Biological & Environmental Sciences, 2011
  • MythBusters: Do Vaccinations Cause Autism in Infants?
    Megan Allen, Cody Grady, Steven Veenstra
    Faculty Mentor: Kerry Cheesman

    Required vaccinations have been linked to causing autism in infants: Myth or Fact? One of modern medicine’s greatest achievements has been the use of vaccinations. In the United States, the variety and dosage of vaccinations has more than doubled since the 1980’s. What if the very medications that are preventing diseases are creating others? Parents, medical professionals, and researchers are all puzzled by the autism epidemic; are vaccinations the answer? Evidence supporting this has been debated and has even reached the federal courts. Does the evidence support the causation of autism? Is there a genetic-basis for autism separate from vaccines? To answer these questions, we conducted a literature review using various databases. The scientific evidence in the literature clearly does not support the conclusion that vaccinations cause autism in infants. Students and others need to be aware of the scientific evidence so that the myths about vaccinations do not persist.

    Ethics of Conservation Biology Concentration in Animal Conservation
    Tiffany Beatty, Sophie Roome
    Faculty Mentor: Kerry Cheesman

    A recently developed field of science, Conservation Biology presents numerous controversial ethical issues. This project aimed to compare various views regarding the ethical dilemmas existing in the discipline of Conservation Biology, specifically within Animal Conservation. Each perspective is discussed in an unbiased approach through a thorough literature review. Topics vary from physical measures such as removing native species from their habitats to legislation, determining monetary sources for conservation efforts and allocation of funds. In their relative infancy, policies concerning conservation are not as well-established as those in more developed sciences, leading to abuse and confusion as to what is and is not ethical. Through the dissemination of knowledge, the field of Conservation will develop into a reputable concentration with a sound system of ethics.

    Species Richness and Diversity of Arthropods in the Ecuadorian Amazon River Basin
    Tiffany Beatty, Alicia Tysl, Brittany Davidson, Matthew Uy, Daniel McCarthy, Eric Heuer
    Faculty Mentors: Kerry Cheesman, Alan Stam

    The Amazon River Basin is well-known for its species richness and diversity, opening a vast number of opportunities for biological research. In May 2010, a study at Tiputini Biodiversity Station, located in the Ecuadorian Amazon, was conducted by a group of Capital University students to observe trends in food preferences and behaviors of arthropods. Five clusters of five cups each were planted at various points slightly off of a trail, one cup in each group containing a piece of granadia (passionfruit), the second containing mandarin orange, the next containing chicken, the next, beef, and the last remaining empty as a control. The arthropods were collected and counted from the bait and control cups in the morning and evening for four days. Once collected, the arthropods were identified to the taxonomic rank of order, or further, if possible. We hypothesized that the species of arthropods would prefer a diet of either meat or fruit and that they would have a distinct time of day they were actively foraging. Forty different species were accumulated which allowed us to draw some preliminary conclusions for our hypotheses. Our research creates a baseline for further studies on the arthropods of the Amazon.

    The Ethics behind Faith Healing
    Tiffany Beltz, Michelle Loeser
    Faculty Mentor: Kerry Cheesman

    Faith healing is a growing phenomenon. It can be seen on popular television shows like House and more recently on Dr. Oz. Dr. Issam Neham of Cleveland has been known to attract thousands of people at his healing services. Many people argue that Dr. Nemeh cured them by using the power of prayer and Meridian Regulatory Acupuncture (MRA). However, the questions to whether this is ethical or not needs to be examined. There are three different sides to this ethical dilemma. People with health problems, can choose to only do faith healing methods, only access traditional forms of medical treatment, or both. Several approaches are examined to answer the ethical dilemma. This study provides answers from an interview with one of Dr. Nemeh's patient’s, personal account from a book on Dr. Nemeh, and electroscope-based research to explain faith healing and the ethical issues.

    How Much do You Know about the C.O.T.A. Bus System?
    Kristen Brandewie, Kristen Howell, Kelly Sullivan, Arlene Baker
    Faculty Mentors: Andrea M. Karkowski, Terry Lahm

    We assessed student, faculty, and staff attitudes toward and knowledge of the C.O.T.A. bus system. This research was part of a larger project designed to allow us to explore and recommend strategies for responsible travel to campus and parking on campus. We considered - policies and behavioral incentives to decrease reliance on campus parking spaces, increasing personal safety, providing access to learning experiences, allowing faculty and staff reasonable and flexible access to work locations, increasing retention and improving the quality of campus life, and promoting a culture of environmental stewardship. Surveys were administered to three populations: 116 entering first year students, 397 returning students, and 219 faculty and staff completed the survey. Most participants have little or no experience using a city bus with over 70% of them having no interest in using city bus at all. This study presents recommendations for parking policies and educational opportunities.

