Sunday, September 15, 2019

A Summer of Mammoths

Over the summer, Dr. Nigel Brush, Professor of Geology, has been kept busy identifying various rocks, fossils, and human artifacts exposed by recent heavy rains and flash floods here in NE Ohio.  While this summer’s heavy rains were not good for farmers, as well as some home owners living near streams, it was a windfall for geologists and archaeologists as nature accidentally revealed some of the ancient treasures buried beneath the earth’s surface.

Mammoth tooth found at the Inn at Honey Run
The fossil that has generated the greatest interest was a mammoth tooth found by a twelve-year-old boy in a stream bed near the Inn at Honey Run, located a few miles outside the town of Millersburg in Holmes County. Nigel confirmed that this large tooth was indeed a mammoth tooth. He and Jeff Dilyard (a member of the Ashland/Wooster/Columbus Archaeological and Geologic Consortium) subsequently visited the Inn to examine the tooth and the find location. With permission from the Inn owner, Jason Niles, they surveyed the stream bed and banks upstream from the find site, but found no additional mammoth teeth or bones.

Two types of mammoth lived in Ohio during the Ice Age: Woolly Mammoth and Jefferson Mammoth. These mammoths had four large teeth (two upper and two lower). As the ridges on each tooth wore down by grinding grasses and small seeds, the tooth was shoved forward in the jaw by a new tooth until the old tooth fell out. Over their lifetime of 60-80 years, a mammoth would have six complete sets of teeth. Therefore, a single mammoth might lose some 20 teeth before developing its final set of teeth.

Another member of the elephant family that lived in Ohio during the Ice Age was the American Mastodon. Mastodons were slightly smaller than mammoths and had pointed cusps on their teeth rather than ridges. These two different tooth types represent two different diets: mammoths
were grazers, while mastodons were browsers, eating a greater variety of vegetation such as leaves and twigs from bushes. Mastodons are more common in eastern North America while mammoth are more abundant in the Great Plains and West – although their ranges overlapped. Therefore, finding a mammoth tooth in Ohio tends to generate a bit more interest than that of a mastodon.

The relative scarcity of mammoth teeth in Ohio, as well as the human interest component of a young boy finding the tooth, led to a lot of press coverage. The story first appeared in the Holmes County Farmer Hub and the Wooster Daily Record, and then other newspapers in Cleveland, Columbus, and elsewhere, including the New York Daily News. After that, the story appeared on television news stations in Cleveland and Youngstown, and finally made its way into national and international news by way of CBS News, CNN, and Apple News. Dr. Brush said it was quite a lot of press exposure for spending about a minute looking at a picture of a tooth and confirming it was from a mammoth.

Left, a mammoth or mastodon tusk from Richland County.  
Right, a mammoth tooth found in Fairfield County.

Following the Holmes County discovery, Nigel received a photo from another Consortium member, Jerry Ball, of a large piece of mammoth or mastodon tusk that had recently been found in a gravel pit in Richland County. He was also given photos of a mammoth tooth that were recently sent to Dr. Greg Wiles at the College of Wooster.  A woman in Lancaster, Fairfield County, had found this tooth in a stream bed there some eight years ago. The tooth had been rounded and eroded as it was washed downstream. Since there is no flat grinding surface on the tooth, it may have only been starting to erupt when the mammoth died – note
the unflattened ridges on the two teeth at the back of the mammoth jaw at the following web site:…

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Ashland Toxicology major receives travel award to national meeting

Ashland University Toxicology, Biology, and Environmental Science triple-major Shelby Reutter recently attended the national meeting of the Society of Toxicology (SOT) in Baltimore, Maryland with support from the society's Undergraduate Diversity Program Travel Award.  This travel program provides full support for travel and housing to the annual SOT meeting and a program designed for undergraduate students to learn about careers in toxicology.  Shelby is the fifth of our students since 2010 to receive this award.

