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Student Research Symposium

Information about the Student Research Symposium and Student Research Funds

Student Research Symposium

Student Research Symposium advertisement in white, orange, and blackThe Student Research Symposium occurs every Spring semester on Assessment Day and features research projects and posters presented by undergraduate students at the University of Jamestown. The UJ Libraries are excited to host the Symposium for the first time in Spring 2024.


Spring 2024

Join us in Raugust Library on Tuesday, April 16 from noon to 1:30 pm for this year's Symposium!

This year's list of presenters, poster titles, and abstracts can be found below. Printed programs will be available at the Symposium.

Program: Presenters & Poster Abstracts


Targeting Inflammatory Biomarkers to Increase Depression Treatment Response  

Presenter: Shannon Bryn 
Advisor: Dr. Elizabeth Naglak 
Field of Study: Biology 

It has been well-documented that depression is linked to inflammation along with genetic and environmental factors. It is also documented that major depressive disorder, the most common form of depression, is the leading cause of disability in the United States. Studies have looked at the relationship between inflammatory biomarker concentration and depression severity and have found that individuals with increased inflammatory biomarker concentrations experience more severe depression symptoms and may be more likely to have MDD. Researchers are studying how these biomarkers can be targeted to respond to treatment-resistant depression. One of these biomarkers is TNF (tumor necrosis factor). TNF is often elevated in depressed patients compared to the healthy population. Some studies demonstrate that increased concentrations of TNF can negatively affect antidepressant treatment responses. 

Neural Stem Cells Utilized To Improve Cognitive Symptoms Of Alzheimer’s Disease By Targeting Underlying Pathology 

Presenter: Camille Klindworth 
Advisor: Dr. Michelle Solensky 
Field of Study: Biology 

Alzheimer’s disease is the most prevalent type of dementia and affects more than 6 million people in the United States alone. The population of individuals 65 and older continues to grow, and because of this, the number of diagnosed cases of Alzheimer’s disease is expected to double by 2050. Neural stem cell treatment is a rising and desirable therapy for neurological disorders including Alzheimer’s disease due to its ability to target underlying pathologies.  Researchers treated a transgenic murine Alzheimer model with transformed neural stem cells overexpressing choline acetyltransferase (ChAT). They found that the transformed neural stem cells increased acetylcholine concentration in the brain and decreased the amount of soluble and insoluble amyloid beta proteins in the brains of transgenic mice. Along with that, the transformed neural stem cell treated mice had significant increase in cognitive function compared to the untreated transgenic mice. This and other studies provide sufficient evidence of the effectiveness of neural stem treatment in rodent Alzheimer models. 

Advances in HER2+ Breast Cancer Treatment: Targeting Epidermal Growth Factor Receptors with Small Molecule Inhibitors  

Presenter: David Reinholz  
Advisor: Dr. Jessie Arneson  
Field of Study: Biology  

Breast cancer ranks as the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths among women. Of the reported breast cancer cases, HER2-positive breast cancer accounts for 20%-30%. HER2-positive breast cancer is caused by mutations in the ERBB2 gene leading to the overproduction of HER2 proteins on breast cells. As a result of this alteration, there is amplified cell signaling for growth and proliferation. Chemotherapy, a traditional treatment method, targets rapidly dividing cells, including cancerous ones, but it frequently leads to significant side effects. These may include hair loss and fatigue, as the treatment affects not only cancer cells but also rapidly dividing cells such as those found in hair follicles and bone marrow. In contrast, small molecule targeted therapy tyrosine kinase inhibitors (sm-TKIs), a newer approach, focuses on precision by targeting specific HER proteins. There are currently 3 FDA approved for breast cancer: Lapatinib (2007), Neratinib (2017), and Tucatinib (2020) with. It appears sm-TKIs offer a synergistic value when in combination therapy with chemotherapy and/or monoclonal antibodies, rather than used as a monotherapy. Supplementing sm-TKIs offers a way to reduce the amount of chemotherapy used as a result reducing the side effects. This approach aims to optimize outcomes of treatment by increasing progression-free survival and overall survival rates, while minimizing adverse effects. By utilizing sm-TKIs and balancing other treatment forms, there is promising future development in the field of sm-TKIs. 

Nature's Silent Symphony: A Review of Vibratory Communication and Anthropogenic Noise and Vibrations in Amphibians 

Presenter: Christopher Sayler  
Advisor: Dr. Michelle Solensky  
Field of Study: Biology  

Amphibians are the most rapidly declining vertebrate species in existence and pollution plays a large part. Frogs are known for their elaborate displays and recognizable croaking, but there is an aspect of their communication that is finally being researched. Recent research suggests that frogs communicate via vibrational signals which can be a byproduct of calling or a result of movement. These signals work with other modalities to amplify frog communication. When thinking of pollution, chemical contamination comes to mind; while this certainly is a factor contributing to the decline of amphibians, it isn’t the only piece. Anthropogenic noise pollution is detrimental to frog communication and health. The noise pollution isn’t just interrupting vocalizations, it is also droning out necessary vibrational signals. Understanding these neglected aspects may shed light as to why amphibian populations are rapidly decreasing and how this can be reverted. 

