A compound found in walnut trees might yield a way to control invasive plants, and the Kirtland’s warbler prefer Jack pine stands that are 7-10 years old. These are just two of the findings that Lake Superior State University students will share during a fall senior research symposium to be held on campus 3:30-5 p.m., Friday, Nov. 30, and 9 a.m.-noon, Saturday, Dec. 1.
More than 30 biology, conservation biology, environmental science, medical laboratory sciences, fisheries & wildlife, and parks and recreation students are presenting the results of their senior thesis research projects.
A senior thesis is the capstone experience for most students at LSSU. Students and faculty advisors choose a topic, design a study, collect and analyze the data, write a scientific paper and present the information to the university community and interested members of the public. Projects typically take two to three years for the students to design and complete, and often address practical issues of regional biological and environmental concerns.
Friday’s event is an open session in the Learning Commons of the Kenneth J. Shouldice Library, where students will informally discuss their projects in front of posters that summarize research. A similar poster symposium – except one that shares senior research results from a broader array of LSSU disciplines – is planned for April.
“Lake Superior State University is committed to providing all of our students a high-quality education that prepares them for their careers,” says LSSU Provost Lynn Gillette. “Our faculty excel in working with students on their undergraduate research. Students learn so much when they are working on their own research while guided by caring faculty members who are experts in their field.”
Saturday morning’s event is a symposium of formal oral presentations. Concurrent sessions will be held in rooms 302, 303, 304, and 305 of Crawford Hall. Talks begin at 9 a.m. with open admission between one session and another. Refreshments will be served during a coffee break at approximately 10:20 a.m.
This semester’s research topics reflect the eclectic issues that biology students address during their years at LSSU.
Matt Appold of Bay City, Mich., assessed Albany Creek and the Cut River in Michigan’s Eastern Upper Peninsula for evidence of Coaster Brook trout spawning activity. His results showed that Albany Creek may host a small run of Coasters, since one was captured, but that the Cut River did not appear to have any Coasters, with only resident Brook trout using it. This research may help the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MIDNR) set new regulations for Albany Creek to protect the Coasters, so they can grow to a stable population.
Marielle Ball of Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., synthesized and evaluated alkyl peptoid compounds for their antimicrobial properties against the common bacteria Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureususing a disk diffusion assay. Peptoids are a new field of research in therapeutic drugs, so it is important to study them to increase the chances of therapeutic advancements. Her results showed that none of the peptoid compounds were effective against Staphylococcus aureus. However, two of the six compounds were effective against the Escherichia coli when compared to the controls.
Parks and Recreation major Sam Black (East Jordan, Mich.) studied campers at Otsego Lake State Park and their acceptance of being required to use firewood purchased from a certified vender to help reduce the spread of exotic species and diseases to local flora.
Joseph Block of Manistique, Mich., studied the diversity of migratory birds in three different habitat types along Manistique’s lakefront boardwalk to determine which habitat is used the most diversely during spring migration. His results showed that the mixed woods habitat was more diverse than both the marsh habitat and the beach/shoreline habitat. This study is important because the type of data it provides can help ornithologists to understand migration behavior and manage habitats to assist birds in using those behaviors.
Michael E. Castagne of Cheboygan, Mich., studied the differences in growth and contribution between hatchery-reared and wild Walleye harvested by tribal spear fishing in Mullett Lake, Mich. His results showed that 22% of the Walleye harvested during the 2018 spear season were hatchery-reared and that at age seven there were no significant length-at-age differences between wild-hatched and hatchery-reared Walleye. This research is important because future management and stocking operations are enhanced by a better understanding of population dynamics such as survival and growth.
Janae Cottelit of Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., studied the seasonal distribution of wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) in the Eastern Upper Peninsula to determine if they move closer to houses in the winter compared to the summer, therefore indicating a reliance on artificial feeding. Her results showed that more wild turkeys were observed during winter months than summer. Artificial feeding was found to be a major factor in this study; the majority of wild turkeys observed near houses were found in yards that feed birds or turkeys, specifically.
Michela Curtis of Middleville, Mich., studied the effects of temperature on the success of an endangered species of shorebird. Her results showed that there was no correlation between the average temperature and the number of chicks that make it to the adult stage. This research is important because factors that promote success of endangered species are not always known and information that could inform better management practices is always needed.
