Tag Archives: University of Oklahoma

Citizen Scientist

Here’s a great chance for anyone, specifically teachers and students, to be citizen scientists and be part of a real-life, real-world science test.

The Cameron Siler lab at the University of Oklahoma and the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History is launching the Oklahoma Infectious Disease Citizen Science Project. Basically you would gather information from the state’s reptiles and amphibians. Researchers are specifically looking to track cases of chytridiomycosis or chytrid fungus. It’s a deadly disease in amphibians.

Jessa Watters is the collections manager for herpetology at the Sam Noble Museum, she says “The project is important because we know so little about this life-threatening disease for amphibians in Oklahoma. Understanding where it occurs in the state can help us track its progress and work with state officials to protect amphibians that may be particularly at risk due to already low population sizes within the state. In other parts of the United States and globally, chytrid fungus has been blamed for local extinctions.”

The lab is looking for help from teachers and students (or really anyone who wants to do a little science). All you need is access to a pond or stream. You’ll get a kit with all the equipment you need, teachers will get a packet, and you’ll be given resources online to to show how to collect the data and work in the field. “By having students help us collect the data, they will gain an appreciation for ponds and amphibians, and how things in their own neighborhoods are at risk. They will also learn how to correctly swab frogs in order to collect accurate and relevant scientific data” added Watters.

SIO has profiled Jessa Watters before. Below are the two stories we’ve produced showing what it’s like to do science in the field and why she likes herpetology.

 

Earthquake Test

Make plans Monday February 8th at 8am to watch a University of Oklahoma professor conduct a unique earthquake test.

Dr. Amy Cerato- courtesy The OU Daily

Dr. Amy Cerato- courtesy The OU Daily

Dr. Amy Cerato is an assistant professor in the School of Civil Engineering and Environmental Science. On Monday she’ll be conducting a one-of-a-kind shake test that could help people living in places where there are lots of earthquakes (aka, Oklahoma).

She’ll be looking at how helical piles shake during an earthquake. Helical piles are deep foundation elements that look like and are installed like a large steel soil screw to support the structure they hold. Helical piles are used in seismic areas, such as New Zealand and Japan, but they have not been widely used in the United States.

Here’s a story from Oklahoma City’s News 9 where Dr. Cerato explained what she’ll be doing.

The test could help engineers develop and build safer structures for those living in seismic zones.

Dr. Cerato will be conducting the test  on helical piles in seismic conditions at the University of California-San Diego’s Shake Table site beginning at 8 a.m. Oklahoma time this Monday, Feb. 8.

You can watch it live from this link.

 

OU Scientist Named a National Academy of Inventors Fellow

A note from Dan- The following is a news release from the University of Oklahoma

Dr. Heloise Anne Pereira, courtesy University of Oklahoma

Dr. Heloise Anne Pereira, courtesy University of Oklahoma

Norman, Okla.—University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center Professor Heloise Anne Pereira has been named a 2016 National Academy of Inventors Fellow, a high professional distinction awarded to academic inventors who have demonstrated a prolific spirit of innovation in creating or facilitating outstanding inventions that have made a tangible impact on quality of life, economic development and the welfare of society.

Pereira has been on the OU Health Sciences Center faculty for the past 23 years.  Throughout her career, she has been a leader in promoting entrepreneurship and collaboration between academia and the biotechnology industry.  Her research has resulted in numerous patents, and she has transitioned innovative technology from her academic research laboratory into a successful company for commercialization.

In her academic role, Pereira serves as associate dean of research in the OU College of Pharmacy, dean of the Graduate College, professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences and adjunct professor in cell biology and pathology.  She was awarded the Henry Zarrow Presidential Professorship for Excellence in Scholarship and Teaching from 2008-2012.  Pereira has published 34 manuscripts in peer-reviewed journals and has contributed to six book chapters.

Pereira is known internationally for her expertise on the naturally occurring protein CAP37 and has been invited to make numerous presentations on her research and commercialization experiences around CAP37-derived antimicrobial peptides.  She has received numerous awards, including the distinction of Fellow to both the American Association for Advancement of Science and American Association of College Pharmacy Academic Research Program.

Pereira has been studying the naturally occurring CAP37 protein for over 25 years.  Through her research, she identified and developed novel CAP37-derived antimicrobial peptides that have the ability to kill bacteria that are resistant to standard antibiotics.  Currently, she has 14 U.S. patents, 4 foreign patents and numerous pending U.S. and foreign applications directed to these novel peptides and their therapeutic uses in infections.

