2022 Abstract Submissions

Name(s) (First Last): Madelyn Schider
Madelyn Schider
Hillsdale College

The Effect of Micronutrient Levels of Fe, Mn, Mo, Zn on Catawba Grapes (Vitis vinifera)

Grapevines (Vitis vinifera) micronutrient toxicity symptoms were examined by adding Fe, Mn, Mo, or Zn to water in order to form a fertilized solution. Beginning with grapevine cuttings the vines were planted in a mix of peat-lite and potting soil, having no nutrients, and fertilized with a macronutrient fertilizer containing optimal macronutrients. Once rooted and having an ideal level of macronutrients, P, K, and N the vines were then watered with concentrations of 0.5, 1, 2, 3, 4 mM micronutrient solution. All of the treatments still had a fixed level of macronutrients. The effect of the concentrations was assessed through biomass, height, leaf amount, leaf width, and chlorophyll analysis. No significant trends in the relationship between micronutrients and plant traits were found. A solid frame for further research would be to increase concentration levels. No levels of toxicity were acquired since concentration levels were deemed too low. This research gives a clear methodical approach on how to find these levels in iron, manganese, molybdenum, and zinc, as well as any other micronutrients for V. vinifera


Name(s) (First Last): Angeline Bahe
Angeline Bahe
Gamma Gamma
Concordia College

Protecting the Water Quality of the Del Clark Reservoir: My Internship Experience with the NRCS in Marshall, MN

The Del Clark Reservoir in Canby, MN is a 156-acre man made lake located within the Lac qui Parle River Watershed. The reservoir hosts Stonehill Park, a county park which has a campground, swimming beach, and fishery, making it a hotspot for recreational use. The reservoir is the only assessed body of water in the watershed that has water quality good enough to meet the standards for aquatic recreation. In order to maintain the water quality of the reservoir, three control structures, or dams, were constructed in upstream tributaries in the summer of 2021. The reservoirs were funded by a Clean Water Fund grant from Minnesota’s Land and Legacy Amendment. Before construction began, the sites were surveyed using a Trimble R8 receiver on a 6.625 foot pole with a handheld Trimble TSC 3, and elevation of the surveyed areas was mapped out using CAD software. The sites were then staked where construction would occur. During the construction process, the engineering technician with Area 2 Minnesota River Basin Projects inspected and monitored the construction process. When construction was complete, the site was seeded with a tame grasses and forbs seed mix. With the three new sediment retention basins from the constructed dams, approximately 240 pounds of phosphorus and 2,700 tons of sediment will be reduced annually in the tributaries that flow into the Del Clark Reservoir. 


Name(s) (First Last): Jack Rinehart
Jack Rinehart and Dr. Sang-Chul Nam
Alpha Psi
Hillsdale College

The Effects of Fragile X Mental Retardation Protein on D. melanogaster Wing Epithelial Tissue

Fragile X Syndrome is the most common form of inherited mental retardation in humans. It results from a mutation in the FMR1 gene, which encodes the translational repressor FMRP. It has been shown that overexpression of FMRP in the Drosophila eye causes a reduction in eye neuronal cell development. In this experiment, it is tested whether a similar developmental defect may result from the overexpression of FMRP in the epithelial tissue of Drosophila wings. The GAL4/UAS ectopic expression system was used to generate flies overexpressing FMRP in specific tissues. The system was driven by two different tissue-specific promoters: dpp, which is expressed at the anterior-posterior border of the wing imaginal disc, and nub, which is expressed ubiquitously throughout the wing disc. The wings of adult experimental and wild-type control flies were compared. It was found that dpp experimental wings exhibited a notch-like shape at the distal tip and a statistically significant shrunken anterior-posterior border compartment, while nub wings exhibited nearly complete shrinkage. The cause of this epithelial tissue shrinkage was explored by screening for two different proteins in third instar larval stage fly progeny wing discs using immunocytochemistry. The expression patterns of FMRP and activated Caspase-3, driven by dpp, were compared using fluorescence microscopy to determine whether the shrinkage may be the result of ectopic apoptosis, but no significant correlations were observed. The expression patterns of FMRP and E-cadherin were similarly compared to determine whether the shrinkage may by the result of cell structural defects, specifically defects in the formation or regulation of cell-to-cell adherens junctions. The expression patterns of these proteins were nearly identical, suggesting that FMRP is capable of modulating E-cadherin, and thus possibly adherens junctions. Therefore, it is concluded that overexpression of FMRP results in epithelial tissue shrinkage in the Drosophila wing, and that this shrinkage may be due to FMRP-induced E-cadherin overexpression. In the future, further screening could determine whether FMRP affects the localization of other adherens junction proteins. Also, a mechanistic understanding of the relationship between E-cadherin and tissue shrinkage would likely provide insight into potential prevention or treatment options for Fragile X Syndrome.


Name(s) (First Last): Faith Linton
Faith Linton
Alpha Psi
Hillsdale College

Phenol Concentration Variability in Lingering Ash Trees

Since its accidental introduction to the United States in 2002, the invasive Asian beetle, called the Emerald Ash Borer (Agrilus planipennis, EAB), has spread across the country and devastated American ash tree (Fraxinus spp.) populations. The ash trees remaining in invaded forests now generally fall into two classes, lingering ash, the mostly-healthy individuals that were passed over, and susceptible ash, the dead and dying trees. One potential mechanism of defense for ash trees is production of foliar phytochemicals, such as phenol compounds. If ash trees do defend themselves with foliar phytochemicals, then I expect lingering ash to have greater concentrations of these foliar phytochemicals. To determine if lingering and susceptible ash trees differ in foliar phytochemical production, I sampled 60 ash trees from three different sites in Michigan and measured the concentration of total phenolics in their leaf tissue. While total phenolic concentration in susceptible ash trees was slightly higher, this difference was not significant. There was, however, a difference in mean phenol concentration between two of the sites. This suggests that site conditions significantly affect production and concentration of phenolic compounds. The slightly higher amount of phenols in susceptible class trees suggest that if phenolics are used for defense, it may be an inducible defense. Future research would seek to quantify specific phenolic compounds rather than compare total concentration.


Name(s) (First Last): Victoria Stuart
Victoria Stuart and Laura M. Zimmerman
Millikin University

Serum amyloid A levels relationship to a long-lived vertebrate, the red-eared slider turtle.

Inflamm-aging is the dysregulation of immune response that occurs as organisms age. In a healthy individual a pathogen triggers inflammation, but with inflamm-aging this inflammation occurs chronically and worsens the individual’s ability to maintain homeostasis. For humans, chronic inflammation causes increased risk for many diseases.  Turtles, like humans, are long-lived and thus make them an interesting model system for aging of the immune system. However, few immune assays are available for use in turtles. Serum amyloid A (SAA) is a protein involved in the inflammation response of organisms’ innate immune response and is highly conserved in vertebrates. SAA has been found to be upregulated in inflammatory conditions and in early bacterial infection stages. We collected blood samples from red-eared slider turtles to measure levels of serum amyloid A (SAA) using a chicken SAA assay.Plastron length was measured as a proxy for age. We were able to measure the SAA levels in the red-eared slider turtles using the chicken SAA ELISA and we did find variation in the amounts present. A significant relationship between high levels of serum amyloid A in older individuals would have indicated inflamm-aging. However, we did not find any significant relationship between serum amyloid A and plastron length. Thus, we did not find any evidence of inflamm-aging in red eared slider turtles. This evidence points to a lack of immunosenescence in red-eared slider turtles as a previous study found no immunosenescence in the adaptive system and our SAA results do not indicate immunosenescence in the innate system. In order to further understand the role of SAA in turtles, future studieswill beconducted studying SAA levels in red-eared sliders with known infections. 


