Saturday, January 26, 2013

Ashland Toxicology program featured in Columbus Dispatch

Dr. Andy Trimble as well as toxicology student Shane Daugherty and Ashland's toxicology program were featured in the Columbus Dispatch's Sunday Science Section on Sunday, January 13. The article, titled "Examining the cost of our high-sodium winter diet," focused on the Ashland University toxicology program and how a research team is studying the effect of road salt on wildlife in rivers and streams.

Dr. Trimble and his students are using the invertebrate Hyalella azteca as a "canary in the coalmine" to assess what effect road salt may have on local ecology.  Hyalella is near the bottom of the food chain for freshwater habitats, and effects on this species can have ramifications for many other organisms.  Shane Daugherty says that his research may show whether it is better to use a mix of salts or just one type for road de-icing.

Ashland University's undergraduate toxicology program is one of only ten in the country and the only one at a small liberal arts college.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Ashland team challenges hypothesis for the success of wetland invader

The common reed, Phragmites australis, is a serious invasive weed in North American wetlands and one of the most serious invasive plants in the world.  According to a recent hypothesis, the roots of this plant release a toxic chemical, gallic acid, which is responsible for its success as an invader.  However, a team of Ashland faculty and students has found no evidence to support this hypothesis in a study that has just been published in the Journal of Chemical Ecology.  The paper, titled “Evidence does not support a role for gallic acid in Phragmites australis invasion success,” appears in a special issue of the journal on allelochemical interactions in croplands and natural settings. 

Mei Li, a 2013 Chemistry graduate, conducted research with Dr. Jeff Weidenhamer showing that contrary to other published reports, gallic acid breaks down very rapidly in Phragmites soils.  She was also unable to find evidence for gallic acid in Phragmites soil collected in North Carolina by Dr. Mason Posner and students in his Marine Biology class.  Mei, working with Dr. Weidenhamer and Dr. Robert Bergosh, then undertook an investigation of the chemistry of Phragmites plants from several populations in North Carolina and Ohio.  She successfully isolated one of the major components of extracts of the plant, and this compound was identified with the aid of the Chemistry Department’s new high field NMR spectrometer.  Further work established that Phragmites plants contain only trace amounts of gallic acid, in contrast to previous reports that the roots contain and release very high concentrations of this compound.  Junior biology major Joshua Allman (pictured above with Dr. Posner) worked to establish that all of the plant populations sampled were of the invasive genotype previously reported to contain high levels of gallic acid. 

Students in AU's Marine Biology course collecting some
of the samples used in this study.
 Dr. Jeff Weidenhamer, lead author of the study, began studying allelopathy – interactions among plants that are mediated by toxic chemicals – in graduate school.  Much of his research has been devoted to the development of new methods to improve the understanding of these chemical interactions.  One of the plants that he has previously studied from the Florida scrub community appears to produce chemicals that inhibit the germination and growth of grasses.  In that case, he implicated degradation products of gallic acid and another compound as the cause of these effects.  In this study, he notes that while the occurrence of high concentrations of gallic acid in some populations of P. australis can’t be ruled out, the trace concentrations found in this study show that the release of this compound cannot be a primary, general explanation for the success of this plant in wetlands.  He concludes, “As we tell our students, a key point of the scientific method is that research ought to be repeatable.  It was a great experience for them to participate in and help design experiments to test these recent findings.”  

More summer internship opportunities

We have received notices on a few more summer research internships.  It is not too late to put together applications and line up letters of recommendation from faculty, but you should start soon.  You can find other opportunities on this blog using the tag "Summer Research Internships".

  • Two Ashland students have been part of the Chester Scholars research program at Metro Health hospital in Cleveland.  Applications for this fantastic program are due February 15th.
  • The University of Cincinnati ROSE program is a unique summer internship program that also includes an early acceptance to UC's medical school.  It is open to sophomore and junior residents of Ohio.  Application due February 1st.
  • The Upper Delaware National Park is looking for summer park ranger interns.  Applications are considered on a continual basis, but positions are typically filled by mid-March.
  • The Amgen scholars program provides summer research opportunities across the country.  Applications are due February 1st.
  • If you are looking to take a great summer field course, check out this marine biology program in the Gulf of Mexico.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Research internships at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History

The Kirtlandia Research Internship Program at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History provides undergraduate students the opportunity to work for eight weeks with a museum curator.  You can read about opportunities in many areas ranging from archaeology and botany to paleontology, invertebrate biology and wildlife resource management.

Projects last eight weeks, pay $7.70 per hour and typically involve both field and laboratory work.  The online application can be found here and is due in early March.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Six-month internship opportunity at Ohio Bird Sanctuary

a barn owl (Tyto alba) at OBS (photo:
The Ohio Bird Sanctuary in Richland Co. has posted a 6-month paided-internship opportunity for a student pursuing a degree in environmental education, biology, or related discipline.  Work would be primarily on weekends.  The general purpose of the internship is "to provide a hands-on learning opportunity and field-related work experience...[including] interpretive to injured and displaced wildlife, independent project."

A flyer with more details is posted on the 3rd-floor, Kettering.  Interested students may also contact Patty Saunders or Merrill Tawse for a copy of the flyer with additional details.  Contact the Ohio Bird Sanctuary for an application (419-884-HAWK or