In 2005, Pereira founded the company Biolytx Pharmaceutical Corp., and she currently serves as Chief Scientific Officer for the company.  In the last 10 years, antibiotic-resistant infections have risen around the world, and new therapeutic strategies for treating antibiotic-resistant infections are urgently needed.  Biolytx is working to meet this unmet need and is in pre-clinical development of antibiotic peptides for use in treatment of ocular, topical and serious hospital-acquired infections.

Pereira has been awarded over $7 million in grants to support the commercialization of new antimicrobial therapeutics.  Two basic research grants totaling $3.7 million were awarded to Pereira for basic research on the naturally occurring CAP37 and CAP-37-derived peptides.  An additional $3 million from state-supported funds has been awarded to Pereira and to Biolytx for applied and translational research.  Recently, Biolytx received $1 million in private seed money for continued commercialization efforts.

Pereira will be inducted on April 15, 2016, as part of the Fifth Annual Conference of the National Academy of Inventors at the United States Patent and Trademark Office in Alexander, Va.  Commissioner for Patents Andrew Hirschfeld will provide the keynote address for the induction ceremony.  Fellows will be presented with a special trophy, medal and rosette pin in honor of their outstanding accomplishments.

Oklahoma Climate Center Receives Major Award

A climate science center at the University of Oklahoma was recently given a major award by the Department of Interior.

The South Central Climate Science Center is on OU’s Research Campus. It was named a recipient of Dept. of Interior’s 2015 Environmental Achievement Award for “Climate Science and Partnerships—Increasing the Tribal Capacity for Climate Change Adaptation.”

The University of Oklahoma says the SCCSC received the award because of, “… its partnerships with other agencies to develop programs for building tribal capabilities and conducting climate science research.  The Center is a consortium codirected by the U.S. Geological Survey and the University of Oklahoma.  Consortium members include OU, the Chickasaw Nation, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Lab, Louisiana State University, Oklahoma State University and Texas Tech University.”

I asked Kim Winton, the director of the South Central Climate Science Center, what this award means. She says, “This award recognizes a Departmental individual or team that has shown consistent leadership in identifying the impacts climate change will have on the Department, acting to integrate that information into their work, and sharing their experience to help others prepare.”

The award recognizes what’s being done to work with Oklahoma tribes to spread awareness and prepare for climate change. Winton says the SCCSC provides training for tribes, “…Vulnerability Assessments, and Adaptation Planning. We also do lots of things for school age children such as classroom activities, festivals etc. and provide hands-on demonstrations of how CO2 makes things warmer, and how tree rings tell us about the climate history.”

Winton says Oklahoma’s native tribes can help with climate change by doing what everyone needs to do such as, “…decrease fossil fuel use, build using sustainable materials, etc.”

How Dust can help control Climate Change

Research by a University of Oklahoma scientist could lead to novel way to fight climate change. It has to do with dust.

Dr. Gerilyn Soreghan, courtesy University of Oklahoma

Dr. Gerilyn Soreghan, courtesy University of Oklahoma

Dr. Gerilyn Soreghan and a team of researchers from the University of California Riverside, Florida State University, University of Leeds, Hampton University, and Cornell University have been looking at some really old, iron-rich dust deposits. Like 300-million year old dust from the late Paleozoic period.

(I’ve talked with Dr. Soreghan before, click here and here to learn more about her.)

Dr. Soreghan says Earth’s atmosphere was as dusty as it has ever been 300 million years ago. She says it’s important to study those dust deposits because of the impact they had back then on Earth’s climate.

Here’s why: dust carries iron- iron is a fertilizer for plants- plants use photosynthesis-photosynthesis removes carbon from the atmosphere and replaces it with oxygen.

Dr. Soreghan says deep-time dust contained a lot of iron which means it “…should have even larger consequences for burial of carbon.” As for the modern day, there’s talk of iron fertilization as a geoengineering scheme to control the amount of carbon in the atmosphere.

Dr. Soreghan says her study on deep-time events shines a light on how those types of geoengineering endeavors may work in the present day but, she says, more research is needed.

You can read more on the study in this brief write-up by Dr. Soreghan or here where the Geological Society of America has published an article. The National Science Foundation and American Chemical Society funded the research.

 

 

Free Science Workshop for Teachers

Attention all elementary and middle school teachers…here’s a great opportunity to learn about life sciences and do a little fossil hunting.

Janessa Doucette is a PhD candidate at the University of Oklahoma. She’s hosting a free workshop series called Oklahoma Educators Evolve. It’ll take place on Saturday Oct. 17th and Saturday Oct. 24th. The first one is a fossil hunting trip to the rich grounds at White Mound in Sulphur. The second is a workshop in Oklahoma City. You’ll study the nature of science, biological concepts, and paleontology, “We will provide you with a foundation for these concepts, as well as provide you with a variety of ways to successfully teach these topics in your classroom. Participants will leave this workshop with their very own classroom collection of fossils and fossil casts with which to enjoy science learning with their students!”