CRISPR-Cas9 Genomic Editing: A Promising Application for Cancer Modeling and Treatment  

Presenter: Megan Vermeersch 
Advisor: Dr. Bruce Jensen 
Field of Study: Biology  

Cancer is a pressing public health concern in the United States and despite efforts to minimize the disease through means of chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery, it remains prevalent within the population. High cancer rates have motivated researchers to explore modeling and alternative therapeutic treatments, including CRISPR-Cas biotechnology. Studies have been conducted researching the ability for CRISPR-Cas9 to mutate tumour suppressor genes to induce tumour growth in vitro to create cancer models for research. Additionally, experiments have been conducted on mice in vitro to mutate oncogenes to cause gene knockout and suppress the development of cancer. These studies show potential for CRISPR-Cas biotechnology to be used for both cancer research and therapeutic treatment. 

Treatments and Therapies for Lysosomal Storage Disorders  

Presenter: Jaxton Wiest 
Advisor: Dr. Bruce Jensen 
Field of Study: Biology 

Lysosomes are responsible for breaking down macromolecules within the cell. When a lysosome has a dysfunctional enzyme, severe neurological and musculoskeletal damage can occur. This dysfunction within the enzyme is referred to as a lysosomal storage disorder (LSD). LSDs are a group of rare genetic disorders. Until 30 years ago, there were no treatments available for any of the 50+ LSDs. Today, there are four main therapies that are available to treat LSDs. The first, enzyme replacement therapy, uses recombinant enzymes to restore catabolic function within the cell. Substrate reduction therapy inhibits specific biosynthetic pathways to disrupt the synthesis of the indigestible macromolecule. Small molecule therapy works by enhancing the correct folding of the defective enzyme to restore catabolic function. Lastly, gene therapy aims to restore catabolism by giving the cell a correct copy of the lysosomal enzyme gene. These four therapies create the basis of present treatment and lay the foundation for the development of future treatment for LSDs. 


The Synthesis and Characterization of Synthetic Diamonds  

Presenter: Nathan Holzwarth 
Advisor: Dr. Anthony Amaro 
Field of Study: Biochemistry 

Diamonds are a very sought after resource for their unique physical properties, but it takes natural diamonds up to 3 billion years to form. This has caused the synthesis of synthetic diamonds to become a hot topic as the desire to use them across many fields continues to increase. Synthetic diamonds possess the same physical properties of natural diamonds such as hardness and resistance. Nanodiamonds (NDs) have a diameter of around 5 nm that aggregate together to form varying sizes of diamonds. In the laboratory synthetic cubic diamonds (CDs), which is a characteristic crystalline structure that gives diamonds their properties, can be synthesized by many different methods. One research group used a solvothermal reaction where acetone is decomposed at high pressure and high temperature, in the presence of varying metal chloride salts, to create methyl radicals which add onto each other to create the CD structure. This method produces low yields with the high end being less than one percent. Another research group used chemical vapor deposition using a pulsed laser and found that the yield was increased and at an affordable cost. This method allows for personalization of the diamonds based on the desired characteristics by providing a choice of 3 different carbon precursors to start the process with. Some of the characteristics of these personalized diamonds include hardness, tube shaped, and thinness. These specialized diamonds can be used in many different environments depending on what is required. 

Catalytic Viability of High Entropy Alloys  

Presenter: Trevor Ostenson 
Advisor: Dr. Anthony Amaro 
Field of Study: Chemistry 

Having been discovered twenty years ago, High Entropy Alloys (HEAs) have gained various applications across different fields over that time. HEAs are materials made with four to ten different metals in equimolar proportions. They originally baffled researchers due to their stability and capacity to be synthesized with a single crystal lattice structure throughout, a trait uncommon for equimolar component alloys. It was theorized that the materials were stabilized by a “high entropy effect” from which the alloys get their name.  Commonly used HEA elements include copper, iron, nickel, cobalt, molybdenum, and palladium-group metals. Although predominantly created for materials science, HEAs have gained increased attention for their potential for chemical catalysis due to their unique properties. HEAs have sluggish atomic diffusion, which means that atoms in the interior of the structure do not tend to escape through the surface: thus, they can be synthesized as nanoparticles. The nanoscale is relevant for catalysis as these are the dimensions where compounds adsorb onto catalysts to facilitate a chemical reaction. Researchers have sought to gauge the catalytic viability of HEAs, observing the time in which reactions happen under HEA catalysis, as well as comparing reactions catalyzed by HEAs to those same reactions catalyzed under more conventional methods. Experiments have been performed for these ends and have included the use of HEAs in the synthesis and decomposition of ammonia, the former being an important process in the production of fertilizer and the latter having potential for hydrogen storage. HEAs have also catalyzed the conversion of alkynes to alkenes, in a process known as semihydrogenation, where a final alkane product is avoided. 