    Don't Do the Needle? Reasons for and Against Immunizations within the United States
    Brittany Davidson, Harshesh Amin
    Faculty Mentor: Kerry Cheesman

    Immunizations are one of the most effective public health interventions practiced in medicine today. Vaccines are started shortly after birth and many continue into the elderly years. However, as more vaccines are developed and approved, a lower percentage of children are receiving vaccines. Through research it has been determined that there are several reasons many parents do not get their children vaccinated, and those reasons are religious, philosophical, or moral. These reasons can include concerns about a fear of an overdose of vaccines, immunization causing further harm instead of preventing it, or belief that there is no need for the vaccine within the population. Through an exploration of the literature, and within a larger contextual and historical perspective it is concluded that it is not in the best interest to withhold vaccines due to these beliefs, and a lack of immunizations can be detrimental to the population as a whole.

    Survey of Central Ohio's Amphibian Species Richness and Population Study of the Wood Frog, Lithobates sylvatica, in Relation to the Fungal Disease Batrachochytrium Dendrobatidis
    Elizabeth Delfing, Alysha Vehre
    Faculty Mentor: Christine Anderson

    It is currently estimated that there are about forty amphibian species residing in Ohio, yet no information is available on the species richness of specific areas or parks in Central Ohio. One of threats to local amphibian populations is the cutaneous infection Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd). This fungal pathogen is believed to be the cause of massive declines in amphibian populations worldwide. It is known that Bd is capable of driving the extinction of populations due to its broad range of amphibian hosts. In light of this information, the current project has three aspects: (1) to determine the amphibian species richness of three parks in the Columbus area, (2) to locate and enumerate native and repatriated wood frog populations in these parks, and (3) to test all amphibians trapped for the fungal disease Bd. To achieve the goals of this study, we employ dip-netting, overnight trapping, and visual observation methods. Tissue samples and swabs for genetic analysis are taken. Samples are used to confirm or deny the presence of Bd and also determine the genetic diversity of the populations sampled. Implications of findings are discussed.

    Brianna Fabiani, Ashlee Dials
    Faculty Mentor: Kerry Cheesman

    Xenotransplantion involves transferring living cells, tissues, or organs from one species to another. The practice of xenotransplantation appears to be a very beneficial method of reducing the number of individuals on the lengthy organ transplant waiting list. However, there are many ethical issues surrounding this topic. One is whether it is ethical to raise and sacrifice animals for the sole purpose of benefitting humans. Another is the issue of informed consent by the human recipient and who is responsible if something goes wrong. A third is the possible risk of transferring animal diseases, for which we may not have an immediate cure, to the human population. In order to answer these questions and explore these issues, we conducted a literature review of various databases. We have found that there is no uniform agreement on the ethical issues; much of it depends on one’s view of the relationship between animals and humans. In addition, several immunological barriers still need to be conquered before xenotransplants become common medical practice. Students and others need to realize that although there are several positive potential impacts on society, these need to be weighed against potential harm to the animals and the concern for disease transference.

    Is Healthcare Really a Human Right? Exploring the Ecuadorian Healthcare System from a Study Abroad Experience
    Jenna Hilty
    Faculty Mentor: Kerry Cheesman

    The words, “right to free healthcare” mean something different every place one may go in the world. During my study abroad experience in Ecuador in the fall of 2010, I was able to extensively study the healthcare system both politically and clinically while working daily at a Free Health Center, Luchadores del Norte. This presentation explores the issues in the Ecuadorian Healthcare system that I witnessed, such as lack of medical supplies, lack of medical facilities, and lack of training of some medical personnel, and how these factors relate to the instability of the government. As I aspire to be a physician in several years, I feel that it is important to compare Ecuadorian Healthcare to the healthcare here in the United States.

    The Ethical Implications of Genetic Engineering in Commercially Available Food Crops
    Michael Lanning, Andrew Ruble
    Faculty Mentor: Kerry Cheesman

    The genetic engineering of commercial food products remains a polarizing topic in bioethics. In the United States the prevalence of genetic modification is already widespread, with products such as corn exhibiting a prevalence of modification of approximately 75%. This increased presence has led to a number of debates on the ethical implications behind genetically modified foods. Proponents of the use of genetic modification claim that the techniques can lead to larger yields, increased resistance to herbicides and pests, and improved nutrition. Opponents claim that the techniques are dangerous and can lead to development of super-weeds, destruction of ecosystems, and exploitation of farmers. By examining published experimental data on genetic modification of food crops and comparing the opinions of bioethicists, this study explains the positive and negative aspects of this branch of research.

