Monday, July 14, 2014

Summer Daze

Summer is an active time in the SMC Biology Department! In addition to the constant "background" tasks of revising courses for the academic year, many Biology Department faculty have research programs that engage students during the summer. Working with me, for example, are Kelsie Miller and Donny Mcguirl.
Kelsie is looking at zooplankton populations in the southern part of Lake Champlain - from both zooplankton samples and from the diets of White Perch, which eat a lot of zooplankton. Kelsie is gathering information on the current status of the zooplankton community and the diet of a zooplantivorous fish species - information that may be especially valuable if/when the invasive Spiny Water Flea gets into Lake Champlain. The Spiny Water Flea is a large zooplankton from Europe and Asia that has become abundant in the Great Lakes and is spreading.... it now is also found in nearby Lake George (NY) and the canal system that connects southern Lake Champlain to the Hudson River. Therefore, it seems likely that it may soon become established in Lake Champlain as well.
Donny, who is also working with Prof. Dagan Loisel, is looking at population genetics of Pumpkinseed sunfish in several parts of Lake Champlain and two smaller nearby lakes. The goal of Donny's project is to see if there are any genetic differences among the populations that might be correlated with the frequency of outbreaks of cyanobacteria ("blue-green algae") blooms in some nearby lakes and bays. The results may provide some insight into evolutionary changes in fish populations associated with climate change.
In addition to our summer research activity, we are now working with incoming first-year students to help them select courses for the fall semester. Most of this will take place during upcoming summer advising days during which students visit campus to register for fall courses. We also contact those who cannot attend one of these sessions to discuss course selection requests which they submit to the Registrar's office.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Summer Activity

The St. Mike’s Biology Department is a busy place in the summers due to students involved in a variety of research projects. Tommy Manning and Hannah Lynch worked with Professor Dagan Loisel this past summer, and provided the following: Hey readers! This is Tommy and Hannah, two senior Biology majors working with Professor Loisel and studying genetics of the Vermont bobcat population. Our summer research projects are supported by the Hartnett Endowment. This summer, we have been using DNA extraction and PCR techniques to examine genetic diversity of the important mammal immune system MHC gene in the Vermont bobcat population. This gene, when isolated and sequenced, will show us how diverse the bobcat population is and how well suited it will be to fend off a potential pathogenic disease. At the same time, we have been screening the population for the presence of 3 diseases which have been shown in previous studies to cross over to domestic cats. By identifying the presence of these diseases, we can draw conclusions about the overall health of the bobcat population and make predictions about future bobcat health in light of human industrial expansion. As the first research opportunity that either of us has had at SMC, we’ve had a great time working with Prof. Loisel and getting experience in a lab setting.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Getting Fired Up!

On Friday, May 3 a section of the sandplain forest at neighboring Camp Johnson was subjected to a controlled burn to help with restoration of pitch pine by removing competing vegetation.  In the weeks ahead about 75 pitch pine seedlings will be planted in the burned area.  This is part of an ongoing collaboration between the Army National Guard, St. Michael’s College, the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, and the Nature Conservancy.

For the last several years, the fall lab sections of BI 151 (Introduction to Ecology and Evolution) have been studying vegetation and invertebrates of the sandplain forest at Camp Johnson, including some areas that were burned over 15 years ago.  Discussions with the National Guard brought about the plan to burn another section of the forest to enhance population of the fire-dependent pitch pine and also to provide a great research and learning opportunity for SMC students and faculty. 
Over the last year, pitch pine seeds were collected and planted in a nursery, and several areas of the forest were cut in preparation for the burn.  Last summer a team of four research students and two faculty did some pre-burn survey work, and that was followed up in the fall by the attention of nearly 140 students, with their lab instructors, in the BI 151 class.  The warm, dry conditions of this spring made the timing right – and the weather cooperated with clear skies and light wind on the day of the burn.  Additional work will take place this summer, and in the fall the student in BI 151 (mostly first-semester students) will get a taste of research as they study plants and invertebrates in the recovering burned areas and adjacent unburned sections of the forest.

IN OTHER NEWS……. The Spring 2013 edition of Biology Matters, our e-newsletter, is now available through our Biology Department web site, or you can link to it directly.  Check it out to find out what else has been or will be going on in our program, and also to see what some of our alumni have been up to.  

Monday, December 17, 2012

End of Fall Semester

Fall semester is over, and the holiday break is here.  It’s been a very busy fall, with another large class of first-year biology majors taking our Introduction to Ecology and Evolution course (BI 151), which was modified somewhat as we build on our partnership with the neighboring Army National Guard base to provide valuable ecological information for the management of their forest area.

The fall edition of Biology Matters, our e-newsletter, was completed and is now linked to our Departmental web site.  In addition, the fall edition of the Saint Michael’s magazine ran a nice article featuring Professor Mac Lippert and his student research program (“Biology Biographies”) and also includes summer research by Professors Declan McCabe, Adam Weaver, Valerie Banschbach, and Peter Hope and their students (“Summer at St. Mikes”).

The next few weeks will be a welcome break for many of us – BUT on December 29 Professors Peter Hope and Scott Lewins will be taking a group of 12 students to Costa Rica for a Tropical Ecology field course lasting 12 days.  To keep up with their progress, check out their blog.

Best Wishes for a Happy New Year….

Thursday, October 18, 2012

National recognition for Matt Hajdun

Congratulations to Matt Hajdun (Biology major, class of 2005), who received a Milken Family Foundation Award on October 15.  The Milken Awards acknowledge excellence in teaching, and are seen by some as the “academy awards” of the teaching profession.  Matt has been a teacher at Champlain Elementary School in Burlington for several years; he first taught at orphanage in Honduras and then in a bilingual inner city school in New Britain, Connecticut before coming to Burlington.  This link shows some local coverage of the big news.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Honoring alumna

On Friday, September 28, returning alumna Dr. Tracy Romano (Bio major from class of 1986) was inducted to the SMC Academic Hall of Fame at the annual Fall Convocation.  Dr. Romano is the Executive Vice President for Research and Zoological Operations at the Mystic Aquarium in Mystic, Connecticut.  Her research background and interest focuses on marine mammals, particularly beluga whales.  While on campus, Dr. Romano had lunch with officers of our chapter of Beta Beta Beta (national Biology Honor Society) and also had an after-lunch open forum during which she discussed how her commitment to studying marine mammals led her from St. Mike's to her current position, which includes studies of how the immune system of belugas responds when the whales are under stress.  It was great to hear about the work going on at the aquarium, and also with wild belugas in the arctic.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Gone Fishin'....

During the first week of August, I took a small news crew from Channel 5 (WPTZ) fishing in Malletts Bay.  With fishing as a back drop,  we discussed the potential impacts of the spiny water flea on the Lake's food web and fishing.  The spiny water flea is a predatory zooplankton that is not yet in Lake Champlain but may soon find it's way in from the Champlain canal or Lake George - both of which are connected to Lake Champlain.    Watch the news report...