Name(s) (First Last): Lauryn Hinckley
Lauryn Hinckley
Gamma Gamma
Concordia College

Determination of the Efficacy of Chitosan-Alginate Bioplastics as a Delivery System of Ibuprofen and Acetaminophen

How an analgesic is released from a pill or similar delivery system is critical in alleviating pain, with recent studies showing that slow release gel caps have the same release rates as fast acting analgesics. Chitosan-alginate bioplastics have been investigated as a potential drug as a biocompatible and inexpensive release system for acetaminophen and ibuprofen. Chitosan is the soluble derivative of chitin, a structural material which is extracted from the exoskeleton of crustaceans. Alginate is extracted from brown seaweed, which introduces more durability to the chitosan-alginate bioplastic. Bioplastics were prepared, impregnated with acetaminophen and ibuprofen, and the extent of the pharmaceutical which is incorporated in the bioplastic was determined. Pieces of these bioplastics were then immersed in a series of solutions to measure release rate. Analysis was carried out using High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) after a suitable method was developed for the separation and quantification of the two drugs. Individual release rates of acetaminophen and ibuprofen were determined separately from a series of chitosan-alginate bioplastics containing these drugs. Differing release rates of the pharmaceuticals were found in different conditions, such as volumes of water and acid. In addition to investigating release, the physical changes in the bioplastics, such as swelling following immersion was investigated. 


Name(s) (First Last): Rachel Dziuba
Rachel Dziuba, Dr. Stephen Salako
Our Lady of the Lake University

Modeling Predator-Prey Interactions with Mountain Lion and Deer Populations in Bulverde, Texas

The predator-prey relationship has been long studied by ecologists and mathematicians for many decades now. The Lotka-Volterra model has been developed and models these interactions graphically to produce a naturally oscillating relationship between predator and prey. As a result, more complex models can be created through the use of programming languages, such as MATLab. We have been researching the interaction before mountain lions (predator) and deer (prey) in the Bulverde/Spring Branch area in Texas. Through observations, we are able to model this relationship in real time in order to compare it to the expected oscillations and period we will see at the end of the project. Additionally, we are able to apply ecological principles, such as the dilution effect, and current events, such as construction and human activity, in order to understand how these principles and activities can influence known mathematical models and relationships. 


Name(s) (First Last): Melissa Guillen
Melissa Guillen and Dr. Trisha Staab
Gamma Eta
Marian University

Examination of innate immunity in Caenorhabditis elegans with altered lipid metabolism when exposed to pathogenic ToxA peptide isolated from Pseudomonas aeruginosa

As we age, our physiological ability to function may decline, leading to physical or mental impairment. By 2050, the ratio of individuals over 65 in our country is predicted to reach 20% of the population.  Hence, understanding the cellular mechanisms of healthy aging is crucial. Sphingolipids are key components of cellular membranes, and this pathway is important in mediating cell survival, stress response, and aging. Specifically, the sphingolipid ceramide has been shown to accumulate as animals age.  

Here, we use lifespan assays to show that C. elegans mutants with altered ceramide production have affected lifespans. Specifically, asm-3/acid sphingomyelinase mutants are long-lived, while hyl-2/ceramide synthase mutants are short-lived. Furthermore, hyl-2 mutants are more susceptible to oxidative damage than wild type or asm-3 animals, as measured by paraquat toxicity assays. Autophagy, a process known to recycle damaged cellular components, has been shown to be altered in aged organisms. Of note, recent evidence has also shown that autophagosome formation is impaired in the sphingolipid biosynthetic pathway. Interestingly, preliminary experiments examining the fluorescence of lgg-1::GFP, an autophagy marker, suggest that autophagosome formation increases in asm-3 mutants compared with wild type animals. Thus, it is possible that increased autophagy is contributing to the long-lived phenotype in these animals.

Next, we examined dietary response in intestinal cells through expression of irg-1p::GFP, a marker for innate immunity, in hyl-2 and asm-3 mutants exposed to Exotoxin A. Early data indicates increased GFP in hyl-2 mutants in comparison to asm-3 animals. This data indicates that animals with increased ceramide signaling may not be able to respond to cellular stress. Together, we are exploring a link connecting sphingolipid metabolism, autophagy, and immunity which may further our understanding of aging cells and their responses to the environment.


Name(s) (First Last): Emma Allen
Dr. Jason Askvig and Emma Allen
Gamma Gamma
Concordia College Moorhead MN

Localization of neurite outgrowth inhibitor (NOGO) protein in the rat supraoptic nucleus

We are investigating the absence of axonal sprouting following unilateral lesion of the hypothalamo-neurohypophysial tract in a 125-day-old rat compared to the sprouting response that occurs in a younger, 35-day-old rat. NOGO (neurite outgrowth inhibitor) is a myelin-associated protein with three isoforms (NOGO-A, NOGO-B, and NOGO-C), but only NOGO-A and -B are expressed within the nervous system. Research has demonstrated that NOGO-A prevents axonal outgrowth. Thus, we hypothesized that there would be more NOGO-A protein in the 125-day rat supraoptic nucleus (SON). Western blots were preformed to determine concentration of each NOGO isoform in 35-day rat SON vs. 125-day rat SON. We found significantly less NOGO-A protein in the 125-day rat SON compared to the 35-day rat SON. It is unclear why NOGO-A protein levels decrease in the older rat SON, but we have found reports indicating that NOGO protein decreases with age.  More recently, we have extended our studies to determine the cellular localization of NOGO-A and -B and the NOGO-receptor in the SON. Dual-label immunofluorescence demonstrated that the NOGO-A and -B isoforms co-localize with neuronal staining in the SON, while NOGO-receptor co-localizes with neurons and astrocytes. 


Name(s) (First Last):Samantha Smith, Jackson Erny, Alisson Contreras
Samantha Smith, Jackson Erny, Alisson Contreras
Gamma Eta
Marian University

Role of OCTOPUS Protein in Fungal Defense Signaling

Abstract: Not shown per request of authors.


Name(s) (First Last): Hannah Olson, Joshua Weber
Graeme R.A. Wyllie, Hannah M.C. Olson, Joshua Weber
Gamma Gamma
Concordia College - Moorhead

A Systematic Investigation of Release and Uptake from Chitosan-Alginate Bioplastics

Results initially suggested the release of food dye trapped in the bioplastic at formation was dependent on ionic strength, a fact that recent results have suggested is too simplistic. In this study that took place over the summer of 2021, we systematically investigated the uptake and release of various materials, such as food dyes and pharmaceuticals, from chitosan-alginate bioplastics. Dyes and drugs were added to the bioplastics during their formation so their release could be studied, while other bioplastics samples were manufactured containing none of these to serve as removal systems. Samples of these various bioplastics were immersed in a range of solution environments and the extent of release or uptake was measured by either UV-Vis spectroscopy or HPLC. Our studies revealed that while the structure and polarity of the analytes play a significant role in release and uptake, the effect of solution environments is also critical. We will share our results and discuss future directions.


