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.