Prof. Natalie Coe (biochemistry, genetics) and Jennifer Sellers (psychology) accompanied four GMC Biology Majors, Olesea Cohojari, Minh (Frank) Ho, Elisa Morales, and Brenda Nsambu to the Annual Vermont Genetics Network's Career Day at the DoubleTree Hotel in South Burlington, VT, on April 13th. Olesea and Brenda jointly presented their current research on successful haplotype analysis (genotyping) in regional American Beech tree populations. Students attended the panel and were actively involved in post-panel discussions. The panelists stressed the importance of following your true passion, keeping both eyes and minds open to and ready for all possibilities, and to always remember your civic duties.
Biology Professors Michael Blust, Meriel Brooks and Natalie Coe , along with Carol Shaw ( GMC Alumna and current science laboratory manager), attended The Northeast Natural History Conference in Albany, N.Y., April 7-8 with several students including Olesea Cohojari, Brenda Nsambu, Samuel Mooney, Lindsay Herlihy , and Gwendolyn Cramer in Albany, N.Y. April 7-8.
Olesea and Brenda presented a poster with Dr. Coe entitled "GIS meets Genetics: Spatial and Molecular Evaluation of Beech Trees Resistant to Beech Bark Disease." Gwendolyn, who has been studying with Dr, Brooks, presented her work on the "Ontogenetic Dietary Shifts of the White Sucker (Castostomus commersoni) in the Poultney River." more...
Prof. Mike Blust (biology) has been approved for a five-year spot on the Fulbright Specialist Roster for biodiversity survey work on dragonflies and birds. As a Fulbright Specialist candidate, Mike will be considered a potential match for program requests that require someone in his field of expertise. If a match is made, the Fulbright program funds a two to six week visit to the requesting project.
GMC students Lindsay Herlihy '11 and Michael Middleman '10 presented their independent research projects at the 2010 Student Research Symposium of the Lake Champlain Research Consortium (LCRC) April 24. The LCRC coordinates and facilitates research at regional colleges and universities. It provides funding for undergraduate research as well as a venue for students to present their research to their peers. Michael and Lindsay are both funded by the LCRC. Michael's project is titled "Microsatellite DNA Analysis of Silver Lamprey (Ichthyomyzon unicuspis) Population Structure in Lake Champlain.” Lindsay's project is titled “Investigating the presence & prevalence of Borellia burgdorferi in peridomestic birds.” Lyme disease is attributed to the microbe B. burgdorferi. Profs. Michael Blust, Meriel Brooks and Mark Jordan, and students Kat Carvajal '12, Emily Heale '12 and Romina Ramos '12 also attended the conference.
Prof. Meriel Brooks (biology) has been granted a travel award through the Vermont Genetics Network (VGN) to attend a workshop sponsored by the North East Cyberinfrastructure Consortium and the VGN at the University of Delaware May 23-28. This all expenses paid five day hands-on bioinformatics workshop will enable participants to use common bioinformatics applications and is centered around annotation of the Little Skate genome.
GMC students Elisa Morales '11 and Brenda Nsambu '12 were accepted as two of 700 students from all over the country to attend the Biomedical Careers Student Conference in Boston February 26 and 27. The conference, sponsored by Harvard Medical School, is geared toward students “seriously interested in or currently studying in biomedical, biotechnology and science related fields.” The primary objective is to “provide…African-American, Hispanic and American Indian/Alaska Native students with an opportunity to network with advisors/role models from the basic and clinical sciences, medicine, public health, academic administration and the private sector.”
Prof. Natalie Coe (biology) contributed a chapter to a book titled Nature and Culture in the Northern Forest: Region, Heritage, and Environment in the Rural Northeast. It is edited by Pavel Cenkl and is part of the American Land & Life Series published by University of Iowa Press. Natalie’s chapter is titled “Life as Beech: Survival in the New England Forest.”
Mark McPeek , an evolutionary biologist from Dartmouth University, will be on campus November 20 to host two talks titled "How has Past Climate Change Influenced the Biota We See Today?" He will be speaking to Prof. Mike Blust ’s (biology) "Winged World" class at 10 a.m. and will give a public presentation at 4 p.m. The location for the public presentation is to be announced.