    Carbon Storage Levels in Capital University Trees
    Michael Lanning
    Faculty Mentor: Alan Stam

    Global carbon dioxide emissions have been on the rise since the start of Industrialization. This has resulted in numerous detrimental effects on the global climate. Movements have begun in recent years to reverse this trend by focusing on leaving a smaller carbon footprint, or total carbon dioxide emission. This study has examined the effects of the trees located on the Main Campus of Capital University on the university's carbon footprint by determining the amount of carbon stored over a ten-year period. This was done by measuring the diameter of individual trees and comparing the results with measurements performed ten years ago.

    Genetic Discrimination of Species Using DNA Bar Coding
    Cole Musial
    Faculty Mentor: Christine Anderson

    Matching supply and demand for a wine production company, amphibian diversity can be used to answer a multitude of questions regarding interactions between species as well as conservation effects. The goal of this study was to practice the application of DNA bar coding and use it as tool for studying amphibian diversity. DNA bar coding is a comparison of genetic sequences between an unknown species compared to a database of known species, used to identify unknown species. Trapping and dip-netting methods were used to capture amphibians. A total of three wetlands and vernal pools were surveyed around the Logan, OH area. Genetic bar coding was used to identify unknown species and confirm identified species. Our results showed varying levels of diversity at the surveyed locations and included Green Frogs, Bull Frogs, and Wood Frogs. This work is important as many species can’t be identified in the field and this work removes those identification errors that could result in wrong conclusions.

    The Effects of Altering the Natural Coloration of Food on the Sensory Hierarchy
    Moriah Plattner
    Faculty Mentors: Kerry Cheesman, Kimberly Heym

    Visual and olfactory stimuli from food influence human perception of food prior to gustatory stimuli. Because olfactory signals arrive milliseconds prior to visual signals, this allows for smell of foods to be recognized and more directly correlated to taste than visual stimuli. However, visual cues may strengthen or weaken the perception of the flavor intensity. This study sought to see how dyeing food blue would influence the taste perception. Blue coloration is not a natural coloration for food; nevertheless, marketing enterprises for food industries are presenting people with foods that have been altered with dyes to a blue coloration. I explored natural response to blue coloration and the effect of artificial coloring on that response. Further exploration is needed to determine the natural responses toward blue coloration found in nature.

    Addiction Research Ethics
    Corinne Salva, Courtney Swickard
    Faculty Mentor: Kerry Cheesman

    In a country that is plagued by illicit drug use, it is invaluable for researchers to understand how these drugs affect users; not only to recognize the physiological effects, but also to develop the most effective treatment methods for addiction. However, the methodology by which this information is obtained can be highly controversial due to the ethics involved in administering drugs to addicted subjects. By comparing research articles, both primary and review, we explored the vast ethical implications of addiction research. We found that the best research was obtained when drugs were administered to the addicted human subject in a controlled laboratory setting. These findings can lead to discovering the way that addiction works, both physiologically and psychologically, and the best treatment method. However, there is controversy about whether or not subject’s consent is seen as legitimate. In most cases, the volunteers are addicts from a low socioeconomic status. Although we found that most researchers believe the knowledge gained through these experiments outweighs the ethical implications, we think it is important in the biological and medical realms to understand the ethics behind addiction research. This balance allows researchers to obtain the most effective results in the most ethically acceptable way.

    Immunology of the MMR Vaccine and Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura
    Mimi Sayre
    Faculty Mentor: Kerry Cheesman

    The MMR vaccine is a mixture of three live, attenuated viruses of measles, mumps, and rubella. The MMR is given in two doses. The first vaccine is received between the ages of 12 and 15 months with the second between 4 and 6 years old. There have been reports of a relationship between the MMR vaccine and a rare condition known as idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP). To determine if this is indeed the case, a literature survey of both primary and secondary sources was conducted using multiple databases. It was found that ITP is an immune system malfunction where the body destroys its own blood platelets. ITP causes antibodies to attach to platelets in the blood stream; immune cells recognize the antibodies and trigger the destruction of the labeled platelets. The risk is low with ITP occurring in one per 40,000 vaccinations. Knowing about the risks and the association with ITP may help today’s college students make good decisions about vaccinations for their children.