Name(s) (First Last): Kayla Adamek
Kayla Adamek
Gamma Gamma
Concordia College

The Elsie Welter Natural History Museum Online: Expanding the Museum’s Role in the Local and Global Community

In the midst of a pandemic with probable animal origins and a changing climate, natural history is increasingly important. Natural history collections can help identify zoonotic pathogens, changing species distributions, and increase public environmental education. The Elsie Welter Natural History Museum at Concordia College contains over 45,000 specimens that Concordia College students and faculty can use for research and teaching. However, the museum is largely unknown and inaccessible on campus. To increase accessibility to the campus community, online outreach efforts were undertaken. Online outreach efforts include the creation of a website, social media page, and the continual creation of a public collection catalog via SharePoint. Increasing the online presence will hopefully result in more use of the collections and further research opportunities. The museum shows potential as being a useful resource for advancing biological knowledge and interdisciplinary projects between departments, and is a unique feature of Concordia College. 


Name(s) (First Last): Greta Harmala, Rachel Andersen, Gabriel Hanson, Talon Hoffer
Gabriel Hanson, Greta Harmala, Talon Hoffer, Rachel Andersen
Concordia College

Investigating the Effect of Tree Canopy Cover Density on Water Quality

Trees located near rivers can improve water quality through their ability to form buffer zones with their root systems. These buffer zones work to filter the water coming into the river by removing sediment and other impurities. The immensity of these buffer zones can be estimated through measures of canopy cover density. We sought to test the water quality of Buffalo River by obtaining canopy cover densities of multiple transects within Buffalo River State Park as well as sites near agricultural fields. Water quality was determined at each site through water temperature, pH, and conductivity measurements. The water from each site was also tested for nitrate, ammonia, and phosphate abundance. In contrast to previous research, our results showed there to be no statistically significant correlation between canopy cover and any of the water quality measures taken. However, when comparing water quality between the two types of sites (State Park vs. agriculture), statistically significant differences were found between pH, conductivity, and water temperature. This suggests that runoff from agricultural fields into the river may be negatively impacting the water quality at these sites. It was noted that a rainfall event occurred between data collection days, which could be a contributing factor to the obtained differences.


Name(s) (First Last): Gavin Thompson, Katherine Stegemann, Caitlyn Phillips, Matthew Reuter
Caitlyn Phillips, Matthew Reuter, Katherine Stegemann, Gavin Thompson
Gamma Eta
Marian University

Determining the Role of EpiBrassinolide, a Plant Steroid, in Breast Cancer Cell Growth 


Name(s) (First Last): Emma Collins
Emma Collins, Mason W. Kulbaba
Our Lady of the Lake University

Fitness and phenological consequences of Populus trichocarpa & P. balsamifera hybrids in a novel environment.

An important consequence of contemporary climate change is an increase in annual temperature. Mean annual temperature is an important factor in the timing of phenological life-history stages and overall growing season length. An increase in annual temperature may alter the timing of critical phenological responses causing a mismatch between phenotypes and environmental conditions, resulting in decreased overall fitness. To assess changes in phenology and lifetime fitness, we transplanted 47 genotypes from a natural Populus hybrid zone in Northwestern North America, to San Antonio, TX.

             Multiple cuttings from Populus trichocarpa and P. balsamifera were collected across five different transect sites. These cuttings were rooted and distributed to 18 common gardens across the continental United States to simulate various degrees of climate change. After planting, phenological stages (bud flush, leaf emergence, bud set) and rates of height growth were recorded. Total lifetime fitness (after one year) was estimated with aster models to account for dependencies between subsequent life-history fitness expressions. Here I report on findings from the San Antonio, TX common garden at Our Lady of the Lake University.

            My analysis showed that trees originating from the northernmost latitudes expressed the lowest fitness in the San Antonio common garden. These trees had the greatest difference in latitude, distance from the OLLU campus, and temperature from their point of origin. Curiously, differences in mean annual precipitation did not influence fitness in the San Antonio common garden. Trees from northern most latitudes also showed the slowest growth rate, along with the longest time from bud flush to bud set. This extended time between the first and last recorded phenological stage suggests that local adaptation of genotypes in their home range may limit a response to a rapidly changing climate.

            My results show how potentially strong local adaptation may limit species’ ability to track phenological cues in the face of increasing mean annual temperature. The transplant from cooler environments to a significantly warmer location highlights the stress that organisms will experience in response to increases in temperature, and supports the use of local genetic sources for restoration efforts.


Name(s) (First Last):
Presenter 1 - Lucas Heady
Presenter 2 - Dr. Colleen Doci
Lucas Heady, Dr. Colleen Doci
Gamma Eta
Marian University

Investigating potential Synergism of Branched-Chain Amino Acids and IL-15 in resistance-training induced muscle hypertrophy

Resistance training has emerged as one of the most important means of improving health, combating aging, and evading disease. Those who participate in resistance training see a greater reduction in age-induced problems compared to those who participate in aerobic exercise [1]. Resistance training stimulates muscle hypertrophy, or the increase and growth of muscles. This requires adequate levels of protein synthesis. There are several signaling pathways that control and regulate protein synthesis, including cytokine stimulation and amino acid activation of mTOR. However, the direct mechanism behind the activation of these pathways by cytokines and amino acid supplementation is still unclear. 

Cytokines are signaling proteins that are required for the coordination of multicellular processes and are critical for muscle hypertrophy. Recent studies demonstrate that immediately after resistance training, IL-15 blood plasma levels significantly increase. Further, IL-15 has been shown to inhibit skeletal muscle wasting by decreasing protein degradation [3].While compelling, the mechanism of how IL-15 might contribute to this process is largely unknown.

Another means of activating mTOR and protein synthesis is through stimulation with amino acids. While this has been a long-known means of driving muscle hypertrophy, direct evidence of its role is lacking. The metabolic demands of muscle hypertrophy suggest that single interventions may not be sufficient to explain the benefits of resistance training. Rather, it is possible that a combination of cytokines, such as IL-15, and limited dietary amino acids, such as BCAAs, could explain the molecular distinctions that make resistance training superior. 

We will investigate the potential synergy of exercise-induced inflammatory cytokines and BCAAs to impact muscle development. We hypothesize that treating skeletal muscle with the combination of BCAAs and IL-15 will induce greater muscle turnover and protein metabolism than either treatment used alone. Building off the knowledge already known about BCAAs' role in inflammatory responses, new evidence pertaining to areas of cell signaling and gene expression may allow us to understand the underlying molecular circuitry that drives muscle hypertrophy. Applying this knowledge to develop new clinical applications and to improve the benefits of exercise and training will further the development of optimized personal medicine.


Name(s) (First Last):Olivia Vergin, Faith James, Zach Buchholz
Olivia Vergin, Faith James, Zach Buchholz, Kelly Lorenz, Peyton Lehman, Dr. Joseph Whittaker
Gamma Gamma
Concordia College

Evaluating prairie restoration success through small mammal community analysis

As urban expansion converted wildlife habitats into agricultural and industrial land, native prairie lands were reduced to 1% of their original area. This increased habitat fragmentation and disrupted species dynamics and populations. Small mammals are vital to prairie ecosystems because they consume plant material and invertebrates, disperse seeds, and provide a source of food for larger species. Trapping of remnant and restored prairies provides data on small mammal density and diversity. Comparing population data between remnant and restored prairies can inform successful management and restoration practices. We trapped small mammals in various remnant and restored prairies in northwestern Minnesota from 2012 to 2021 with the goal to compare small mammal species diversity as well as to monitor populations of rare species. We hypothesized that there would be a difference in species diversity between restored and remnant prairies. We set two to three grids with 50 traps (alternating Small Sherman, Large Sherman, and Longworth) per grid. When a mammal was captured, we identified species, sex, and mass, and then marked for recapture. We collected body measurements and saliva samples from Peromyscus species for species identification. Our data analysis includes Simpson’s Reciprocal Diversity Index, population trends, and species comparisons between restored and remnant prairies. Through our prairie surveys, we document occurrences of critically rare species, such as Perognathus flavescens and Onychomys leucogaster. Our findings will help inform future management decisions. 