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The cool thing is these workshops are FREE and you don’t have to be a science teacher!!! Click here to register. Click here to learn about the program.

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This Scientist is OK- Dr. J.P. Masly

Dr. J.P. Masly is an assistant professor of biology at the University of Oklahoma. He studies how genes evolve over time to form complex organisms (like you and me!!).

He recently received an award from the National Science Foundation that will allow him to continue with his research and build educational outreach programs in the community.

He talks, in this video, about why he studies the genes of fruit flies (here’s a hint, we’re a lot a like) and at the 2:15 mark about why he thinks science and religion do not have to conflict.

Using Radar to Track Bird Migration

Two University of Oklahoma students have discovered a way to use weather radar to track bird migrations. Kyle Horton is a biology student and Phillip Stepanian is studying meteorology and electrical engineering. They recently found a way learn how birds migrate using the country’s weather radar network. Below the pics is a news release from OU. I think this is a fantastic way to use an already existing system (the weather radar network) for an entirely different field than it was built.

Phillip M. Stepanian- Doctoral student in Meteorology and Electrical Engineering at the University of Oklahoma

   Phillip M. Stepanian- Doctoral student in Meteorology and Electrical Engineering at the University of Oklahoma

Kyle G. Horton- Doctoral student in Biology at the University of Oklahoma

Kyle G. Horton- Doctoral student in Biology at the University of Oklahoma

OU Students Use Nation’s Weather Radar Network to Track Bird Migration at Night

Norman, Okla.—Using the nation’s weather radar network, two University of Oklahoma doctoral students have developed a technique for forecasting something other than the weather: the orientation behavior of birds as they migrate through the atmosphere at night.  The students have discovered a way to use the latest dual-polarization radar upgrade to measure broad-scale flight orientation of nocturnal migrant birds—a promising development for biologists and bird enthusiasts.

The approach to the problem paired Phillip M. Stepanian, a meteorology and electrical engineering student, and Kyle G. Horton, a biology student, on the study that demonstrates how the upgraded national weather radar network contributed to the understanding of animal flight orientation behavior at a large spatial scale. Stepanian and Horton may be the first to develop a practical application of polarimetric radar data for tracking migrant birds during nighttime flight.

“This is an important advance because we can now measure how migrants compensate for wind speed and direction to achieve a particular migration track direction; essentially extracting a large-scale measure of bird behavior.  We are already involved in several follow-on studies that look at the behavioral variation in flight orientation at large spatial scales,” says Jeffrey F. Kelly, Oklahoma Biological Survey.

Horton, who is interested in bird strategies and orientation as they migrate from one place to another at night, will use the methodology to track migrant birds on the east coast and weather events that may disrupt flight patterns of the birds.  Stepanian is interested in the method for collecting the data using the nation’s upgraded weather radar network.  He wants to apply measurements to bird migration in ways not done before, which is a new application of the radar.

The ability to forecast migrant bird patterns will provide biologists and birders with an important tool for tracking nighttime flight of migrants.  Horton hopes to answer some big biological questions with this methodology, while Stepanian values the importance of the radar in tracking migrants and applying the data in new and innovative ways.

An article on this study has been published in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineering’s Geoscience and Remote Sensing online early edition.  The National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture funded this research project.

Ancient Dental Plaque

A University of Oklahoma scientist is perfecting the art (and by art I mean science) of studying ancient dental plaque. We’ve highlighted Dr. Christina Warinner before when her research gained national recognition. Now she’s featured in a fantastic video produced by Illumina. The company describes itself as, “a leading developer, manufacturer, and marketer of life science tools and integrated systems for large-scale analysis of genetic variation and function.” 

Dr. Warinner likes to say she’s an “archaeologist of the invisible”. She studies the dental plaque from teeth that are thousands of years old. Bacteria covers that dental plaque, from that she’s able to learn all kinds of things about the person who once used that tooth. Where they lived, what they ate, whether they were healthy or not, etc…

This video is an amazing look inside the process.

This Scientist Is OK- Jessa Watters

Jessa Watters is the collections manager of herpetology for the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History. She works in the Cameron Siler lab studying reptiles and amphibians.

I had the pleasure of hanging out with her and some student researchers recently as they collected lots of little creatures..

Watters tells me she has always had a fondness for biology, especially turtles, so it’s no surprise she’s made a career in a field that studies them. She’s not a native Oklahoman but Watters is definitely an OK scientist.