Zachary Frazier of Engadine, Mich., studied ruffed grouse living in enhanced versus un-enhanced areas at the Halifax grouse enhanced management site. His results showed that more grouse were counted in non-enhanced areas than enhanced areas. This research is important because grouse-enhanced management sites are fairly new to Michigan and need more research to test if they are attracting ruffed grouse.
Dawson Granger of Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., looked at white-tailed deer preference for three common mineral block types. The study showed that acorn flavored mineral blocks attract more white-tailed deer than sweet corn and plain salt. This research can be used by other research groups, outdoorsman, wildlife enthusiasts, and mineral-attractant companies
Parks and Recreation major Emily Haluda (Mishawaka, Ind.) surveyed LSSU students to determine their awareness of safe environmental practices regarding the use of plastics.
Nicholas Hansen of Cheboygan, Mich., compared and contrasted the effects of environmental contaminants PFOS and PFOA on a bacteria species, Rhodobacter sphaeroides, and a yeast species, Saccharomyces cerevisiae. The yeast species is already a model of toxicity. If the bacterial species reacts to PFOS and PFOA in the same way as the yeast species, perhaps the bacterial species could also be used as a toxicity model for these chemicals.
Elizabeth Hill of Crystal, Mich., assessed the population of Kirtland’s warblers, one of the United States’ most endangered song birds, in jack pine stands of eastern Hiawatha National Forest, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. She determined the relationship between jack pine stand age and the number of birds inhabiting it using the population census data from 2004 through 2018. The favored stand age was 7-10 years old. A five-year projection of the population predicts a decline of Kirtland’s Warblers occupying the Hiawatha National Forest. Hill’s research is important in understanding the favored habitat of the Kirtland’s warbler so managers can provide proper habitat and ensure the survival of the species.
Colton Hudak of Cheboygan, Mich., studied Snowshoe hare home ranges in different ecological land types in the Hiawatha National Forest. His results showed that hares do exhibit differences in home range sizes across the different land types. This research is important because it provides more information about what land types are most beneficial to hares in the National Forest.
Zachary Johnson of Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., assessed the trait composition of macroinvertebrate assemblages – communities of organisms that lack a spine, large enough to be seen with the naked eye – along coastal wetlands of the St. Marys River. His results showed that assemblages exposed to the freighter shipping channel were markedly different than those protected from it. This research is important to aid in conservation of protected coastal wetlands that shelter macroinvertebrates and all other biota that rely on them.
Grace Koch of Warren, Mich., studied the effects of soil minerals on sugar concentration in Sugar maple sap and syrup. Her results showed that mineral concentration has little effect on the time it takes to turn sap into syrup; that magnesium and calcium concentrations have negative correlations on sap sugar concentration; and potassium has a slight positive correlation with sap sugar concentration. This research is important to maple syrup producers, as healthy, high-producing trees yield more profit.
Serena Lakeof Mackinaw City, Mich., collaborated with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to analyze spawning habitats for Lake Sturgeon in a lower portion of the Au Sable river. Her results indicated about 22% of the river reach is potentially suitable, with 8% being of high quality. This study is important because it helps inform federal, state, and tribal agencies on Lake Sturgeon restoration efforts in the Au Sable river.
Mikayla Leishman of Kingsley, Mich., investigated vertebrate fauna in oak and spruce fir forests in Grand Traverse county, Mich., to determine if there was a difference in the number of species found in each forest type. Her results demonstrated that both types of forest provides important habitat for a variety of species, as they did not differ in the number of species observed. Her research provides a baseline for the number of species found in these forest types, as climate change-induced shifts and habitat loss stresses and alters ecosystems and the animals that inhabit them.
Parks and Recreation major Jordyn Lyman’s (White Lake, Mich.) study crated a user inventory for amenity preferences at Holly State Recreation Area.
Matthew Lyons of Cheboygan, Mich., studied a toxic chemical found in walnut trees to determine if it affects two common invasive plants found in Michigan. His results showed that both species were negatively affected by this chemical. This research is important because managers are finding it difficult to control certain invasive plants in Michigan
Parks and Recreation major Mariah Penix’s (Alger, Mich.) study took an inventory of campers and day-use visitors to Rifle River State Recreation Area.
Kole Rabb of Kalamazoo, Mich., studied tick population density and the presence of Lyme
Disease in Grand Traverse county, Mich. His results showed zero collected ticks and – by default – zero presence data for the disease in this part of the state. This research is important in order to determine the severity of Lyme disease spread throughout the state of Michigan.
