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«Strengthening the Nation through Diversity, Innovation & Leadership in STEM San Antonio,Texas · October 3-6, 2013 Get Connected! Connect with the ...»

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Understanding the physical, chemical, and optical interactions between nanoparticles and neuronal metabolism is of great importance not only due to their potential toxic effect, but also to their nonlethal effects on the normal functioning of neurons as well. Perhaps more interesting could be their use to monitor and control neuronal activity. (Research supported by: NSF DMR-0934218, RCMI 2G12RR013646-11 and partially funded by NIH/NIGMS MARC U*STAR GM0771.)




Domenick Barbo, Bradley Fox.

University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, HI.

The US healthcare industry is in a time of great reform. Economic, technological, and interpersonal change is both needed and imminent. As the demand for preventive care and alternative treatments rises, a look back to traditional ecological knowledge is a source of wisdom. In Native Hawaiian La’au Lapa’au herbal medicine, the plant kauna’oa is used in traditional cancer treatments. There are two main species used in traditional lineages: Cassytha filiformis (found across Polynesia) and Cuscuta sandwichiana (endemic to Hawai’i). Both are parasitic plants that will be grown on a host plant with a rich history in Hawai’i, Ipomea batatas. Loss of native habitat threatens the quality and quantity of harvest locations. The intention of this study is to find efficient and sustainable methods of propagating indigenous herbal medicine. This experiment is designed to test the effectiveness of cultivation of kauna’oa in an emerging agricultural technology, aquaponics. Aquaponics combines the two disciplines of aquaculture and hydroponics together in a single system. The advantages to this method are paramount in maintaining sustainable goals and standards. Plant growth and chemical composition of plant matter will be analyzed for quality. Treatments are propagation technique (aquaponics vs. soil), seeding (from seed vs. vegetative propagation), species variation, and fish population density. The results of this study should lead to greater understanding of the cultivation and propagation of this Native Hawaiian medicinal plant.



Dara Arabsheibani, Charles D’lavoy, Alex Vizzone, Thomas Campbell.

Northeastern Illinois University, Chicago, IL.

Worldwide, biodiversity is rapidly diminishing. Some of the species most vulnerable to environmental changes are the bryophytes. Bryophytes are a group of early land plants that include hornworts, liverworts, and mosses. Due to their unique physiology and small size, bryophytes tend to respond rapidly to environmental shifts in temperature, pollutants, and water. We hypothesize that as environmental conditions have changed, the presence and diversity of bryophytes will have altered. Thus, bryophytes can be used as an environmental indicator species. Though found worldwide, the prominent ecological roles of bryophytes tend to be under studied and overshadowed by seeding

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Kayla Sale1, Juliana Medeiros2, Joy Ward1.

University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS, 2The Holden Arboretum, Kirtland, OH.

1 In the last glacial period, low atmospheric CO2(ca) may have limited photosynthesis in glacial plants. However, adaptations such as increased stomatal conductance (gs), which can increase with an increased number of stomata on leaf surfaces, may have increased CO2 uptake and thereby photosynthetic capacity (Amax). Three trends in 13C isotope data from conifers were observed. Decreased leaf intercellular [CO2] (ci) suggests limited Amax in glacial conifers. A lower ci/ca ratio suggests different stomatal regulation or possibly higher Amax in glacial conifers. A smaller (ca–ci) gradient suggests facilitated CO2 uptake in glacial conifers. Consequently, glacial conifers may have had higher

Amax than modern conifers, indicating an enhanced CO2 uptake mechanism. Thus, two hypotheses were proposed:

In glacial times, increased stomatal index (SI: the number of stomata per epidermal cells) and/or increased stomatal pore size reduced resistance to CO2 diffusion into leaves, raising ci. Plants differing in drought tolerance differ in ability to increase gs in order to increase CO2 uptake. A collection of glacial (30,000 – 9,000 years old) pack-rat middens provides a set of ancient pine and juniper leaves with multiple replicates of the same age and genus to compare with herbarium and modern specimens from the same geographic region. To quantify SI and stomatal pore size, leaves were analyzed using a scanning electron microscope and epifluorescence techniques. Preliminary data shows SI and stomatal pore size have not changed significantly in Juniperus osteosperma over the last 13,000 years, indicating stomatal characters may not account for variation in Amax.




Michelle Garcia, Michael Moody.

University of Texas at El Paso, El Paso, TX.

The angiosperm genus Gonocarpus (Haloragaceae) is a relatively poorly known group with high levels of local endemism throughout its range. It occurs primarily in Australia (34/37 spp.) with six species ranging into New Zealand and/or Asia. Much of Gonocarpus diversity is found in the southwest Western Australia International Biodiversity Hotspot where several species are considered rare or of priority concern. The current classification for the genus has been based on morphology and included few specimens of several species, as, until recently, collections from the genus had been limited. This group also has a high level of morphological plasticity and several species are described as highly variable. Here, we use a molecular phylogenetic approach to test hypothesized species limits, evolutionary relationships, and biogeographic origins. DNA data was collected from the nrDNA internal transcribed spacer (ITS) region for 61 accessions and the chloroplast DNA (cpDNA) intron region trnL – trnF for comparable data. Results from phylogenetic analysis of the ITS region has shown high molecular variability among species and has uncovered cryptic species in southwest Western Australia. Analyses support an origin of the genus in Western Australia with dispersal east and multiple events leading to dispersal into Asia. These results will be used to help define new species of Gonocarpus, inform conservation efforts, and provide further evidence regarding phylogeographic patterns in Australia.