Photocatalytic Remediation of Perfluorooctanoic Acid  

Presenter: Isaiah Reis 
Advisor: Dr. Anthony Amaro 
Field of Study: Biochemistry 

In recent years Per- or Poly- fluoroalkyl compounds (PFAs) have been gaining attention as widespread pollutants. These compounds are manmade, and some like Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) have seen very heavy use in industry since the 1940s and are now classified as harmful persistent organic pollutants (POPs). PFAs have been used in a number of applications, most notably in the preparation of fluoropolymers like Teflon and have made their way into many common products: firefighting foam, waterproof coatings, non-stick coatings, heat resistant materials, and many types of packaging. These compounds have become so common in the environment estimates done by the US Geological survey project as much as 45% of US tap water may be contaminated with at least one PFA. Due to their high chemical stability and strong resistance to natural degradation, PFOA (and many other PFAs) are difficult to remediate with traditional water treatment techniques. As such, more energy intensive and specialized processes must be used. Two methods which have been explored are photocatalytic and photooxidative degradation. These methods use light as energy to produce radical species to facilitate the stepwise breakdown of this compound. These systems may rely on a large variety of catalysts like persulfate, titanium dioxide, and indium trioxide. Metal organic frameworks have also been shown to be effective in photocatalytic degradation of these compounds while also minimizing the amount of additional harmful compounds used as catalysts. These methods using light to degrade PFOA have shown promising results in laboratory-scale tests and this method has the potential to provide a more efficient and effective solution for the removal of PFAs from the water supply. 


Analysis of the Reaction of Acrolein within the Body  

Presenter: Seth Weber 
Advisor: Dr. Anthony Amaro 
Field of Study: Biochemistry 

Roughly 12% of people in the world smoke cigarettes despite their adverse health effects. Originally marketed as being completely healthy and safe, cigarettes are the leading cause for increasing the risk of cancer, as well as various other health risks. Acrolein is an α,ß-unsaturated carbonyl compound that is one of the major components of cigarette smoke. Due to its structure, it is the strongest electrophile among α,ß-unsaturated aldehydes, and it is extremely reactive within the human body. Acrolein undergoes a Michael-like addition reaction within the human body with both protein and DNA. The most common of these reactions involve cysteine, however acrolein is so reactive that histidine is also capable of reacting within the body. These reactions form adducts which linger in the body, inhibiting translation and DNA repair, which can lead to a cell becoming mutagenic or carcinogenic. Acrolein has recently been classified as a Class 2A carcinogen, defined as being “probably carcinogenic to humans”, by the International Agency of Research on Cancer (IARC). Because of this, researchers are working to understand the reaction of acrolein and look for ways to quantify it within the body. The most common way of doing this involves liquid chromatography mass spectroscopy (LC-MS). By analyzing the acrolein induced modifications within a sample, researchers have been able to measure the levels of acrolein in a person and link them to several different diseases, including lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and type II diabetes. These results may lead to researchers being able to detect levels of acrolein in high-risk patients of these diseases and prepare an early treatment plan to reduce the negative health effects.   



Mitigation of Run-Off Contaminants in Watersheds  

Presenters: Jarek Berger, Tallon Klatt, Luke Seiben, Parker Chaffee 
Advisors: Cherish Bauer-Reich, Dr. Katrina Christiansen 
Field of study: Sustainable Engineering 

With the increase in farming and ranching practices to produce more food for more people, stormwater runoff containing contaminants such as nitrogen and phosphorus has increased, as well. Nutrient pollution cost the U.S. taxpayers $4.3 billion from 2021 to 2023. Run-off contaminants can also cause disease in wildlife and people when consumed in the form of drinking water. Increased levels of nitrogen and phosphorus paired with pesticide chemicals in water resources can cause a variety of diseases and can be costly and difficult to extract after aquatic resources have been exposed. It is important to reduce the pollutants before they reach aquatic resources both to save money and to protect the ecosystems that rely on the water resource for survival. There are multiple methods that can be utilized by federal and state agencies to help mitigate nutrient pollution before the pollutants reach watersheds. Methods such as buffer zones, prairie strips, artificial wetlands, and bioreactors are methods that can be adopted by state and local management agencies to efficiently remove nutrient pollutants before they reach vital aquatic resources. This poster will present a lifecycle analysis on these methods to inform the audience of the limitations and benefits from each of these methods to create more efficient implementation for management purposes. Clean drinking water is a vital need for all living organisms. By reducing the quantity of nutrient pollutants in watersheds, we can create a more sustainable lifestyle and a higher quality of life for both society and the ecosystem. 


