. A mean of 19 species per island was estimated from the 20 islands that were surveyed and was significantly greater than the 8 species per island reported from 2003 to 2004 surveys. No significant differences in plant diversity were observed between maritime hammock and dredge spoil islands.


Doris Pope-Reyes (class of 2011) – Independent research: Analyzed calls from the Amazonian bamboo rat
Faculty Mentor: Natasha Vanderhoff

 

Abstract from the 2011 Florida Academy of sciences meeting:

Amazon bamboo rats (Dactylomys dactylinus) are medium sized arboreal rodents inhabiting the rainforest of much of Amazonia.  Bamboo rats are nocturnal and their most conspicuous feature is their loud, pulsing vocalizations consisting of several loud deep grunts followed by softer grunts. We recorded 20 calls from three bamboo patches during July 2010 at Wildsumaco Wildlife Sanctuary in Ecuador.  We analyzed the following with Raven Bioacoustics software: duration, intercall interval, maximum frequency, minimum frequency, and number of call elements. Future investigations will explore the ultimate and proximate reasons for these vocalizations, including territoriality and with-in group social cohesion.

Doris (below) analyzing bamboo rat calls with Raven bioacoustics software



Lindsey McLaurin
(class of 2011) – Independent research and internship at the Jacksonville Zoo.

Faculty Mentor: Natasha Vanderhoff

Lindsey first did a research project and helped the zoo gather behavioral data on the gorillas, then she interned for a semester at Stingray Bay (photo below). 



Isaac Kinman
(class of 2011) – Honors project for Zoology:  nest box construction for birds on JU campus
Faculty Mentor: Natasha Vanderhoff

Isaac constructed six nest boxes, including a nest box for the Barred Owls on campus (pictured below).



Kelsey Cooper
– Independent research project: Monitoring Brown Pelicans Pelecanus occidentalis in Jacksonville

Faculty Mentor: Natasha Vanderhoff

Kelsey is monitoring the number of adult and juvenile pelicans at three sites in Jacksonville:  the dock at JU, the pier at Jax Beach and at Mayport (photos below from Mayport). She is also gathering foraging data and looking for signs of injured pelicans.




Danielle D’Amato
– Independent research project:  Feeding enrichment for lemurs at the Jacksonville Zoo
Faculty Mentor: Natasha Vanderhoff

Danielle compared the behavior of lemurs before and after enrichment feeders were introduced.  She made the feeders herself and is currently working on analyzing and writing up the data for publication.

Danielle’s summary:

I am currently conducting a research project, on the effect of enrichment feeders with lemurs. To conduct my research I am working with the zookeepers at the Jacksonville zoo and the lemurs at the facility. For my research I am working with an all-male troop of five ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta), and a troop of black and white ruffed lemur (Varecia variegata) that consist of one female and two males. 

I have made four PVC style feeders and four suet style feeders, to be used as the enrichment feeders in this research. Hopefully the presence of enrichment feeders will encourage more foraging behavior. I hope to have my finding published in a scientific journal. If you would like to know the findings of my research look for me at the research symposium held every year at Jacksonville University.




Botany Students - Service Learning Projects: Growing Food for a local Food Pantry
Faculty Advisor: Nisse Goldberg

Botany students are growing plants for the Food Pantry plots of the Arlington Community Garden. Heirloom varieties of lettuce, tomato, pepper, eggplant, and broccoli have been grown. Once the plants have been started from seed, they are transferred to the Food Pantry plots and maintained by volunteers. To date, over 500 lbs of produce have been harvested from the program.



Botany Students
- Service Learning Project: Air Potato Roundup
Faculty Advisor: Nisse Goldberg

Botany students have been leading the Air Potato Roundup for Jacksonville University. Air potato is an invasive vine and the annual event is a way to educate the public of the plant and how it can spread. Volunteers come to harvest the potatoes and also pull down the vines growing up the trees. Over 3,000 potatoes were collected from the 2012 roundup. -This can be very tiring, as is demonstrated by the picture.