Prof. Meriel Brooks (biology) traveled to Portland, OR. in July to present her work on larval fish “Do only dead fish go with the flow?” at the 89th annual meeting of the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists. This work is the culmination of the last four field seasons collecting data on larval fish drift in the Poultney River, and included some of the data collected this summer with the help of students Lauren Selonke and Brenda Nsambu . The two students, supported for the summer by an EPSCoR grant (NSF), worked with Brooks collecting fish and larvae and analyzing samples in the lab. The latter project is a collaborative effort with Brad Coupe, Assistant Professor of Biology at Castleton State College and involved eight undergraduate students from both institutions.
On October 18, the GMC Pre-Med Club sponsored a visit from the Vermont Institute of Natural Science (VINS), a non-profit education, research and wildlife rehabilitation center in Quechee, Vt. The program ran for an hour in the Gorge and was attended by over 70 community members, faculty, staff and students. VINS educator Noella Girard talked about VINS raptor programs and introduced the group to the birds. She provided information about their habitat, hunting habits and capabilities, migration and threats to their populations. She brought with her three live exhibits: a Great-horned owl, an American kestrel and a Red-tailed hawk.
Prof. Meriel Brooks (biology) and Provost Bill Throop (philosophy) gave presentations at the International Conference on Human Ecology at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom, June 29 – July 3. Brooks presented her recent research on larval fish titled “Drift Patterns of Larval Fish in the Poultney River.” She also contributed to a session on educational programs, with a talk titled “Green Mountain College's Environmental Liberal Arts Program: A Common Curriculum for Sustainability.”
Green Mountain College is one of eight colleges in Vermont to join the Vermont Genetics Network (VGN), an organization that provides funding for research, equipment and technology necessary to enhance competitiveness for national funding for genetics research. Other aims of the project include increasing the number of undergraduates who go on to biomedical careers from the baccalaureate colleges, to provide and support bioinformatics capability in the state, and to increase the diversity of biomedical scientists.
Prof. Mark Jordan (biology) gave a talk at the Fifth International Martes Symposium at the University of Washington in Seattle on September 11. The talk was titled "Study Design Considerations for Estimating Abundance and Survival of Fishers by Means of Camera Traps."
Two GMC Biology Majors have been accepted to highly competitive research programs this summer. Jennifer Conrad has accepted an undergraduate research opportunity at University of Minnesota's Life Sciences Summer Undergraduate Research Program in molecular genetics and proteomics. She will study with Dr. Deborah Samac , a plant pathologist. Kyle O'Boyle has been accepted to University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine's Cell and Molecular Pathology Summer Undergraduate Research Program. In this ten-week program, each student conducts original research and presents results at the end. Both Jennifer and Kyle will receive a weekly stipend as well as travel and housing costs.
Prof. Meriel Brooks (biology) and Prof. Brad Coupe of Castleton State College received $14,792 in funding from the Vermont Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) for their project titled "Developing an Index of Biotic Integrity for Larval Cyprinidae to Test Water Quality." The researchers will document the impact of impaired riverbanks and the resulting reduced water quality on cyprinid (minnow) communities in the Poultney River. They will also test whether density and species representation within minnow communities are reflected in the downstream drift of larval cyprinids, and develop an Index of Biotic Integrity for minnow communities for which data could be easily gathered by sampling the drifting larval fish community. A dichotomous key to the cyprinid larval identification will be developed so this IBI could be used in other Vermont localities. The project will employ four undergraduate students, including three in the summer and one during the academic year.
Prof. Mike Blust (biology) was featured in the winter issue of the Vermont Entomological Society newsletter. He was also a guest on WVNR (Lakes Region Radio) Feb. 6 to talk about the "Great Backyard Bird Count" and to answer callers' questions about birds.
Prof. Mike Blust (biology) will be giving a series of talks on dragonflies, damselflies, and a recent birding trip to Spain. On March 16 at 7 p.m., Mike visits the Rutland Free Library for a talk hosted by Rutland County Audubon. This past summer Mike spent a week in Madrid with birding expeditions to the Sierra de Guadarrama Mountains on the outskirts of the capital, the desert-like region near Portugal at the Spain-France border. Its location makes it a major migration route from Africa to the rest of Europe, and Mike will talk about the birds he encountered. On Tuesday, March 17, at 6:30 p.m., he will host a lecture titled "Damsels & Dragons" at the Nature Conservancy's West Haven office.
Assistant Prof. Mark Jordan (biology) was recently appointed to a three-year term on the board of trustees of The Vermont Institute of Natural Science (VINS). Founded in 1972, VINS is a non-profit environmental education, research and avian rehabilitation organization headquartered in Quechee, Vt. VINS' mission is to motivate individuals and communities to care for the environment.