Parks and Recreation major Taylor Rifenbark (Pinconning, Mich.) compared the relationship between outdoor recreation activities by LSSU students during their youth with activities they pursue as college students.
Bradley Rimann of Cheboygan, Mich., studied how forest succession influences Snowshoe hare populations. His results showed that snowshoe hare populations are higher in second-succession red pine stands with hardwood saplings. This research is important as snowshoe hares are leaving the Upper Peninsula due to climate change. Wildlife managers can use this information to find more ways to benefit snowshoe hares and keep them as a valuable resource for ecological purposes.
Aaron Roediger of Dryden, Mich., studied the observations of White-Tailed deer in the Hiawatha Sportsman’s Club using hunting surveys to determine if there is a correlation between the severity of weather and the population of White-Tailed deer in the area. His results showed that during years of high accumulations of snow there were fewer deer observed in the area. The years with low accumulation also showed higher numbers of observed deer. This research provides a foundation for other studies.
Nicole Scichowski of Spring Grove, Ill., compared the number of drug related deaths in McHenry County, Ill., with the larger populated surrounding counties – Kane County, Lake County, and Cook County – to determine if there are more drug-related deaths in a smaller populated county than in larger populated surrounding counties. Her study shows the rate of drug related deaths in a county is not influenced by population, meaning that though the counties varied in population, the rate of drug-related deaths were not statistically different. This information demonstrates that more time, attention, and funding needs to be devoted to the drug epidemic in order to prevent individuals from becoming dependent on opioids and other pharmaceutical substances.
Steven Sendek of Grayling, Mich., studied the parasitic flatworm responsible for swimmer’s itch to determine infection rate among species and water bodies. His results showed that all avian species had a potential to be the primary host of the swimmer’s itch cycle. All bodies of water where the samples were taken had the ability to carry and support the swimmer’s itch life cycle. This research is important because swimmer’s itch has an impact on the recreational use of local lakes, local economy, and local business revenue.
Bryant Smakof Clarklake, Mich., studied opportunities for public hunting blinds in Chippewa, Mackinaw, and Luce counties. Census information, public land data, along with interviews with agencies, was used to examine the need and potential opportunity for accessible hunting. Smak determined that these opportunities exist, but need is not currently being met, especially in the Eastern Upper Peninsula. Publicly-maintained blinds would be ideal for hunters recovering from a severe injury that left them disabled, or if they were born with a disability and have never had the chance to go out hunting. This is hurting the hunting tradition within this area of the state. Given that public land is available, hopefully future projects will be undertaken to fill the need for accessible hunting opportunities.
Tristan Tackman of Lapeer, Mich., compared drift density with biomass of invertebrates in the Cloverland Hydroelectric canal and the main rapids area of the St. Marys River. His results showed that the canal contributed higher densities of drifting invertebrates than the main rapids, which may be an important food resource for native fishes. This research is important because it shows that the canal is good habitat for benthic invertebrates even though the historical modification of the river has reduced these important food resources for fishes.
Parks and Recreation major Bray Valley (Alpena, Mich.) created a selected inventory of visitors to Rockport State Park.
Jacob Weakland of South Lyon, Mich., studied the relationship between muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus) den selection sites and the prevalent emergent vegetation in Munuscong State Game Management Area. His results showed that invasive reeds such as Phragmites have a detrimental effect on muskrat den areas. This research is important because muskrats are an important wetland species and are on the decline across the nation.
Alex Whisler of Iron Mountain, Mich., studied soil displacement effects of the manual removal of a relatively new invasive species – Himalayan balsam – to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. His results revealed a correlation between Himalayan balsam stem diameter and the volume of soil removed when pulling the weeds. Field studies like Whisler’s will yield more effective strategies manage the negative effects the invasive Himalayan balsam.
Harrison Zuchnik of Auburn, Mich., assessed three deterrent methods that reduce corn crop damage by birds. His study in the Nayanquing Point State Wildlife Area considered the efficacy and cost a combination of methods. While plots treated with only seed additive sustained the most damage, ones that had seed additive and fladry – a line of rope mounted along the top of a fence that has strips of fabric or colored flags to flap in a breeze – sustained minimal damage. Plots with seed additive and snow fence sustained no damage. Although the seed additive and snow fence treatment was the most effective, it was four times as costly per linear foot compared to the seed additive and fladry treatment. Wildlife area managers and farmers can use these results to select a treatment that minimizes wildlife damage to young crops and is cost-efficient given the size of their plots.