Gondola Landing Gear Project  

Presenters: Zachariah Ebsch, Dustin Homola, Isaac Mimong, Chandler Young 
Advisor: Dr. Matthew Fig 
Field of Study: Mechanical Engineering 

Stratospheric balloons are composed of several components, including the balloon, a parachute, the payload, and a recovery protection system. After a stratospheric balloon has finished collecting whatever data it needs, the balloon is popped, a parachute is released, and the payload makes its way to the ground, where a recovery protection system reduces damage to the payload from ground impact. A reusable and cost-effective recovery protection system is being developed which must protect the payload from the vertical impact, prevent the system from rolling over as it lands, dissipating most of the energy from the impact so it does not rebound, and withstand extreme environmental conditions. The solution being pursued involves four piston legs containing stacks of aluminum pipe that will be crushed on impact, absorbing the energy of the landing. This system is based on landing systems used in the lunar landing module, which employs a honeycomb cartridge that is partially crushed on landing. The proposed solution requires replacement of the pipes inside the legs after each landing, but the rest of the system does not need to be replaced after each landing. 


Hydrogen Production Alternatives   

Presenters: Eric Evans, Chandler Young, Myranda Bender, Conner Fortier  
Advisors: Dr. Katrina Christiansen  
Field of Study: Sustainable Energy  

Hydrogen production is a crucial aspect of the transition toward a more sustainable energy source as it offers a clean and renewable alternative to fossil fuels. However, the methods currently used for hydrogen production often result in significant carbon dioxide output, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. Some different forms of hydrogen production include electrolysis and various forms of pyrolysis. Pyrolysis, a process involving the decomposition of organic materials at high temperatures without oxygen, has emerged as a promising technology for hydrogen production. Splitting up a methane molecule without oxygen will eliminate the carbon dioxide byproduct. The alternative method of electrolysis will split up the water molecules into oxygen and hydrogen gas. By utilizing pyrolysis or electrolysis to turn methane or water into hydrogen gas, we can not only reduce carbon dioxide emissions but also produce a valuable energy source. Our research explores the potential of pyrolysis or water electrolysis as a sustainable solution for hydrogen production while decreasing carbon dioxide output, emphasizing its role in advancing toward a clean-energy future. We will present the results of a life cycle analysis comparing technologies to produce hydrogen, including three forms of pyrolysis and one form of electrolysis.  


Construction and New Building Pollution  

Presenters: John Grann, Zane MacDonald, Jackson Becker, Antonio Ruiz, Pedro Corona 
Advisor: Dr. Katrina Christiansen 
Field of Study: Sustainable Engineering 

Urban construction of new buildings often causes harmful air and noise pollution. Alternative building materials and implementation of better practices in new buildings will help mend this issue moving forward. Reducing the pollution from construction and new building operation is important because it will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and minimize waste. The method that was implemented to meet this objective was performing life cycle analysis on various possible solutions. The solutions being considered are using engineered cementitious composite concrete instead of traditional concrete, building green roofs on new buildings, and using solar dependent lighting in commercial buildings. This project will start in Georgetown, Texas because it is one of the fastest growing cities in the United States. These solutions will reduce greenhouse gas emissions but each have their own drawbacks such as cost and maintenance.  We will present the results of the life cycle analysis to make recommendations on the most effective means of reducing pollution. 


Decreasing the Urban Heat Island Effect  

Presenters: Kayla Quintanilla, Reid Wilson, Koven Walford, Rosendo SosaChavez 
Advisor: Dr. Katrina Christiansen 
Field of Study: Sustainable Engineering 

Urban heat island is the effect felt in many metropolitan locations and consists of an elevation in temperature compared to the surrounding areas. New York City suffers from the urban heat island effect every summer, having an increased temperature up to 13 °F in the worst spots. This causes increased energy usage, money spent, and heat-related sickness and deaths throughout the city. We proposed four solutions to the urban heat island effect: decreased car usage, more efficient HVAC systems, urban forestation, and cooler building materials. Reducing car use by tolling vehicle traffic and making more room for public transport can decrease the temperature by up to 1.5 °F. The use variable refrigerant flow for a more efficient HVAC is considered the best solution for decreasing the load and heat rejection of a building. Urban forestation is a natural method of mitigation through vegetations ability to reduce temperatures by reflecting solar radiation, shading, evapotranspiration, and improving air quality through photosynthesis. Urban forestation on average reduces temperatures by 2.8 °F. New super-cool building materials are a realistic solution for mitigating the amount of heat that concrete and other mass used materials are absorbing and radiating. If new building materials can be created and implemented, the average temperatures in congested city areas can be reduced by approximately 4 °F as well as a more sustainable future for large cities around the world. A life cycle analysis will be performed and give evidence to the most viable solution. 