A photograph of a Prairie Warbler taken on the GMC campus was featured in a recent issue of North American Birds, a quarterly journal of the American Birding Association. The bird was originally found by (then) freshman Lindsay Herlihy and identified and photographed by Prof. Michael Blust (biology). A documentation of the bird was submitted to the Vermont Records Committee who forwarded the information to the ABA. The record was highlighted as the most unusual sighting for Vermont during the quarter. Vermont is at the northern edge of the breeding range for prairie warblers. By December, they are normally found in Florida.
In cooperation with the Rutland County Humane Society, the Bio/Enviro Club has recently formed a team to humanely reduce the feral cat population in Poultney, raise awareness about the importance of spaying and neutering cats, and fundraise for this project.
Called Trap, Neuter and Return (TNR), the program is the most humane way to control a feral cat population. Most feral cats will never become tame again, and so have to live the rest of their lives outdoors. By neutering them and returning them to the colony where they are already being fed, they can live without continuing to reproduce. Over time, as older cats die naturally, the population will hopefully go down.
The Bio/Enviro Club created a team headed by Julia Marcusa, a freshman at GMC. She partnered the team with the Rutland County Humane Society (RCHS) to get the project running. One test trapping has already occurred with the successful capture of seven cats. All the cats were brought to Castleton Corners Rutland Veterinary Clinic, fixed, and returned to their colony. All funding has so far come from the Rutland County Humane Society. The next trapping has been planned for December 15.
Prof. Meriel Brooks (biology) and Prof. Mark Jordan (biology) participated in a workshop of EcoLeague faculty held at the Sierra Nevada Field Campus in July. The gathering, conceived and organized by Meriel John Anderson of College of the Atlantic, and Tom Fleischner of Prescott College, was to discuss teaching ecology in the EcoLeague, to brainstorm possible cooperative science projects among EcoLeague colleges, and to emerge with tangible ideas for moving the EcoLeague concept forward within the faculties of the EcoLeague institutions.
Participants pictured are: David Anderson and John Anderson , Stephen Ressel (College of the Atlantic), Mark Jordan , James Paruk (Northland College), David McGivern (Alaska Pacific University), Tom Fleishner and Lisa Floyd-Hanna (Prescott College), Leslie Cornick (APU), and Meriel Brooks .
On Monday, April 28, Green Mountain College hosts Neil Kamman from the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation for the final talk in the spring science lecture series “From Mushrooms to Mercury.” His talk, titled “Mercury Contamination in the Northeastern Landscape,” begins at 4 p.m. in Ackley Hall, room 334. It is free and open to the public.
Kamman is the author of 13 peer-reviewed publications on mercury, the results of which have been used to help to justify passage of mercury control legislation in Vermont and elsewhere. His work has also helped to overturn lenient federal mercury control regulations on coal-fired electric generators. Now an environmental scientist in the water quality division of the Vermont DEC, Kamman has nearly two decades of experience working on mercury control and water quality issues. He has stewarded over $1 million in research projects addressing mercury contamination in the northeastern landscape, and currently serves as chair of the Vermont Advisory Committee on Mercury Pollution.
A tiny mushroom known as Horsehair Fungus offers unique insight into the life of a particularly rare Northeastern bird species, the Bicknell’s Thrush. The drama unfolds each and every spring in the mountains of Vermont. Bryan Pfeiffer, author, conservationist, nature photographer, and mercenary field biologist, will share his personal encounters with the lowly fungus and lofty wildlife during a lecture at Green Mountain today. His talk begins at 4 p.m. in Ackley Hall, Room 334.
Bryan Pfeiffer ’s articles and essays on nature have appeared in The New York Times, Vermont Life, Field & Stream, and Northern Woodlands magazine, among others. When he's not out chasing mushrooms or birds, Bryan is chief field staff for the Vermont Butterfly Survey. An authority on dragonflies, Bryan edits and publishes a newsletter on the dragonflies of Vermont, called The Boghaunter.
Garlic Mustard, Japanese Knotweed, Goutweed, Glossy Buckthorn, Dame’s Rocket and Morrow’s Honeysuckle: These are just some of the non-native plant species that threaten the floodplain forest along the Poultney River. However, thanks to the Green Mountain College Natural Areas Crew, founded in the summer of 2006, progress has been made toward managing these species and restoring sustainable natural communities. Some highlights from the past year and a half include:
In the summer of 2006, the College hired its first Natural Areas Crew. Three students worked for part of the summer on Garlic Mustard control.
