Science profs and students to present research
Thursday, April 9, 2015
Several Northwestern College students will accompany biology professors Dr. Sara Tolsma and Dr. Todd Tracy, and chemistry professors Dr. David Arnett and Dr. Karissa Carlson, to present their respective research projects at the Iowa Academy of Science’s 127th annual meeting on April 17 and 18 at the University of Iowa in Iowa City.
Tolsma and her students will present their research, “Anti-Tumor Activity of Common Plant Extracts and Their Suspected Active Chemical Agents.” Their experiments tested the ability of various plants reported to contain anti-tumor activity to inhibit the growth of tumor cells in vitro.
Assisting Tolsma with her research were Megan Feuchtenberger, a junior biology health professions and Spanish major from Alvord, Iowa; Cody Hughes, a senior biology health professions major from Orange City; senior Mariko Komatsu, a biology health professions and chemistry major from Japan; Caleb Linn, a junior biology health professions major from Norwalk, Calif.; Kierstyn Marker, a junior biology health professions major from Orange City; Sun Mudiavita, a senior biology health professions major from Estherville, Iowa; Morgan Olhausen, a junior biology health professions major from Sac City, Iowa; Jordan Sexe, a junior biology health professions major from Humboldt, Iowa; Samantha Thomson, a junior biology health professions and chemistry major from Footville, Wis.; senior Britta Wilson, a biology health professions major from Urbandale, Iowa; Bethany Wood, a senior biology health professions major from Fresno, Calif.; and Emily Wynja, a senior biology health professions and chemistry major from Sioux Falls, S.D.
The students assisted Tolsma in measuring the growth inhibitory activity of ethanol extracts solubilized in dimethyl sulfoxide from the leaves of marigold, periwinkle, mistletoe and rosemary plants. They also tested the suspected inhibitory agents of the chemicals found within the plant extracts. “Our experiments are focused on growth inhibition in a variety of human and mouse tumor cell lines,” says Tolsma. “We predict the whole plant extracts, as well as the pure chemicals, will inhibit growth of tumor cells in vitro in a dose-dependent manner.”
Tracy will present two research projects at the conference, the first being “If You Farm It, Will They Come? Route-Level Diversity Trends in Iowa’s Breeding Bird Survey Results.” Tracy’s research was built off the Breeding Bird Survey (BBS), a nationwide project launched in 1966 to monitor the status and trends in breeding bird populations in North America. During his study, Tracy analyzed Iowa’s BBS data to determine whether any route-level biodiversity trends existed in Iowa, and examined the routes for changes in land use during a specific time period.
Assisting Tracy with his BBS experiment were Anna Daumer, a sophomore biology and writing/rhetoric major from Orange City; Jennifer Inge, a sophomore biology ecological science major from Fontana, Calif.; senior Allison Schweighart, a biology health professions major from Rochester, Minn.; Joshua Tampio, a sophomore biology ecological science major from Chino, Calif.; and Joseph Tolsma, a sophomore biology ecological science major from Orange City.
Tracy will also present his poster, “Soil, Cedars and Fire: Interactions and Effects on Invertebrate Diversity at Niobrara Valley Preserve.” Tracy’s research is a follow-up study to his 2013 experiment that examined the effects of Easter Red Cedar and a large wildfire on soil properties and invertebrate diversity at the Nature Conservancy’s Niobrara Valley Preserve in Nebraska.
Last September, Tracy and his biology students collected soil samples and pitfall-trapped invertebrates in a partially burned section of the preserve that had not been previously surveyed. “We compared soil properties and invertebrate diversity between burned and unburned areas,” says Tracy. “We focused on differences between areas with and without cedars and between areas with burned and unburned cedars.” In their poster presentation, Tracy and his students discuss their findings regarding interactions between fire history, soil properties, tree type and invertebrate diversity.
In addition to the students that assisted with his BBS experiment, Tracy had help collecting information on the soil experiment from junior Lincoln Morris, a religion and theatre/speech major from Oskaloosa, Iowa; Emily Stricklin, a junior biology ecological science major from Sioux Falls, S.D.; senior Emma Thies, a biology health professions major from Melvin, Iowa; and Katie Thomson, a sophomore undecided major from Footville, Wis.
Arnett and Carlson will present their joint research, “Examining the Effects of Roasting Methods on the Caffeine Content of Coffee,” at the conference. Their experiment measured the caffeine content of coffee brewed from single source beans to determine if the length of roasting influenced the concentration of caffeine.
“During this research, the students learned how to run an instrument called a HPLC, make a standard curve, research the literary databases in the library, and design a good experiment,” says Arnett. “Their results have shown so far that roasting conditions do affect the caffeine content, with light roasts having more caffeine than darker roasts.”
Assisting Arnett and Carlson with their research were Kristen Burd, a junior medical laboratory science major from Orange City; Ashley Maloney, a sophomore biology ecological science major from Hartley, Iowa; Emily Nienhuis, a junior chemistry major from Oak Harbor, Wash.; Abigail Stevens, a junior chemistry major from Ord, Neb.; and Samantha Thomson, a junior biology health professions and chemistry double major from Footville, Wis.
The Iowa Academy of Science is an organization that promotes science research, education, public understanding and recognizing excellence in these endeavors.