Environmental Science 


Revegetation after Goose-Induced Damage on the Cape Churchill Peninsula  

Presenters: Myranda Bender, Bonnie Thompson 
Advisor: Dr. Kit Schnaars Uvino 
Field of Study: Environmental Science 

Destructive foraging by the Mid-continent Population of Lesser Snow Geese (Answer caerulescens caerulescens) initiated processes that have led to severe degradation of coastal and inland areas in Wapusk National Park. A primary goal of the Canada/US management plan addressing this degradation is to reduce the population of Lesser Snow Geese until “…there is no further damage to the habitat and there are indications of recovery.” Exclosures and control sites, installed by The Hudson Bay Project, have been monitored annually, with covid exceptions for 2020 & 2021. Revegetation is predicated on the quality of the soil, the potential presence of a remnant seed bed, deposition of air, water or animal borne seeds of various plants or viable tissues from graminoids. Little is known about the recovery dynamics of the severely damaged habitat in use by Lesser Snow Geese. Revegetation is proceeding at a more rapid rate than originally thought. Succession looks different in different exclosures and habitats. Succession of species in one recovery area starts with Salicornia borealis, a halophyte this is not used by local herbivores. In this area the first edible species to recover is Puccinellia phryganoides. Puccinellia is a sterile triploid grass that has never been observed to set seed, however it can grow from fragments of meristematic tissue. How did these fragments arrive 15 km inland? Possible transportation mechanisms include spring floods, fall storm surges, wind, snow melt and herbivore faeces. Other study sites continue to show no signs of revegetation. We present the results through 2022. 


Habitat Mitigation of Reproductive Success in Walleye (Sander vitreus)  

Presenter: Jarek Berger 
Advisor: Dr. Kit Schnaars-Uvino 
Field of study: Environmental Science 

Walleyes are highly sought after sport fish that play a crucial role in maintaining aquatic resources. Walleyes are a keystone species that raise large quantities of money for wildlife management as well as the small communities. Habitat is a key component in mitigating successful walleye populations and is followed closely by state and federal agencies. Components such as surface area, water temperature, water quality, water clarity, depth, type of habitat, geographical region, dissolved oxygen, and PH care are closely related to the success of a spawning population. If one of these factors is limited it can greatly increase mortality rates in embryo and fry walleye. Walleyes are a migratory species with morphology that is sensitive to light, yet they require specific shallow water breeding conditions to incubate their eggs. Course materials such as cobble or gravel is ideal habitat for embryo’s survival. The water conditions can affect the timing and mortality of the spawning populations as well as the health of the fry population. Monitoring known habitat requirements for walleye can help maintain successful walleye populations for anglers to enjoy and allow for sustainable aquatic ecosystems to take place. 


Avian Influenza in Waterfowl Birds: A Disease That Can Wipe Out Populations  

Presenter: Grant Chapman 
Advisor: Dr. Kit Schnaars Uvino 
Field of Study: Environmental Science 

Avian influenza, commonly known as bird flu, poses a significant threat to poultry and human health worldwide. Migratory waterfowl, particularly ducks, geese, and swans, are natural reservoirs and vectors for various strains of avian influenza viruses. These birds play a crucial role in the transmission and spread of the virus across continents through their migratory routes. Understanding the dynamics of avian influenza in migratory waterfowl is essential for effective surveillance, prevention, and control strategies. This abstract provides an overview of avian influenza in migratory waterfowl, including the ecology of the virus in these birds, factors influencing transmission dynamics, the potential for interspecies transmission to poultry and humans, and implications for global health and poultry industries. Additionally, it highlights the importance of interdisciplinary research and international collaboration in monitoring and mitigating the risks associated with avian influenza in migratory waterfowl. 


The Rise of Root Boring Beetles and the Decline of Leafy Spurge  

Presenter: Ella Darrow  
Advisor: Dr. Kit Schnaars Uvino  
Field of Study: Environmental Science  

Leafy spurge (Euphorbia esula) is a dangerous noxious weed that has spread throughout North America. It has taken a particular liking to the Great Prairie Pothole Region. Due to its enormous size, both in and out of the earth, it is terribly hard to manage. Taking up more and more cropland every year, it has taken up about 5 million acres in the United States alone. Common practices of weed management are not useful for eradication. Herbivory by goats and sheep proved successful in the short term. The following season leafy spurge returned in pre-grazing numbers. Eventually, there were studies that showed long-term results for the eradication of leafy spurge by using the root boring beetle, the flea beetle (Aphthona czwalinae). A study in Montana indicated that after releasing this beetle for 5 years in an infected grassland, there was a 33-39% decline in leafy spurge above ground biomass. Seeing the success coming from this beetle, even if over a long period of time, is very promising for the future of arable land and the management of this noxious weed in North America. 


Phytodesalination: Halophytes and High Saline Soil  

Presenter: Eric Evans 
Advisor: Dr. Kit Schnaars Uvino 
Field of Study: Environmental Science 

High soil salinity deters plant growth by displacing other nutrients in the soil, decreasing the ability of the root systems to uptake water, and interfering with photosynthesis and chlorophyll production. Anthropogenic activities, such as poor irrigation and fertilization practices, are increasing soil salinity along with naturally occurring physical and chemical weathering and changing weather patterns. It is estimated that 50% of arable land will be negatively affected by high salinity by 2050. The high salt content in soil decreases biodiversity of native lands as well as decreasing agricultural productivity. Currently several techniques to remove salt meet with varying success. One of these techniques is phytodesalination, which is the use of halophytes to remove the salts from the soil, has been shown to be effective, environmentally friendly, and cost efficient. Halophytes accumulate salts from the surrounding soil in their tissues. Many native species of halophytes are found in the northern prairies. This proposal looks at the effectiveness of 5 common species found in the northern prairies: Canada Wild Rye (Elymus canadensis), Western Wheatgrass (Pascopyrum smithii), Garrison Creeping Foxtail (Alopecurus arundinaceus), Scarlet Globemallow (Sphaeralcea coccinea), and Narrow-leaved Coneflower (Echinacea angustifolia). 