Julia Yang, Kelly Kindscher.

University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS.

Osha, Ligusticum porteri, is an ethnobotanically important medicinal plant whose odiferous and distinctively spicy roots are currently wild harvested by individuals and herbal product companies to treat influenza, bronchitis, and sore throats. We initiated a multi-year, manipulative field experiment to determine acceptable thresholds of harvest intensity that allows for the regeneration and sustainable harvest of Ligusticum porteri populations. We also wanted to determine population densities of geographically separated populations and sampled vegetative cover of osha within 8 polygons, or stands. The sample areas had a cumulative area of 507,597 m2, with an average of 7.8% osha cover.

For our detailed field experiment, we analyzed osha’s recovery from harvest by setting up experimental plots in both a meadow site, with high light availability, and in an adjacent forested site, with significant canopy cover. At each of the sites we established 40 replicate, 30 m2 plots, collected data on the vegetative cover within, and proceeded to harvest 0%, 33%, 66%, or 100% of roots from mature plants. The meadow site had 15% more mature plants and 58% more kg of roots than in the forested site. From our data we estimate that a population exhibiting a 10% cover will have on average.0349 kg dried root weight per 1 m2 area (311 lbs/acre). Baseline data was successfully gathered and subsequent years work will involve monitoring regrowth of harvested plots. These data can determine what a sustainable rate of harvest would be and the conservation measures needed to ensure the long-term viability of this species.




Rebekah Figueroa, John Klimek, Nicholas Carpita.

Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN.

Setaria italica (foxtail millet) is a good genetic model for C4 bioenergy grasses due to its compact size, short life cycle, large seed production, and close genetic synteny with major bioenergy crops, such as maize, sorghum, switch grass, and Miscanthus. Gene discovery of important biomass relevant traits in Setaria is directly translatable to these energy feedstocks. Toward this goal, we are mapping the dynamic composition of the cell wall during stem development through characterizing amounts of cellulose, noncellulosic polysaccharides, lignin, and hydroxycinnamic acids. In parallel, we are classifying into large, multigene families cell-wall related genes in Setaria italica using rice, sorghum, and maize as backbone sequences. We will use deep RNA sequencing to establish transcriptional dynamics during the course of stem development. Approximately 45 to 50% of the material in the cell wall is composed of cellulose, 20% is composed of lignin, and the remainder is made up of noncellulosic material in basal internodes, with lesser amounts in younger internodes. Preliminary data on the cell wall composition demonstrates that Setaria is a suitable model C4 grass for cell-wall development.




Evelyn Valdez, Michael Tobin.

University of Houston-Downtown, Houston, TX.

The plant water transport system plays key roles in plant development and growth. To transport water in plants, water is pulled from roots to leaves along a negative pressure gradient created by evaporation of water from the leaves. The efficiency of water transport can be quantified as the rate of water flow divided by the driving force causing the flow.

We measured efficiency of water transport through leaves (leaf hydraulic conductance) for evergreen and deciduous chaparral shrubs. In chaparral shrub communities, evergreen and deciduous shrub species coexist interspersed with each other. Deciduous species shed all their leaves during part of the year in response to environmental changes.

In contrast, evergreen species maintain some leaves throughout the year. We hypothesized that leaf hydraulic conductance differs between an evergreen species (Ceanothus spinosus) and a deciduous species (Ceanothus integerrimus). We predicted that the evergreen species would have greater leaf hydraulic conductance than the deciduous species. Leaf hydraulic conductance was measured on samples harvested from the California State University-Bakerfield common garden using the evaporative flux method. This method mimics the natural way in

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Mario Valdivia, Joel Olfelt.

Northeastern Illinois University, Chicago, IL.

The dynamics of small, natural populations are not well understood. Molecular genetic markers and traditional field studies used together can yield a strong understanding of the evolutionary potential and demographic characteristics of populations. Leedy’s roseroot, Rhodiola integrifolia ssp. leedyi, is a cliff dwelling plant that is located in four populations in Minnesota and two populations in New York. It is classified by the US Fish and Wildlife Service as a threatened species. Our goal is to describe the genetic and demographic characteristics of the Minnesota Leedy’s roseroot populations and to compare them with the characteristics of the widespread species R. integrifolia ssp.

integrifolia and R. rhodantha, which are Leedy’s roseroot’s closest relatives. In June 2013, we performed a census of three of the Minnesota Leedy’s roseroot populations, and have analyzed microsatellite markers for 23 individuals of R.

integrifolia and 24 individuals of R. rhodantha using three primer pairs. The Minnesota populations range in size from 208 to 923 individuals. The preliminary microsatellite data reveal a total of 8 alleles in R. integrifolia ssp. integrifolia, 7 alleles in R. rhodantha, and 10 alleles in Leedy’s roseroot. The larger number of alleles in Leedy’s roseroot is surprising because narrow endemics, such as Leedy’s roseroot, are generally expected to have less genetic variability than their widespread relatives. We will amplify 5 to 8 more microsatellite regions and investigate the data using population genetics software such as Arlequin and ONeSAMP to understand the demographic and genetic characteristics of Leedy’s roseroot and its relatives.





Gustavo Hernandez1, Steven Klosterman2.

Hartnell Community College, Salinas, CA, 2United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, 1 Salinas, CA.

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