Name(s) (First Last): Luke Bergstrom
Luke Bergstrom, Dobeen Hwang Ph.D., Christoph Rader Ph.D.
Gamma Gamma
Concordia College

Methionine Benzylation as a Site-Specific Antibody Conjugation Strategy

Antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) have emerged as a powerful therapy to treat cancer. The ability to selectively deliver chemotherapy drugs to cancer cells while sparing healthy cells led to the approval of Kadcyla in 2013 and nine other ADCs since. Despite the approval and acceptance of ADCs, many conjugation strategies rely upon surface lysine and hinge cysteine residues, resulting in heterogeneous products with poor pharmacodynamics, pharmacokinetics, and reduced therapeutic utility. Therefore, a shift to homogenous ADCs using site-specific conjugation strategies is needed. The humanized catalytic antibody, h38C2, is known to possess a uniquely reactive lysine residue (Lys99) that is deprotonated at physiological pH as it exists within an 11 Å deep hydrophobic pocket, perturbing the pKa of its ε-amino group. The Lys99 residue is known to react with β-lactam, β-diketone, and MS-PODA-functionalized small molecules, resulting in site-specific and stable conjugation. Despite the success of the native h38C2 antibody as a linker in dual variable domain (DVD) ADCs, alternative homogeneous conjugation methods are still needed to further expand the versatility and therapeutic utility of ADCs as a cancer therapy. Using the h38C2 antibody, methionine mutagenesis at the 99th position of the HC within the antigen-binding fragment (Fab) of the h38C2 antibody was predicted to yield a methionine residue that is uniquely reactive towards benzyl bromide compounds. Mutant h38C2 antibody (Met99) was expressed in both Fab and DVD formats. The expressed antibody products were analyzed and conjugation efficiency with benzyl bromide derivatives and additional compounds was measured. Greater conjugation efficiency was observed for the additional compounds tested in comparison to the benzyl bromide derivatives.


Name(s) (First Last): Jacob Good
Jacob Good, Levi Mielke
University of Indianapolis

Analysis of Ostarine in Selective Androgen Receptor Modulator Products Using Reversed-Phase High-Performance Liquid Chromatography 

The advent of social media in modern society has opened the door for constant comparisons between oneself and others. The fitness industry has greatly benefited from social media, but some consequences have risen. Due to the availability of a standard to compare oneself, the increased use of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) has allowed people to reach otherwise unattainable fitness goals. One such PED is the SARM, which is touted as a better version of anabolic steroids. SARMs are not regulated by the FDA and therefore the possibility of malpractice is increased. In order to test the validity of these SARMs’ active ingredient levels, high-performance liquid chromatography was used to analyze the levels of a particular SARM, ostarine, in three different brands. A mixture of formic acid and methanol was used to separate ostarine from other compounds present in the pills that were purchased. A variable wavelength detector was used to measure the presence of active ingredient. The development of an effective method was first necessary, and analysis followed. This work has furthered the discussion of SARM purity and the issues that surround a novel drug so readily available with no regulation. Due to the relatively simple method that can be used for SARM analysis, this work can be replicated quite easily in an equipped laboratory. It was found in this analysis that there was a deficiency of active ingredient in all three SARM brands, with very significant differences seen in two brands. In this analysis, 90% of the 30 samples tested were found to be outside of a +/- 10% difference from the label value of the SARM. These findings are consistent with recent research on SARM purity, and contribute to the broader discussion of not only SARM purity, but other dietary supplements as well. 


Name(s) (First Last): Benjamin Yoder
Nicholas Schulte, Benjamin Yoder, Ashleigh DeWees, Corynn Knight, Kaylyn Lofaro, Haley Stoner, Kailey Weiskopf, and John Murphy
Gamma Kappa
Southwest Baptist University

Impact of Weaning Methods on Calves in Response to Vaccination Against Bovine Respiratory Disease (BRD)

Bovine Respiratory Syncytial Virus (BRSV) is a common subclass of Bovine Respiratory Disease (BRD) and is linked to severe respiratory disease and pneumonia. Early life for a calf comes with an extreme amount of stress throughout birthing and then weaning. This study will compare various weaning methods and the impact they have on BRSV neutralizing antibody production. Nine calves were separated into three groups; a traditionally weaned group that was separated from the mother, the modified nose flap group that remained with their mother but lacking the ability to nurse, and the control group that remained unweaned. At t=0 (day one) all nine calves were injected with Vira-Shield 6 and Covexin 8. They were then monitored for forty-five days by collecting blood samples periodically through venipuncture of the coccygeal vein and then following standard storage procedures. On day five a significant difference in cortisol levels were noted between the traditionally weaned group and the modified nose flap and unweaned groups. At the same time there were no significant cortisol differences between the unweaned and modified nose flap group. A noticeable treatment affect was measured on day twenty-one where the modified nose flap and unweaned groups had higher neutralizing antibody concentrations for BRSV than the traditionally weaned group. The final day of sampling (t=45) there were no significant differences in BRSV neutralizing antibody concentrations between the groups. From these results and prior studies, it is apparent that the use of a nose flap during weaning causes a reduction in cortisol secretion. Through the initial round of vaccinations, it appears that the reduced stress within the modified weaning groups allows for a better immune response to vaccination. However, forty-five days post vaccination there is a loss of the treatment affect as all groups had similar levels of circulating antibodies. Our three years of research regarding the modified weaning method of using nose flaps has shown to decrease cortisol secretion within the calf and suggest an improvement of immune response to vaccination.


Names: Megan Madill, Cody Urie, Christian Thingvold, Landry Maragos, and Breanna Nelson
Megan Madill, Cody Urie, Breanna Nelson, Christian Thingvold, Landry Maragos
Sigma Zeta
Concordia College Moorhead

Data Analysis of River Variability 

This project analyzed how the pH, conductance, invertebrates, and water clarity vary in the Buffalo River, Sheyenne River, and Wild Rice River. This research is important to understand the relationships, if present, between invertebrate count, pH, conductance, and water clarity. A scoop net was used to scoop the ground for 1 minute straight. We used an invertebrate's guide to identify what kinds of invertebrates we found (Batson M. el al., 2010). Water was collected in bottles and a conductance meter was placed into the water. A small current was sent through the water to measure the electrical resistance. Water was collected in a glass jar and a paper pH strip was dipped in to record the pH of the water. A clear secchi tube that contained a weighted disk was filled with water to the top and water was released from the tube until we were able to see the checkered disk or screw at the bottom (MPCA, 2017). Invertebrate count and pH were found to not have significant values between rivers. Conductance was significant (F2,6  = 1379.01 ; p < 0.01) and water clarity was also significant (F2,6  = 827.70 ; p < 0.01). The findings were significant and showed relationship between water clarity and conductance, and between invertebrate count and pH levels were not significant, so no concise conclusions could be made. 


Name(s) (First Last): Melissa Guillen and Luke Heady
Melissa Guillen and Luke Heady
Gamma Eta
Marian University

Impact of Combined IL-2 and IL-15 Immunotherapy on the Expression of PD-L1 in HeLa Cells

Cytokines are able to activate the immune system which aid in the regulation of disease, injury, and cellular trauma. During immune responses, cytokines are released within the body to  regulate the inflammation that occurs when cells are infected or damaged. Interleukins play very prominent roles in the activation of immune cells, or T-cells. Our experiment focuses on the cytokines IL-2 and IL-15 which have an antagonistic mode of action in which one promotes T-cell activation and the other inhibits T-cell activity. IL-2 stimulates a strong immune response but can have negative side effects when overstimulated. This over stimulation can lead to chronic inflammation that may facilitate tumor progression and treatment resistance. However, IL-15 can competitively bind with IL-2 receptor components and has recently been shown to regulate the over stimulation of T-cells. 

