Translation of Bone Morphogenic Protein Receptor 2 (BMPR2) - Our research team is interested in understanding the intricate relationships between micro-machines in the cell. These micro-machines, or proteins, are essential for maintaining cellular viability. Proteins work in conjunction with other biomolecules such as DNA, RNA, and lipids to maintain cellular viability. Proteins are produced via transcription and translation in the cell. Transcription is the process whereby a messenger RNA (mRNA) is generated from the DNA in the nucleus. This mRNA travels to the cytoplasm of the cell where it is translated into a protein. We are currently collaborating with Dr. Jonathan Lowery, an FHU alumnus and post-doctoral fellow at Harvard University, to characterize the translation of Bone Morphogenic Protein Receptor 2 (BMPR2). BMPR2 interacts with a family of proteins known as Transforming Growth Factor (TGF)-β. This interaction fosters further transcription of genes and translation of proteins important for embryogenesis and maintaining vascular homeostasis. Dr. Rachel Stevens is mentor of the team conducting this research.
Mercury Concentrations in Game Fishes – Mercury within game fishes poses health concerns to individuals who consume these fishes. We are studying mercury concentrations in game fishes at Pickwick Reservoir to identify possible health risks to people who consume Pickwick fishes. Our initial data indicate that mercury concentrations in fishes from Pickwick are well below acceptable limits. This next school year we will expand the study to include different fish species and to determine the mercury concentration of the sediment. Dr. Paul Fader is mentor of the team conducting this research.
Bacteria in Subsurface Water - We are determining the different physiological groups of bacteria in subsurface water in a wetland. We have built a device called a gradostat that allows us to mimic some of the conditions underground. The gradostat can then cultivate the different physiological groups of bacteria according to the medium we choose. Dr. Paul Fader is mentor of the team conducting this research.
Turtle Ecology – Turtles are excellent model organisms for conducting studies investigating long-term ecological principles. This is because turtles have long lives and are relatively easy to work with. Additionally, many turtle species are globally threatened because of human causes. Therefore, turtle research can provide insights into ecology generally and conservation specifically.
Our research is conducted in a series of three ponds located in the FHU wetland area. Turtles are systematically captured and a series of morphological measurements are collected from each turtle. Turtles are then permanently marked and released at the site of capture. Data collected from this study are used to evaluate population structures, growth rates, movements, and survivorship among turtle species. This study was begun in 1998 and over 200 turtles have been marked to date. Dr. Brian Butterfield is the faculty mentor of the team conducting this research.
Biology of Invasive Species – Invasive species are a threat to biodiversity worldwide. Additionally, the damage caused by and the control of invasive species costs the U.S. well over a billion dollars annually. Therefore, it is important for biologists to understand the mechanisms of biological invasions if biologists are going to minimize the ecological and economic consequences of invasive species.
Over 40 reptile species have invaded the southeastern U.S. Among these are several gecko species. Our research is designed to identify behaviors that influence invasive characteristics and subsequent geographic expansion among invasive gecko species. Dr. Brian Butterfield is the faculty mentor of the team conducting this research.
Geographic Distribution of Amphibians and Reptiles in West Tennessee – West Tennessee has a very diverse amphibian and reptile fauna. However, the geographic distribution of many amphibians and reptiles in west Tennessee is poorly known. It is important for biologists to know the distributions of organisms if they are to adequately investigate the ecologies of specific species and appropriately address issues in conservation and biodiversity.
Our research involves documenting the occurrence of species previously unknown to science from specific areas. Our work has documented the occurrence of several species in new areas including two species found near our campus in Chester County. Dr. Brian Butterfield is the faculty mentor of the team conducting this research.