The Silent Killer of Big Horn Sheep (Ovis canadensis)  

Presenter: Landon Fichter 
Advisor: Dr. Kit Schnaars Uvino  
Field of Study: Environmental Science  

The last recorded big horn sheep (Ovis canadensis) in ND was killed in 1905 and these majestic animals would remain absent from the landscape until the reintroduction process began in the late 1950’s. During the reintroduction, Big Horns were transplanted back into ND most recently being in 2006, after early reintroduction it took the animals years to get a grasp back into the ecosystem with there now being steady increases over the past few years. These increases are only occurring north of interstate 94 due to the struggle of disease in the south, the first outbreak of pneumonia came in 1997 decimating the population and killing off two separate herds completely. Biologists and other organizations have tried to restrengthen the herd but every time they do so another outbreak occurs showing these animals still carry the pathogens from the disease. Without the proper vaccination big horn located south of Interstate 94 may never be able to make a full recovery and flourish in our ecosystem. 


How Do We Keep Walleye Sufficiently Stocked in North Dakota?  

Presenter: Madison Knudson 
Advisor: Dr. Kit Schnaars Uvino 
Field of Study: Environmental Science 

Keeping Walleye stocked in North Dakota is at an all time high with the demand of Walleye for wranglers. For a period of time Walleye weren’t the main fish getting stocked into lakes around North Dakota, the main fish were Perch and Northern pike’s. Walleye have been an ongoing improving fish to be stocked not only because they are tasty to eat but fish hatcheries have good luck with reproduction of the Walleyes. Walleye are a species that are controlled for commercial, recreational, and tribal harvesting because they are ecologically significant and vital to the ecosystem. This study shows that without Walleye the ecosystem would fail, we need to keep fish hatcheries producing and stocking North Dakota lakes. A population of about 500,000 walleye has been kept alive in Lake Winnebago, Wisconsin, by efforts by the public to protect  spawning marshes. In Mille Lacs, Minnesota, the sport fishery was closed because of a drop in walleye numbers, which caused a lot of disagreement. In Red Lake, Minnesota, a commercial fishery run by a tribe collapsed and was later brought back to health by the combined efforts of locals and state biologists. This problem that occurred in Minnesota and Wisconsin is not what we want here in North Dakota and that is why we stay on top of hatching Walleye and stock our lakes to plan ahead in case there was a major decline or illness within these fish. More than 12 million fingerlings were stocked in North Dakota in the beginning of the summer of 2017, besting the previous high by more than 1 million fish in 2016. 


Does Lake Health Rely on Public Knowledge?  

Presenter: Jessica Neidviecky 
Advisor: Dr. Kathleen Schnaars Uvino 
Field of Study: Environmental Science 

Aquatic invasive plant species have been identified in Minnesota lakes since the 1800s. Now, the spread of AIS has drastically increased due to public transportation and horticulture trade. Introduction of AIS creates issues including public safety, eutrophication, and negative effects on biodiversity. There are many management strategies that are in place to slow the spread of AIS since, once an aquatic invasive species is introduced, it is not likely to completely terminate it from a water body. Common methods of management and prevention include aquatic vehicle inspections, educational campaigns, mechanical removal, chemical removal, and biological removal. There are methods of management and prevention that would be likely to positively impact management. Methods include new data collection methods such as eDNA. Surveys sent out to the public to collect data based on their knowledge of the subject and willingness to aid in prevention, and more research for biological removal of aquatic invasive plant species. Public awareness is the best form of management. Informing the public  about aquatic invasive species and their effects will inform people and lead them to make conscious decisions when engaging with a water body. 


Sustaining Greater Sage-grouse Populations: Effects of Prescribed Burns in Areas of High Cheatgrass Density  

Presenter: Antonio Ruiz 
Advisor: Dr. Kit Schnaars Uvino 
Field of Study: Environmental Science 

Cheatgrass fire regimes are a complex problem in semi-arid environments of sagebrush communities. Wildfires are increasing due to different climatic impacts. Prescribed burns have previously been used as a restoration effort in areas of cheatgrass to allow native plants to reestablish themselves. The competitive advantage of cheatgrass in these environments shows that they are negatively affecting these ecosystems and land managers should look for other methods of restoration. This will help the long-term sustainability of sage grouse which keep ecosystems close to their natural state and productivity. 