Interestingly, IL-2 and IL-15 regulate the response of the programmed cell death pathway (PD-1). An immune response checkpoint mechanism that can be used as a marker to measure T-cell proliferation. PD-1 and its ligand PD-L1 have shown to be highly expressed in immune responses of HeLa cells, which are a cell line derived from human cervical cancer. This receptor-ligand interaction leads to T-cell inactivation and causes tumor cell proliferation, given that some cancer cells have the ability to up-regulate the expression of PD-L1 which thereby inhibits T-cell attack. Preventing this interaction has been the focus of current immunotherapies, however dose dependent toxicities have been observed in patients currently undergoing interleukin treatments. 

Our study will introduce a ratio of IL-2 and IL-15 that attempts to prevent the up-regulation of PD-L1, or in other words, inhibit HeLa cell's ability to express PD-L1 by directly treating cancer cells with these interleukins. This may prevent chronic inflammation seen in adverse immunotherapy responses. We are using qPCR to measure the levels of PDL-1 expression after combined treatment with IL-2 and IL-15. Using this data, we will determine how the concentrations of IL’s should be altered in order to inhibit PDL-1 expression on cancer cells. This data will also allow us to gain a better understanding of the molecular effects of both IL’s.


Name(s) (First Last): Corynn Knight
C. Knight, K. Lofaro, M. Foster, A. Parker, S. Schwemmer, K. McDonald, S. McKenzie, N. Schulte, B. Yoder
Gamma Kappa
Southwest Baptist University

Immune Response of Modified Live versus Killed BRD Vaccines in Weaning Calves

Bovine Respiratory Disease (BRD) is a multifactorial disease in the respiratory system of cattle with heavy impacts on the agriculture community, such as severe respiratory disease and pneumonia. The primary method of prevention for this disease is vaccinations. This experiment aimed to look at the efficiency of BRD modified live (MLV) and killed vaccines in calves that have been weaned in a low-stress environment. This was carried out by placing nose flaps to prevent nursing in eight un-weaned calves and then dividing them into two groups of four. The first group received the modified live vaccine, and the second group received the killed vaccine. Blood samples were collected on days 0, 14, 21, 28, and 42 from the coccygeal vein in the tail of the calf. These blood samples were centrifuged twice in order to pull off the serum from the formed elements and stored at –80 °C until all samples were collected and the data was analyzed. This serum was then analyzed through the use of an ELISA plate protocol to measure the number of BRD antibodies present in the blood. This analysis allows us to see which vaccine, the modified live or killed, could be more beneficial in producing antibodies in the calf. We observed significantly greater levels of neutralizing antibodies in the MLV treatment group than that of killed vaccines on day 21. By day 45, the differences between the vaccines had reduced, but we found that the positive impacts of the vaccines remained present. While MLV produced a greater neutralizing antibody response we observed that both types of vaccines resulted in effective immune responses within the calves tested. We believe that this is a result of the low-stress environment experienced during weaning.


Name(s) (First Last): Shelby Smith
Shelby Smith, Rachel Brown, John Murphy
Gamma Kappa
Southwest Baptist University

The Effect of Agroforestry on Farm Diversity 

Agroforestry is the increase of vegetation in agricultural areas. This includes increasing tree and shrub populations as well as reducing flat farmland tendencies. Increasing agroforestry has also been shown to increase farmland diversity, most importantly increasing avian diversity. An increased avian diversity is important to farmland for ecological benefits such as better nutrient cycling, natural fertilizer, and pollination.  Point sampling counts were used on two transects, grazed and ungrazed, to observe the winter and spring bird species present on JMK ranch. The grazed transect has been continually grazed for the past 100 years. While the ungrazed transect has not been grazed on in over 30 years. Field tape was placed 50 meters apart, at 7 different points in each transect. Avian species were observed visually and audibly for five minutes at each point in both transects. A total of 32 different avian species were observed. On the ungrazed plot, we observed 10.5 species per visit. The grazed plot was observed to have 11.75 species per visit.  245 individual birds were observed in total. 124 birds were observed in the grazed transect and 121 birds were observed in the ungrazed transect. The most common bird found in both fields was the Northern Cardinal which is common for the midwestern states. Results show that there is more avian diversity in the continuously grazed research area compared to the ungrazed research area. We reject our hypothesis of the ungrazed field having more avian diversity than the continuously grazed field.


Name(s) (First Last): Connor Sturges, Isaac McCoy, Lucas Hinojos
Connor Sturges, Isaac McCoy, Lucas Hinojos
Gamma Gamma
Concordia College

Grass Species Density in Managed and Unmnanaged Natural Areas

Restoring diverse grasslands in the upper Midwest is critical to preserving and improving the health of native ecosystems. A major threat to the diversity of grasslands is non-native grasses, which can establish themselves as a monoculture, impairing wildlife. We hypothesized that the abundance of non-native grasses would differ between managed and unmanaged natural areas. Abundance of native vs. non-native grass species was studied at four locations. Two locations were actively managed to promote growth of native grasses and two locations were unmanaged natural regrowth areas. There was a significant difference of abundance of grass species between the managed and unmanaged sites. The results showed that in areas of high non-native grass abundance, native grass abundance is affected negatively (F-value = 0.0024). Also, in areas that were treated to promote native grass growth, densities of non-native grasses were lower (F-value = 0.0008). These results suggest that competition for space and resources from non-native grasses affects the abundance of native grasses. This is important because abundance of native grasses increases the health of our native prairies and their ecosystems. Purposeful management of prairies gives native grasses an advantage over non-natives grasses in areas where non-natives would otherwise outcompete natives. 


Name(s) (First Last): Reilly Mach
Reilly Mach
Gamma Gamma
Concordia College

S-Nitrosylation of Palmitoyl-Protein Thioesterase 1 (PPT1) in Neurodegenerative Diseases

Physiological nitric oxide (NO) contributes to the maintenance of normal neuronal activity and survival, which serves as an important regulatory mechanism in the central nervous system. Excessive production of NO due to environmental toxins or normal aging contributes to the etiology of several neurodegenerative diseases. Specifically, the S-nitrosylation reaction is an effector of NO signaling in both health and disease conditions. The S-nitrosylation reaction is a redox-dependent post-translational modification featuring a covalent attachment of a NO group to a cysteine thiol of a target protein. Elevated NO levels lead to an increase in S-nitrosylated proteins, which can lead to protein misfolding, ER stress, and mitochondrial impairment. In a study of human brain tissues, a target protein called PPT1 was identified in high-risk patient groups. PPT1, or Palmitoyl-Protein Thioesterase 1, is a depalmitoylating enzyme. Palmitoylation is the post-translational, reversible covalent linkage of a 16-carbon fatty acid, palmitate, to proteins. Importantly, palmitoylated proteins require depalmitoylation prior to lysosomal degradation, demonstrating significance of this process in protein sorting and turnover. PPT1 removes palmitate from modified cysteine residues in proteins during lysosomal degradation. As such, PPT1 was identified as a protein that could represent an important component in disease development. This research project involved characterizing PPT1 and attempting to understand its role in pathological conditions. Findings include: confirmed localization of PPT1 to neurons, astrocytes, and microglia; confirmed presence of free cysteine in PPT1; and, confirmed S-nitrosylation of PPT1. Preliminary findings include PPT1 activity assays to determine effect of S-nitrosylation on enzymatic activity and mutagenesis experiments to identify site of S-nitrosylation.


