In Search of Turtles

Senior Bryan Finch measures a turtle he found near the Fredericksburg Canal.

An uncommon turtle discovery has sparked detective work between a University of Mary Washington professor and his students that will help shed light on the species in the Fredericksburg region. More than two years ago, Professor of Biology Werner Wieland asked students in one of his classes to bring in a local animal. Much to Wieland’s surprise, one student brought in a species of turtle – a yellow-bellied slider – that is not known to occur in the Fredericksburg area. The find brought up questions for Wieland— was this turtle an isolated case or is there a bigger population established? With the help of seniors Yoshi Takeda and Bryan Finch, Wieland has spent the last two summers finding out. Wieland’s project is one of dozens funded through UMW’s Summer Science Institute, a 10-week undergraduate research program started in 1999. The students and professors will present their work at an all-day symposium on Wednesday, July 24. This summer, Wieland and his students … [Read more...]

Culturing Independent Inquiry

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In the tissue culture lab in the University of Mary Washington’s Jepson Hall, Chloe Fusselman donned a white lab coat, put on gloves and carefully picked up a beaker of liquid. She was practicing her sterile lab techniques with her adviser, Professor of Biology Deborah O’Dell, since the methods are critical to her research project this semester. Fusselman and fellow senior biology major Kara Arbogast are both researching the chemical bisphenol A, known as BPA, in separate projects. Both students received undergraduate research grants from UMW for their work. Fusselman’s project looks at the effect of BPA, a chemical found in many everyday household products, on healthy prostate cells. BPA, O’Dell explained, mimics the hormone estrogen and is frequently linked to breast cancer. “In the literature, there are some references that BPA could be linked to prostate cancer, too,” O’Dell said. Research like Fusselman’s will help scientists find out. As Fusselman developed her … [Read more...]

Seeking Feathered Friends

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For Andrew Dolby, a stressed-out bird is a big deal. Dolby, professor and chair of the biology department, is researching the stress response in birds, specifically, the Tufted Titmouse. During the spring semester he worked with three students to catch birds on UMW property and at sites in southern Stafford County. They took their measurements and vital signs and collected small blood samples for fellow biology professor Deborah O’Dell to perform heat shock protein analysis in the Jepson Hall labs. Heat shock proteins, similar in function to stress hormones, are indicators of chronic stress. Sources of chronic stress for a bird might be habitat deterioration, parasitism, or long-term food shortages.  Dolby and O’Dell received a grant from the Virginia Society of Ornithology for the unique project. “Only two other laboratories in North America are using heat shock proteins to study stress in free-ranging birds,” Dolby said. Since the proteins are found in almost every organism, … [Read more...]