Shelby had the following to say about her experience at the meeting:
The Society of Toxicology meeting was a wonderful experience. I had the opportunity to listen to various professionals within the field of Toxicology (in industry, academia, and government) and it really expanded my knowledge of the whole area. Throughout the program I met with other undergraduate and graduate students and got a better understanding of potential career paths I could take. At the expo I was able to see other students' research projects, I met with companies throughout America that hire people with a toxicology background, and I gathered a lot of information about graduate school options.
Soon after returning from the meeting Shelby secured a paid summer internship with drug safety testing firm Charles River Laboratory here in Ashland, Ohio, and will continue working there part-time this Fall.

The SOT is taking applications for this coming Spring's travel award program, with materials due October 18th.  You can find details here.  If you are interested in applying you should contact Dr. Mason Posner in the Bio/Tox Department.

Friday, June 7, 2019

AU grad receives prestigious Yeager Award

Corianna Borton ’19 (center) with adviser Dr. Brian Mohney (center left) and co-adviser Dr. Jeff Weidenhamer (center right).
May 2019 AU graduate Corianna Borton was selected as the recipient of this year’s Ernest B. Yeager award by the Cleveland Chapter of the Society for Applied Spectroscopy (SAS) and the Analytical Topics Group of the American Chemical Society (ACS).   The Yeager Award honors the memory of Ernest B. Yeager, the Frank Hovorka Professor Emeritus at Case Western Reserve University who was known for his pioneering contributions to the fundamental understanding of electrochemical reactions and to the development of fuel cell and battery technology.
The award was presented on May 22nd at the annual Conference on Spectroscopy and Analytical Chemistry at John Carroll University, where Borton gave a presentation of her research that has focused on collecting, separating and analyzing plant root exudates (harmala alkaloids) from Syrian rue in soil using silicone tube microextraction probes—a technique for repeated sampling of lipophilic compounds in soil developed in Dr. Mohney’s and Dr. Weidenhamer’s lab.  Syrian Rue releases molecules into the soil that affect the growth of other plants in the vicinity and negatively impact organisms that live in the soil near the plant.  Borton’s technique utilized silicone probes to sequester and concentrate lipophilic organic compounds allowing her to quantify the root and soil alkaloids.   Once sequestered, compounds were extracted from the silicone and the concentration of each compound was measured using ultraviolet spectroscopy (UV), fluorescence spectroscopy and high performance liquid chromatography with UV and fluorescence detection.   She has used these techniques to probe the dynamic release of harmala alkaloids from plants and to examine the effect the alkaloids have on monocot and dicot plants. The Yeager award recognizes Borton’s achievements in independent research, particularly in the application of spectroscopy to the analysis of these root exudates.  She received a certificate, a $400 monetary award and a year's membership in SAS.

This is the third time an AU student or students have been selected to win this prestigious award.  Corianna’s co-adviser, Dr. Jeff Weidenhamer, professor of chemistry, received the award as an AU undergraduate student in 1979, and Jennifer Miller Tully and Daphne Guinnwere selected as co-recipients in 2011 for their work on cadmium contamination of inexpensive jewelry.

Dr. Mohney notes, “The Yeager Award is quite an honor for both Corianna and for Ashland University.  
Corianna has been an exceptional member of Ashland University’s Honors program. She has excelled in using analytical and instrumental methods at solving research problems and has been able to perform high-level independent research at a graduate-student level since her junior year at Ashland.“ Corianna is pursuing a career in forensic science, and has been accepted into the Bowling Green State University Master’s Program in Forensic Chemistry.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

AU student presents research at international conference

Abbi Dingus at the SETAC poster session in
Rising senior Abbi Dingus, who is a double major in Biology and Biochemistry, recently presented a poster on her research at the meeting of the Society of Environmental Science and Chemistry (SETAC) in Helsinki, Finland.  Abbi's poster, entitled "Density-dependent growth responses of Arabidopsis to copper: High densities are beneficial for efficient contaminant uptake," summarizes work done for her Honors' thesis under the direction of Dr. Jeff Weidenhamer (Chemistry) and Dr. Soren Brauner (Biology).  Collaborating on the project is Dr. Aki Sinkkonen of the University of Helsinki.  She previously presented this work at the Ohio State University Plant Sciences Symposium.