Name(s) (First Last): Emily Lovins
Emily Lovins and Levi H. Mielke
University of Indianapolis

Toward the quantification of serotonin in crayfish hemolymph by gas chromatography - mass spectrometry (GC-MS)

Aside from humans, crayfish are one of the few living organisms to naturally synthesize serotonin.  Much like humans, serotonin controls mood in crayfish, specifically aggression.  Furthermore it is hypothesized that crayfish behavior in relation to proximity of its predator, bass, is correlated with elevated serotonin.  Currently we are developing a method for serotonin quantification using gas chromatography - mass spectrometry (GC-MS) which requires pre-injection derivatization.  This technique is used over other methods because of its low limit of detection and ability to identify chemical components found within the hemolymph.  However, polar molecules such as serotonin with four active hydrogens require chemical derivatization to remove active polar hydrogens and replace them with nonpolar silane groups.  This increases the volatility and sensitivity needed for GC analysis of serotonin.  Here we present results of our GC-MS method development efforts using either N-methyl-N-(trimethylsilyl)trifluoroacetamide (MSTFA) or N,O-bis(trimethylsilyl)trifluoroacetamide (BSTFA) as serotonin derivatizing agents. 


Name(s) (First Last): Sophie Schaumann, Alison Freier, Alissa Edjacin
Sophie Schaumann, Alison Freier, Alissa Edjacin
Gamma Gamma
Concordia College

Microplastic Prevalence in the Buffalo and Red Rivers of Clay County, MN

Plastic debris accumulates in freshwaters quickly and has become a very prominent issue for ecosystems. However, one of the most troublesome forms of water pollution is harder to see, microplastics (less than 5mm in size). The widespread occurrence of microplastics has invaded the environment to an extent that is present throughout the globe. This research investigated the abundance of microplastics in two freshwater rivers in Clay County, Minnesota. 375 mL water samples (N=18) were collected from a rural community (Glyndon, MN) along the Buffalo River and an urban community (Moorhead, MN) along the Red River. Samples were taken at three separate locations on each river in relation to the closest human population (up-stream, mid-stream, and down-stream). The samples were filtered using a Büchner funnel filtering system and examined under a dissecting microscope to visually identify microplastics. A total of 128 microplastic fibers were identified in the 18 freshwater samples. Findings revealed that the abundance of microplastics was significantly higher at the Buffalo River (83 fibers) than the Red River (45 fibers). These findings suggest that rural communities have a higher abundance of microplastic than urban communities. Furthermore, microplastic abundance was found to be significantly higher at down-stream locations (54 fibers) versus mid-stream (40 fibers) or up-stream (34 fibers). This suggests that as water flows through a rural or urban community, more microplastics are accumulated. The information found in this study could be used to guide further research and conservation efforts regarding microplastic accumulation in freshwater sources.


Name(s) (First Last): Maia Lieske, Cole Nowacki
Dr. Joseph Whittaker, Megan Blatti, Maia Lieske, Cole Nowacki, Hannah Paulson
Gamma Gamma
Concordia College

Effects of Road Salt on Soil Mineral Composition

Individuals in Minnesota are forced to face harsh winter conditions, specifically icy roads. In order to combat these conditions, communities use various chemical combinations, i.e. road salt, to improve driving conditions. However, road salt has shown to deplete soil mineral composition, and therefore compromise plant and ecosystem health. Over a 4-week period, the effects of road salt were tested on soil mineral composition. Soil samples from the Concordia College campus were placed into five containers and treated with increasing concentrations of road salt and 100 mL of RO water. After letting the soil samples sit for one week, each sample was tested for pH, nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) levels. Soil samples were then treated with the salt mixture once again. After 4 weeks of treatment and testing, statistical analyses displayed that N, K, and pH levels had decreased significantly. Although a change was observed throughout testing in P levels, there was no statistically significant difference. A positive relationship was revealed between soil acidification (decreased pH) and decreased nutrient availability (NPK). The alternative hypothesis was supported as NPK levels decreased and soil acidification increased through road salt introduction. These changes could negatively affect organisms living in areas with road salt use, and it is necessary to find ecologically friendly alternatives. Further research is needed in order to find out whether or not alternatives to road salt are necessary and effective.


Name(s) (First Last): Carrie Voss, Rhaegan Kiland, Libby Forsmark
Carrie Voss, Rhaegan Kiland, Libby Forsmark, Lexi Smith, Emily Anderson, Nolan Christenson, Amber Eken, Landen Foster, Danielle
Gamma Gamma
Concordia College-Moorhead

Assessing vertebrate diversity in the Trans-Pecos region of Texas

Assessment of biodiversity is critical for effective, financially-sound conservation strategies. However, many organisms cannot be detected without the use of methods that minimize the presence of humans. During the 2022 Spring Break, the students of Conservation Biology placed 13 motion-detecting game cameras across a 20-acre area of Terlingua, Texas, in the Chihuahuan Desert, allowing us to determine vertebrate density in the region. To supplement these surveys, 42 Sherman small-mammal traps were deployed in two transects across three separate habitats: in a dry creek bed, along a sand-bottomed plateau, and along a gravel-bottomed plateau. Game cameras detected the presence of approximately four mammal species, including desert cottontails (Sylvilagus audubonii) and an undetermined species of kangaroo rat (Dipodomys spp.). Neither of these species was visually detected outside of traps, nor were identifiable tracks ever found. Game cameras also detected the presence of seven bird species, including Scaled Quail (Callipepla squamata) and Loggerhead Shrike (Lanius ludovicianus), two birds that were never detected through sight or sound. Small mammal trapping resulted in captures of two species of kangaroo rats (Dipodomys merriami and D. ordii), several different pocket mice (Chaetodipus spp. and Perognathus spp.), and deer mice (Peromyscus spp.).  Over just the course of five sampling nights (210 trap nights), we were able to detect the presence of five to eight small mammal species that would have otherwise gone undetected in the area, highlighting the importance of remote-based methods for wildlife surveys.


Name(s) (First Last): Getsemani Arteaga
Getsemani Arteaga
Our Lady if the Lake University

Compound function-valued traits of Vicia americana (Fabaceae) reproductive phenotypes

Animal-pollinated flowering plants display temporally dynamic phenotypes due to the production of multiple flowers that vary systematically across flower positions. However, the functional role of such systematic patterns of within-plant floral variation has not been fully resolved. My research investigated within-plant variation and estimated selection on floral traits associated with pollinator attraction and the mechanical fit between flowers and pollinators of a bumblebee (Bombus spp) pollinated angiosperm. 

I measured three floral traits across 40 Vicia america individuals on each day of flower opening between June 12-29, 2021. Banner height was associated with pollinator attraction, and tube-length and tube-diameter were associated with the physical interaction between flowers and pollinators. After flowering, fruit and seed set was assessed for all flower position (757 flowers). Floral displays of V. americana are unique in that flowers are produced on multiple inflorescences on branches that extend from the main stem. Within plant floral trait variation followed a compound pattern, where traits systematically decreased both within the main flowering stem and within repeated branches. Spline functions were used to characterize the compound patterns of within-individual floral trait variation. Functional regression was then used to estimate selection (via seed set) on these systematic patterns of floral trait variation. Interestingly, selection occurred both within branches and along the mains stem of the attraction floral trait (banner height), but primarily across the main stem for traits associated with flower-pollinator mechanical fit (tube-diameter and tube-width).  My results suggest that these patterns of within-plant floral variation may be under strong selection to limit selfing and the fitness costs associated with inbreeding depression. 