Have Behavioral Changes in Urban Populations of Wild Turkeys Made Them Unsuitable Candidates for Translocation?

Presenter: Rosendo Sosa Chavez 
Advisor: Dr. Kit Schnaars Uvino 
Field of Study: Environmental Science 

The Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) is an American conservation success story. After a successful rebound from near complete extirpation, the Wild Turkey is now present in 49 of the 50 states. The Wild Turkey inhabits varying habitats ranging from the foothills of the Rockies to the swamps of Everglades. However, populations across the country are again experiencing declines due to varying factors such as loss of habitat, predation, and environmental changes. These population declines are less prevalent in urban environments. Stable urban Wild Turkey populations have led to an increase in turkey- human conflicts. Expanding urbanization reduces critical habitat forcing wildlife to adapt to the marginal urban and suburban habitat or face extirpation. There is little to no published research on the survivability and reproductivity output of translocated urban turkeys. State conservation departments across the country such as North Dakota Game and Fish, have been translocating nuisance birds with little understanding on whether urban Wild Turkeys are more susceptible to factors such as higher predation, lower reproduction success and higher mortality due to environmental conditions. Differences between rural and urban populations have been observed in their nesting locations, home range sizes and diet. While these urban adaptations are found to be minor changes in behavior, they could be major factors that could lead to decreased survivability. I propose a research project in which urban nuisance birds are monitored after translocation, along with birds captured in rural areas as a control, to observe differences in reproductive success and survival. 


Negative Effects of Domestic Bees on Native Wild Bee Populations 

Presenter: Ariel Wolbeck  
Adviser: Dr. Kit Schnaars Uvino  
Field of Study: Ecology  

Wild (native) and managed (domesticated) bees are have very different requirements and provide different ecosystem functions. Wild bees are free ranged with very little contact, while managed bees are domesticated and cared for by people. People may think that bees see eye to eye, but there is competition and struggle in the wild. Managed bees have a 53% negative effect on wild bees, 28% have no effect at all, and 19% have a mixed effect. It has been a constant struggle between native wild bees and non-native managed bees. Not only has the problem of bees to bees competition, but there are impacts concerning pesticides, diseases, parasites, fragmentation, and habitat loss. Managed bees carry quite a bit of diseases that are fatal to native bees. Both native and domestic bees are affected by pesticides. Wild bees are suffering from habitat loss and lack the protection that domestic bees enjoy. 




Emotion Regulation and Time Management: Exploring How Skills Used Affect an Undergraduate's GPA  

Presenter: Jayden Baker 
Advisor: Ben Kirkeby 
Field of Study: Psychology 

The current study explored the relationship between time management, emotion regulation, and the overall academic performance of undergraduate students. A survey was conducted and distributed to undergraduate students at a small, private, liberal arts university in the Midwest to examine the relationship between how the skills of time management and emotion regulation affect overall GPA. A 2-Factor ANOVA will be conducted to test the relationship. It is predicted that both main effects will be significant and there will also be a significant interaction in such that those with the highest time management and emotion regulation skills will have the highest overall GPA. 


The Effects of Religion on Bracketed Morality 

Presenter: Xavier Baker 
Advisor: Ben Kirkeby 
Field of Study: Psychology 

The purpose of the current study is test the relationship between religiousness and bracketed morality. Male and female athletes from a small, private, liberal arts university in the Midwest answered a questionnaire measuring their religious tendencies and their aggression (in general life and within the context of their sport). The expectation is that the more religious someone is, the less pronounced their bracketed morality will be and they will show similar levels of morality despite the situational context. 


The Relationship between Conscientiousness, Extraversion, and Academic Success 

Presenter: Jadyn Collier 
Advisor: Ben Kirkeby 
Field of Study: Psychology 

The current study tested the relationship between Conscientiousness and Extraversion and their effect on academic success (GPA). Students from a small, private, liberal arts university in the Midwest completed a questionnaire. The questionnaire consisted of 14 questions pertaining to the personality traits Conscientiousness and Extraversion and one question asking their cumulative GPA. It is predicted that there will be a significant main effect for conscientiousness in such that the more conscientious individuals will have higher GPAs.  It is also predicted that the interaction will be significant with the conscientious introverted people having the highest GPAs. 


Sibling Relationships and Its Effect on Personality  

Presenter: Xandra Edwards 
Advisor: Ben Kirkeby 
Field of Study: Psychology 

The current study was conducted in order to test whether or not one’s personality traits are affected by sibling relationships. Prior research studies have found that siblings do play a big role in one’s personality. A survey was administered to a group of students from a small, private, liberal arts university in the Midwest. The expected results should show that one’s relationship with their siblings correlates to their personality.  Specifically, if one has a very positive relationship with their siblings, their personality will be very similar to their siblings. 