Abbi comments that one of the more interesting sessions she attended was a morning long seminar that explored how philosophical values affect science, and some of the underlying reasons for controversy in science when the same data can be used in support of differing positions.  She adds, “The trip was an amazing experience where I got connected with students and professionals in all areas of science, and learned more about my own interests in research.  I am grateful for the support I got from my community and research advisers.”

Abbi has a research internship this summer at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis, Missouri, where she will be analyzing inositol polyphosphates from corn embryos using liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry.  Her trip to Helsinki was supported in part by Charles River Laboratories and the State of Ohio’s Choose Ohio First scholarship program. 

Sunday, March 31, 2019

AU student wins top poster award

Junior Abbi Dingus, who is a double major in Biology and Biochemistry, won the top undergraduate poster award (a $300 prize) at the Ohio State University Plant Sciences Symposium, which was held March 30th in Columbus, OH.  Abbi's poster, entitled "Density-dependent growth responses of Arabidopsis to copper: High densities are beneficial for efficient contaminant uptake," summarizes work done for her Honors' thesis under the direction of Dr. Jeff Weidenhamer (Chemistry) and Dr. Soren Brauner (Biology).  Collaborating on the project is Dr. Aki Sinkkonen of the University of Helsinki.

Abbi's work explores the mechanism for unexpected decreases in the toxicity of copper at high plant densities, and by using mutants of Arabidopsis that do not release citrate from their roots, provides evidence that the release of citrate can bind copper in the soil.  At high plant densities with normal plants, the higher concentrations of citrate can reduce copper toxicity.  Her work is relevant to the phytoremediation of soil contaminated with metals, which is a major global problem, and to ecotoxicological testing methods, which typically do not consider the importance of plant density.  Abbi will make an oral presentation of her work at next week's URCA Symposium, which will be held on Tuesday, April 9th.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Ashland University to Host 59th Annual Mohican District Science Day

From the Ashland University News Center – A total of 219 students from 36 schools are expected to converge on the Ashland University campus Saturday, March 23, for the 59th annual Mohican District Science Day.  Sponsored by the Mohican District Junior Division of the Ohio Academy of Science, the event will be held in Ashland University’s John C. Myers Convocation Center.

According to Dr. Jeff Weidenhamer, professor of Chemistry at Ashland University and Science Day director, all projects displayed at the district fair have received superior ratings in local school district science fairs.  The students participating will represent high schools, junior high/middle schools and fifth and sixth grades in eight different counties: Ashland, Erie, Holmes, Huron, Lorain, Medina, Richland and Wayne.

“We are very pleased with the total number of students and the number of participating schools this year,” Weidenhamer said.  “Students do hands-on experiments, collect and analyze data and draw conclusions, rather than just reading and reporting what someone else has done.  Many projects are original and creative.”

The public is invited to view the science projects from 12:30 to 2 p.m.  Registration for the day begins at 7:30 a.m., with judging to start at 9 a.m.  Awards will be presented during a public ceremony at 2 p.m.

The top 66 projects at the district level from students in grades 5-12 will be eligible to advance to the state competition at The Ohio State University on May 11.  

Weidenhamer said this year’s event will include approximately 100 local judges and volunteers from education, industry, business and medical professions.  “We cannot do this event without the help of all of our volunteers and the facilities and the support provided by Ashland University,” he said.

Weidenhamer thanked Council President Jeff Steele who assists with the administration of the science fair, the Mohican District Council members, and volunteers who work in a variety of capacities prior to and throughout the day, for the countless hours they contribute to the success of the annual event.

He also stressed that, “this event would not be a successful and rewarding experience for our local students without the hard work and commitment of science teachers and the support of their school districts in fostering increased science, technology, engineering, and mathematics literacy.”