Name(s) (First Last):Brooke Flannagan
Brooke Flannagan, Dean A. Wiseman, Ph.D
University of Indianapolis

Stress Response of Bovine Endothelial Cells to Chemical Components Commonly Found in Vaping Fluids

Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigs, have become increasingly popular in America since their introduction. Unfortunately, not much is known about their long-term effects yet, as they were only first sold in America in 2007. E-cigs have a heating element which aerosolizes vaping fluid for inhalation. Both nicotine and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) vaping liquids can be used in e-cigs, as well as vaping fluids with no psychoactive additives. Other common chemicals found in vaping liquids include flavorings and solvents like glycerol and propylene glycol. Vitamin E acetate is another common additive used mainly in THC vaping liquids. The CDC has expressed concern over use of vitamin E acetate in vaping because it has potential to remain in the lungs longer than other chemicals.

In this study, we examined the effect of several of these compounds using assays targeting cell stress in the form of reactive oxygen species (ROS) formation in live cells. Specifically, endothelial cells, which are the cells which comprise the inner lining of blood vessels, were exposed with various concentrations of common components of e-cigs, and then visualized using a fluorescent indicator of superoxide anion production in stressed cell mitochondria. We found that all compounds could, at some level, induce cell stress. However, vitamin E acetate consistently produced the highest levels of superoxide, indicating as a strong candidate for acute lung injury seen with e-cig use and vaping in general. Future studies will attempt to ascertain whether THC contributes to endothelial cell stress as well.


Name(s) (First Last): Sarah Schwemmer
Kate McDonald, Sarah McKenzie, Sarah Schwemmer, Mary Foster, Corynn Knight, Allison Parker, Nicholas Schulte, Dr. John Murphy
Southwest Baptist University

Perceived Effectiveness and Administration of Anthelmintics in Beef Cattle In Relation to the Actual Parasite Load

The purpose of this research is to educate producers by determining the correlation between what producers report on their anthelmintic processes (antiparasitic treatments) to the actual parasite load in their cattle. Gastrointestinal parasites are found in the lining of the gastric glands of the stomach, interfering with absorption and digestion of key nutrients. This leads to clinical illnesses, costing the beef industry over 3 billion dollars annually. Two observed trends are commonly seen in the deworming process: the perceived results of deworming are contradictory to actual parasite loads found in cattle post-treatment and that parasites can form a resistance to anthelmintics, emphasizing the importance of rotating treatments. The perceived outcome is due to a knowledge gap in the effects of type, frequency, and rotation of anthelmintics used. Our research is the first of its kind to attempt to fill in these knowledge gaps. 

The research process combines a survey, allowing the producer to explain their deworming method, with a statistic of the parasite load found in the fecal matter. Once the survey was conducted, fecal matter was collected directly from the bovin. Eggs were then separated from the fecal matter utilizing a density gradient solution. The flotation solution and a McMaster gridded slide were used to count the numbers of eggs per gram of fecal matter.  An ANOVA test was applied to correlate the egg per gram data with the survey answers. 

The data found suggested that there is a significant impact on parasite load in relation to the different treatment methods. Each of the producers fell into one of four groups: no treatment, pour-on twice a year, rotation, and rotation +.  There was a considerable difference between the producer’s ability to achieve parasite control with a healthy parasite load between the four groups. Both the no treatment group and the pour-on group did not achieve control. However, both rotation and rotation + achieved statistically identical control over the parasites with a p-value less than 0.001, making our results significant. Overall, we found that perceived outcomes of the producers were consistent with actual parasite loads, confirming our hypothesis. 


Name(s) (First Last): Badenoch, Bretton & Blatti, Megan
Bretton Badenoch, Megan Blatti
Concordia COllege

The Role Of MMP-9 In Cholinergic Receptor Blockade And Spatial Memory Retrieval

Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is associated with a loss of cholinergic function, and the basal forebrain cholinergic system remains the most common target of pharmaceutical treatments for AD. Recently, some have argued that AD may be best characterized as a deficit of memory retrieval; however, research reports investigating the role of the cholinergic system in memory retrieval are often confounded by the fact that they utilize experimental methodologies that fail to fully isolate the retrieval process from acquisition and consolidation processes. Utilizing a methodology which isolates spatial memory retrieval in the circular water maze, we show that the central administration of the cholinergic antagonist scopolamine reliably impairs the retrieval of previously consolidated spatial memories. Matrix metalloproteinase-9 (MMP-9) is a zinc-dependent endopeptidase that regulates the extracellular matrix as well as several other substrates implicated in memory. Using immunoblotting and gelatin zymography, we show that modifications in hippocampal MMP-9 expression are associated with spatial memory retrieval. Further, we provide evidence that the cholinergic system is an important regulator of some of these retrieval-induced changes in MMP-9. These results further elucidate the well-established and important role of MMP-9 in learning and memory and indicate a possible connection between the cholinergic dysfunction and MMP-9 dysregulation that is commonly seen in AD.


Name(s) (First Last): Erica Sheagley & Alex Abatayo
Erica Sheagley & Alex Abatayo
Gamma Eta Chapter
Marian University

Determining the Effects of Pharmaceutical- Contaminated Irrigation Water on Arabidopsis thaliana Plant Stress Responses

Pharmaceuticals are an emerging environmental contaminant with the potential to disrupt diverse ecosystems, since they exhibit high biological activity and potency. This has become a topic of environmental interest due to the unknown side effects that these residues have on organisms’ metabolic and hormonal functioning. These compounds enter the environment through the use of sewage sludge as fertilizer for soil and through reclaimed-wastewater used for irrigation. This could pose a risk to plant survival directly, as well as organisms that consume the plants. 

Currently, there are no quality standards with regards to pharmaceutical concentrations in reclaimed waste irrigation water. Metformin, a widely prescribed drug for type II diabetes, has been detected in wastewater treatment plant influent and effluent at concentrations ranging from 101-129 and 2.2-21 ug/L respectively. Treated wastewater is used to irrigate crops, however current water purification machines are not able to eliminate all pharmaceuticals; therefore, many pharmaceutical residues are bound to remain, such as Metformin. 

By using our model organism Arabidopsisthaliana, we are treating four plant groups with varying concentrations of a Metformin (dimethylbiguanide) water solution. To assess plant stress response, we are examining endoplasmic reticulum induced stress, by measuring expression of BiP (Binding immunoglobulin Protein), a gene that is activated during the stress-induced unfolded protein response (UPR). We also are doing a chlorophyll analysis that can be utilized to monitor, predict, and examine stress in plants; since chlorophyll content changes based on environmental stressors. However, the interactions of metformin on plant chlorophyll content is currently unknown.

The results of our experiment will not just advance research about pharmaceutical effects on other organisms, but also shine a light on the possible environmental risks that these residues pose to our environment.


