Student research contributes to conservation efforts at UWGB, symposium is March 1st

GREEN BAY – Five University of Wisconsin-Green Bay students will report on research conducted in three UW-Green Bay natural areas at the 27th annual Cofrin Student Symposium from 2 to 4 p.m., Tuesday, March 1st in the Christie Theatre of the University Union, 2420 Nicolet Drive, Green Bay, Wis.

Since 1987, more than 150 students have been funded by the program through an endowment established by the Cofrin family. One of the five students will be recognized as the recipient of the Paul and Thea Sager Scholarship for excellence in scientific writing. The event is free and open to the public.

Students in the program carry out research projects related to the UW-Green Bay’s Cofrin Memorial Arboretum and other University-managed natural areas in Northeast Wisconsin. Funding is provided by a student research grant program established by an endowment from the families of Dr. David Cofrin and the late John Cofrin. The Land Trust Grant was established by Natural and Applied Science professors Michael Draney and Vicki Medland to support student research at other natural areas in northeast Wisconsin. Grants of up to $1,000 are awarded competitively based on student proposals and are open to all students at UW-Green Bay. Students’ projects, carried out in collaboration with faculty members, must contribute to improving understanding of the ecology, history, and appreciation of the selected natural area(s). The projects also give students experience in properly designing and carrying out research. Students interested in applying for grants for the upcoming year should call Vicki Medland at 920-465-2342 or visit www.uwgb.edu/biodiversity/ for application guidelines. Applications are due on May 1, 2016.

Four students will present their research at the 27th annual Cofrin Student Symposium.

Graduate student Brandi Deptula (Menasha, Wis.) used two types of molecular markers to compare native and non-native populations of Phragmites australis. Her research will help identify and document locations of invasive populations, as well as, historically declining native populations. This study will help land managers to identify areas that are of a higher priority for control of invasive species.

Burning is often used for management of Phragmites. Undergraduate Jeremiah Shrovnal (Green Bay, Wis.) examined the impacts of burning on spider abundance and diversity in burned and unburned wetlands at Ken Euers Natural Area. He found that spider abundance was much higher in recently burned areas. His survey also turned up the first known female specimens of a clubionid spider species that is new to science.

Many studies have examined the relationship between plants and pollinators, yet little is known about the third party species that take advantage of this mutualism. Nectar-dwelling yeast and bacteria have been shown to be pervasive and often abundant in several plant species. Graduate student Samantha Nellis (Peshtigo, Wis.) is using DNA techniques to identify and study these organisms in order to gain a better understanding of the role of microorganisms in the nectar of five flowering species growing in Northeast Wisconsin.

Lichens are have long been known to be sensitive to air pollutants, but are relatively difficult to identify. Undergraduate Maxwell Larsen (Northport, Wis.) has taken on the challenge of collecting and identifying the lichens of the Cofrin Arboretum in order to establish baseline data to evaluate long-term effects of pollution on lichens. The results of his study will provide a species list and specimens that will be deposited in the Fewless Herbarium that will increase knowledge of the biodiversity as he will be able to accurately assess the number and distribution of local species.

The Sager Scholarship for excellence in scientific writing will be presented to undergraduate Reed Heintzkill (Green Bay, Wis.) for his laboratory report, “Characterization of poly(3-hexylthiophene)(P3HT) through UV-Vis absorbance and experimental HOMO/LUMO energy level determination.” His report was based on the final requirement for Asst. Professor Jeremy Intemann’s Instrumental Analysis course. The assignment allowed Heintzkill to hone his skills in scientific writing while gaining a better understanding of the electronic properties of polymers used in organic photovoltaic cells.

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