The College created a Natural Areas work study position for fall and spring semesters beginning in the 2006-07 academic year. In this position, senior Progressive Program student Shannon Bonney researched and wrote new management plans, and she organized the successful 2007 Garlic Mustard Pull and other volunteer events.
On the 3rd annual Earth Day Garlic Mustard Pull in 2007, 106 volunteers gave 82 hours over two days, and removed over 8,000 Garlic Mustard plants.
In the summer of 2007, GMC increased its funding for the Natural Areas Crew to support one almost full-time and several part-time crew members. Shannon Bonney and advisor Jim Graves led a crew that included Elaine Blodgett (’07), who also worked with The Nature Conservancy this summer, Justin Valliere (’07), who currently attends graduate school at the University of Hawaii, and Elizabeth Roma .
The crew collaborated with Paul Marangelo of The Nature Conservancy in the summer of 2007 to complete the first phase of Japanese Knotweed control.
In the spring of 2007, the college was awarded funds from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) to fund a portion of the Natural Areas Crew budget through 2010. The contract for $13,758 supports invasive plant control and restoration of forest along a treeless stretch of river.
Prof. Meriel Brooks and 6 students from her limnology course (Lindsay Swinger, Justin Valliere, Jen Herzer and daughter Avery, Sheri Knowles, Christine Kenny , and Shannon Bonney) spent the weekend at the Darrin Fresh Water Research Institute on Lake George. This facility is a part of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; its faculty and staff carry out water quality research and education on Lake George and in the Adirondacks. The students sampled on Lake George using a pontoon boat, then came back to the labs to analyze their samples on state of the art water quality instrumentation.
Thanks to 106 volunteers (so far) who donated 84 hours, the campus is controlling the invasive Garlic Mustard plants on campus. In the third annual event of its kind, volunteers pulled plants in half of the campus during Earth Week celebrations. In this annual event students, faculty, and alumni alike come out to remove the invasive plant Garlic Mustard. Each year there is a large turnout for the event, supported this year by faculty members Teresa Coker , Steve Fesmire, Sue Sutheimer , Rebecca Purdom , Jim Harding , and Jim Graves , who brought entire classes to volunteer. Crews removed 8789 Garlic Mustard plants, weighing 124 kg. This year, invasive species management work study student Shannon Bonney designed a new strategy for data collection in which the campus was divided into sectors and data was collected for each sector by volunteers. Data will be used to determine the success of the Garlic Mustard control program.
On March 20 and 21st, eight premed/prevet students (Dana DeLancey, Missy Barber, Sheri Knowles, Aisling Howe, Mallory Caviolla, Titi Tamine, Kanika Sharma, and Kait Petros ) led by Dr. Meriel Brooks journeyed to Tuft's Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine in Grafton, Massachusetts and to Tufts School of Medicine in Boston to tour the facilities and to talk to admissions councilors about strategies for admissions to the schools. The premed/prevet students who attended are active members of the Premed Club and range from first year students to seniors. The Dean of Admissions for the medical school met with the students. This was the first of what will be twice-annual trips to medical and veterinary schools for all premed/prevet students as part of the premed program. Any students who wish to be in the premed program should contact Prof. Meriel Brooks, the premed advisor.
On a recent spring break trip, 12 students explored the natural history of Southern California on the Biology Field Trip (BIO 3072) with Profs. Mike Blust and Jim Graves . In this 9-day field-intensive experience, students developed observation skills, learned about flora and fauna in ecosystems ranging from Sonoran Desert to Live Oak Woodlands, observed conservation problems and solutions in a region rich in endemic species, and conducted field research. Before the trip, the class discussed Bakker's An Island Called California , and each student searched additional literature on a topic of interest and designed a study. Trip highlights included a walk through the sparsely leafy and flowering desert to a palm oasis, Great Horned Owls hollering from the sandstone cliffs over Joshua Trees and Junipers, and a Darwinian experience on Santa Cruz Island where isolation has yielded a curious world of little Island Foxes, large Island Scrub Jays, and Giant Coreopsis. The students will present research findings from this trip on Friday, April 13, starting at 2:30 pm. Location will be announced soon.
35 General Ecology students have completed a restoration planting of native species aimed at helping absorb run-off between campus and the Poultney River. The new "rain garden," which is located in the corner of the soccer field behind the scoreboard, is strategically positioned for the restoration effort because the college's drainage system empties into the area.