Name(s) (First Last): Duong Nguyen, Sophie Schaumann, Amelia Landsverk, Luke Young
Duong Nguyen, Sophie Schaumann, Amelia Landsverk, Luke Young
Gamma Gamma
Concordia College

The prevalence of microplastics in North Dakota waterfowl

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recognizes microplastics (less than 5mm in size) to be a growing threat to many organisms in ecosystems due to its high toxicity risk and the current lack of regulation. Therefore, studies focusing on the prevalence of microplastics have become more relevant and prevalent, and this study is one of only a few to investigate the presence of microplastic debris in waterfowl populations. Waterfowl gastrointestinal samples (N=102) were donated by a hunting guide operating out of Devil’s Lake, ND, from the Fall 2020 season. To understand microplastic abundance and distribution within the gastrointestinal tract of waterfowl, we separated samples by organ (proventriculus, gizzard, and intestine) and analyzed the gut contents under a microscope. Identified microplastics were enumerated and characterized by color, type, and length. We identified a total of 460 microplastics, 69.57% (320 particles) and 30.43% (140 particles) of which were found in dabblers and ground foragers, respectively. Waterfowl species varied; however, dabblers were dominated (77.5% of samples) by Mallards, and ground foragers were dominated (22.5% of samples) by Canada Geese. Microplastic abundance was significantly higher in ground foragers than in dabblers. Furthermore, within the ground foragers, microplastics were found to be more abundant in the proventriculus than the gizzard, with no significant difference between other organs. Within the subgroup of dabblers, the abundance of microplastics was significantly higher in the intestine than the proventriculus and gizzard. Findings of this study can be used not only to guide future research focused on the impacts of microplastics on waterfowl but also to establish foundation for conservation and policy making regarding microplastics.


Name(s) (First Last): Taylor Devine, Amelia Landsverk, Cole Nowacki, Kelly Lorenz, Vanessa Petrich, Lauryn Petrich, Dr. Joe Whittaker
Taylor Devine, Amelia Landsverk, Cole Nowaski, Kelly Lorenz, Vanessa Petrich, Lauryn Petrich, Dr. Joe Whittaker Address:901 8th
Gamma Gamma
Concordia College

Differentiation of Peromyscus leucopus from Peromyscus maniculatus using salivary amylase and cellulose acetate electrophoresis.

White-Footed, (Peromyscus leucopus), and Deer, (Peromyscus maniculatus), mice are morphologically and physiologically differentiable due to the allopatric and sympatric speciation that these two have undergone. Although different, these two species are unreliably differentiated through morphological characteristics. Finding a reliable method to differentiate between the species is important because the mice are carriers of two different pathogens and antigens. Mainly, Peromyscus leucopus carries Lime’s disease while Peromyscus maniculatus carries Hantavirus. Morphological data was taken from cranial measurements, and physical characteristics such as the tail length. In years past this has been adequate to differentiate the two species however, due to overlap in their corresponding habitats over the years this is not as accurate of a measurement. According to literature, these corresponding measurements are able to correctly identify 55% of Peromyscus leucopus species and 66% Peromyscus maniculatus species. Unlike morphological comparisons, cellulose acetate electrophoresis of their salivary amylase is a reliable measurement to differentiate these two species. Saliva samples were collected from restored and remnant prairies, and woodlands in Minnesota from 2004 to 2019, and these saliva samples were run and compared to morphological measurements.


Name(s) (First Last): Morgan Kommer, Amelia Bjorklund, Lydia Durrett, Dustin Traffie
Morgan Kommer, Amelia Bjorklund, Lydia Durrett, Dustin Traffie
Gamma gamma
Concordia College

Microplastic Abundance in the Topsoil

Microplastics are an important area of research due to the increasing amount of plastic circulating on Earth, and the negative implications these plastics have on both land and water.  For this project the research focus was on microplastic abundance within the topsoil of several areas in the Red River Valley. Microplastic abundance within the topsoil was measured in respect to increasing distance from the Red River. Three sites were created with varying distance from the edge of the river (3m, 25m, 50m); three samples were then taken at each site. The separate samples from each site would be combined to give three total counts to be tabulated. To view the microplastics, the soil was sifted and put through a filtration system, and was then viewed under a dissecting microscope. As distance increased from the river bed, the total plastic count at each site decreased. The number of identifiable microplastic filaments found in 20 g of soil sample between each site went as follows: Site 1 yielded a total count of 7, Site 2 yielded a total count of 6, and Site 3 yielded a total count of 3. This was consistent with our original hypothesis. Statistical analysis was run and the R^2 value came out to be 0.92; however the data proved to be insignificant (p-value of 0.1789). 

Name(s) (First Last): Kailey Weiskopf
Kailey Weiskopf, Ashleigh Dewees, Caitie Diepenbrock, Nicholas Schulte, Haley Stoner, Megan Worthington, John Murphy
Gamma Kappa
Southwest Baptist University

Free Cortisol Levels in Saliva Samples vs Total Cortisol Levels in Blood Serum Samples of Cattle.

Over the past two years, a research group at Southwest Baptist University has been analyzing the effects of stress on cortisol secretion and its physiological manifestation in beef calves. Previous research regarding stress and cortisol secretion, due to activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis, has focused mainly on quantification of cortisol levels in blood serum.While this collection method displays both accuracy and precision in its data measurements, it is not humane due to its invasive nature. Studies have indicated that cortisol levels can be measured through more humane sample types, such as saliva, hair, and urine, in the form of free cortisol. Year 1 aimed to determine if free cortisol levels directly correlated to total cortisol levels found in saliva and blood serum, respectively. Nine calves were divided into three groups (CON, FENCE, and FLAP) and were subjected to different levels of stress due to modified weaning methods. Blood serum, obtained via coccygeal venipuncture, and saliva serum, obtained via passive collection, were collected simultaneously on T0,T1,T3,T5,T7,T10. Both sample types were quantified using Cortisol Competitive Human ELISA Kit (Thermofisher) and a direct correlation of cortisol levels was observed. This indicated that salivary free cortisol is an accurate representation of overall cortisol in the body of calves. Year 2 aimed to determine the best saliva serum collection method and looked to quantify the differences between active and passive collection. An active hand pump was used in year 2 to collect saliva samples, while the other experimental factors and analysis methods from year 1 remained constant. The quantitative differences between collection methods were not statistically significant. However, the ease of collection via hand pump displayed significant qualitative benefits, promoting the use of active collection in future salivary cortisol research.


Name(s) (First Last): Raul Gutierrez
Raul A. Gutierrez and Dr. Robert Brenner
Our Lady of the Lake University

Pharmacology of Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptors

Presentation Abstract: 



Name(s) (First Last):Presenter 1: Kelsey Ramp, Presenter 2: Caleb Beimfohr
Kelsey Ramp, Caleb Beimfohr
Marian University

Exploring the Role of SEMA3F in Keratinocyte Cell Proliferation

Plaque psoriasis is a disease characterized by inflamed, itchy skin lesions, caused by keratinocyte skin cell hyperproliferation and a lack of keratinocyte differentiation. The biologic cause of this is misregulation of the PI3K-AKT pathway a key regulator of cell proliferation. A semaphorin protein known as SEMA3F can reduce proliferation of some cancer cells by inhibiting the PI3K-AKT pathway. Although Keratinocyte cells also contain receptors for SEMA3F protein, there are currently no studies examining whether SEMA3F is capable of inhibiting the PI3K-AKT pathway speficically in keratinocyte cells. To determine whether SEMA3F is capable of inhibiting the PI3K-AKT pathway in this cell type, we will measure the phosphorylation of the downstream kinase mTOR of the PI3K-AKT pathway during an inflammatory response. If there is decreased phosphorylation of downstream kinase mTOR upon treatment with exogenous SEMA3F, we will also measure the effect of SEMA3F on cell proliferation. We are currently collecting data to determine the optimal conditions for inducing an inflammatory response in the keratinocytes by measuring cytokine upregulation, and to determine whether SEMA3F is upregulated during inflammation. This data will be important to interpret before treating keratinocytes with exogenous SEMA3F and measuring mTOR phosphorylation or cell proliferation.