The Relationship between Travel and Stress in Student Athletes 

Presenter: Bristol Foytik 
Advisor: Ben Kirkeby 
Field of Study: Psychology 

This study was conducted to test the relationship between how much student athletes’ travel for their sport and stress levels. Participants were selected from a small, private, liberal arts college in the Midwest. The participants completed a stress questionnaire and distance traveled was calculated using Google maps by the looking at the travel schedule for their respective sport. Since traveling for athletics involves missing school, a disrupted schedule, and sleep disturbances, it is predicted that there will be positive correlation between the amount an athlete is traveling and how stressed they are.   


The Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Executive Functioning  

Presenter: Payton Gall 
Advisor: Ben Kirkeby 
Field of Study: Psychology 

Sleep quality and duration have implications in our physiological and psychological health. Past research has provided evidence that there is a strong connection between these facets of our lives; some of which have touched on executive functioning skills, which are detailed in this article. There was a need for further research, especially in the college-aged group, as this topic is pertinent to their lifestyle. A survey using the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) and an executive skills questionnaire was provided for university participants. A Single-Factor ANOVA will be used to test the relationship between sleep and executive functioning.  It is predicted that there will be a negative relationship between sleep quality and executive functioning. 


Screen Time and Study Habits  

Presenter: Sydney Grendler 
Advisor: Ben Kirkeby 
Field of Study: Psychology 

Screen time is a major concern for most parents and professionals. Research has been conducted concerning the immediate effects screen time has on a child; however, little research has been done on the effects screen time as a child has on the child when they get to college. This study examines if there is a relationship between the amount of screen time children have and their study environment in college. Participants were selected from a variety of classes at a small, private, liberal arts University in the Midwest. The participants answered a variety of questions involving their childhood screen time habits and their current study environment habits. The expected outcome of this study is students who had more screen time as a child are more likely to have distracting studying environments which includes listening to music or watching television. 


Procrastination in College Athletes and Non-Athletes  

Presenter: Josh Hoffman 
Advisor: Ben Kirkeby 
Field of Study: Psychology 

This study aims to identify differences in procrastination levels between college student athletes versus non-athletes. The study was conducted at a small, private, liberal arts college in the Midwest.  Participants completed a survey including demographic information, sport involvement, and procrastination questions. It is predicted that athletes would show higher procrastination levels than non-athletes, males would procrastinate more than females, and busier sports would procrastinate more. 


The Effect of Emotion on Wrestling Performance  

Presenter: Carlo Julian 
Advisor: Ben Kirkeby 
Field of Study: Psychology 

 In the current study, researchers look to identify which pre-competition emotions are best correlated with high performance and success in wrestlers. A total of 2 men and 7 women intercollegiate wrestlers participated. Participants were given a mood assessment before their match. After the competition, participants answered an open-ended question on the level of their performance, if they won or loss, and the points of the match. The researcher’s prediction for this study was that participants who had a calmer less stressed emotional state would perform better than those in stressed and chaotic emotional states. The research found strong correlations between the emotions anger and excitement with performance. 


Athletic Identity: Harmonious and Obsessive Passion Towards Sport  

Presenter: Gabriel Ocasio-Lopez  
Advisor: Ben Kirkeby  
Field of Study: Psychology   

Athletic identity in sports is viewed as the extent to which an athlete identifies and passionately pursues their respective sport while still succeeding. Recent research proposes a distinction between harmonious and obsessive passion towards goals and wellbeing leading to the proposal that passion could have beneficial and detrimental effects on an athlete’s. It is expected that athletes who overidentify and passionately obsess over their sport will neglect certain areas of their life such as family, academics, and emotional wellbeing. Conversely, those with harmonious passionate relationships with their sport will have an increase in positive emotions, will develop stronger exercise-adherence behaviors, and foment emotion-mediated effects on the athlete. It is predicted that results from an athletic identity survey containing questions concerning their relationship with their sport, grade-point average, ability to incorporate other areas of their life, and emotional well-being involving participants from the college student athlete population from a private liberal arts college will provide support for this distinction and effects.   


The Effect of Diet and Stress on GPA    

Presenter: Thomas Pittenger 
Advisor: Ben Kirkeby 
Field of study: Psychology   

This study was conducted to try and find a relationship between stress, diet, and GPA. Previous research showed that poor diet and high stress were correlated to low GPA scores. Participants were selected from a small, private, liberal arts college in the Midwest. Participants were given a self-report questionnaire that asked for GPA, stress level, and dietary habits. The results expected from this study is that participants with high stress and poor diet will have lower GPA scores than participants with low stress and healthy diets. 


The Effects of Sleep, and Physical Exercise on GPA in Undergraduate Students 

Presenter: Noah Williams   
Advisor: Ben Kirkeby  
Field of study: Psychology   

This study examines the effect of sleep and exercise on GPA in undergraduate college students.  Previous research has shown a significant correlation between sleep quality, regular exercise and GPA.  Utilizing online surveys, a sample of undergraduate college students completed questionnaires assessing sleep, exercise and GPA.  The expected results are that there will be a strong correlation.  It is expected that students who get enough sleep and exercise regularly will have higher GPAs.