    Bioethical Issues of Hormone Replacement Therapy versus Steroid Use
    Mimi Sayre, Jenna Dunnigan
    Faculty Mentor: Kerry Cheesman

    Hormone Replacement Therapy is a doctor prescribed medical regimen to alleviate or reverse the effects of low testosterone in men. We were interested in learning more about these treatments and about some of the ethical issues involved. To do so, we did a literature survey of both primary and secondary sources using multiple databases. We found that testosterone is a natural steroid hormone that promotes muscle growth, bone density, and produces sperm in the testes. As men age, production decreases resulting in depressed libido, loss of muscle, fatigue, and lessened sense of mental health and wellbeing. Testosterone is a prescribed anabolic steroid in hormone replacement therapy (HRT). There are many differences between hormone replacement and recreational steroid use. There are distinctions in medical diagnosis, side-effects, and legality. Recreational steroids are a class of drugs similar to or derived from testosterone. The recreational use of steroids has become a bioethical issue and their use is banned in many sports. The FDA does not approve of anabolic steroid use in sports, bodybuilding, or for cosmetic reasons. They are approved solely for medical use in HRT. Additional investigations are needed to fully understand the reasons why people choose to use recreational steroids.



    Learning Styles in Science Students
    Khrystal Sherman
    Faculty Mentor: Kimberly Heym

    There are three basic ways of learning recognized by educators: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic with some experts citing seven or more in total. Many printed and online learning style surveys exist with some specially tailored for certain specific groups. The Felder Learning Styles survey is one such survey which is most commonly given to students. Dr. Denis Pearl at Ohio State University gives this survey to his introductory statistics classes and has collected data from 4,000 students. In an effort to compare the learning styles of OSU students to those of Capital University students, we administered the Felder Learning Styles survey to 48 Capital University freshmen biology majors and compared the results to those that Dr. Pearl collected from his students. The results of the study mirrored those of Dr. Pearl’s students. Examining the learning styles of students helps educators format their teaching techniques to ensure a more effective learning environment.



    Comparative Study of Genetic Modification in Maize Products
    Megan Thiery, Michael Lanning
    Faculty Mentor: Kerry Cheesman

    Genetic modification of food crops remains a polarizing topic. Advocates argue for higher yield and better nutrition while opponents claim development of new allergies and detrimental environmental impacts. This study tests for prevalence of genetic modification of maize products in whole kernel versus processed maize products. Processed maize products contain significantly fewer nucleic acids containing genetic information than whole kernel products. The assay for processed maize used is incompatible with these higher percentages of nucleic acids. The assay was thus altered utilizing different ratios of nucleic acids obtained through dilution of slurries. Using standardized biochemical practices, DNA was extracted in duplicate from store bought whole kernel and processed maize samples and amplified through PCR to detect the CaMV 35S promoter and/or NOS terminator sequences (used in approximately 85% of genetically modified food products). Samples were run on 3% agarose gels, and visualized with ultraviolet light following ethidium bromide staining. Regarding processed maize products, (n = 53), approximately 75% were found to be modified. Preliminary results of whole maize products (n = 16) indicate a lower prevalence of approximately 56%. Further exploration is needed for a definitive conclusion about why such differences exist.



    Abortion as Population Control
    Megan Thiery, Brittany Davidson
    Faculty Mentor: Kerry Cheesman

    Birth control methods, including abortion, have been used as a form of population control for many years. Certain countries, including China, have used this method due to overpopulation. Although abortion is acceptable in some countries, groups elsewhere feel it is unacceptable. In the United States, pro-life (anti-abortion) groups claim that regardless of length of development, the mass of cells is still a life and therefore abortion is murder. In an attempt to understand the ethical issues and arguments regarding abortion, we conducted a literature review using multiple databases. The research concluded that with the vast expansion of our populations, resources are becoming limited and more valuable. The possibility of humans exceeding their carrying capacity may result in a population crash, thus leading some people to consider the use of abortion as a form of birth control; others insist that even with a burgeoning population, all abortion should be considered as murder. As individuals in the scientific field, it is our responsibility to determine whether or not abortion as a form of population control is an ethical scientific/medical procedure. For our generation as a whole, it is important that we understand the ethical debates in order to make informed reproductive decisions.



    Survey of the Geology, Environment, Plants, and Wildlife of the Galapagos Islands.
    Matt Uy, Eric Heuer, Dan McCarthy, Tiffany Beatty, Brittany Davidson, Alicia Tysl
    Faculty Mentors: Kerry Cheesman, Alan Stam

    The Galapagos Islands are located in the Pacific Ocean west of Ecuador. The islands were formed from sub-oceanic lava vents on the floor of the ocean. Here the Humboldt current brings cold water from the ocean bottom to the surface along with a vast amount of nutrients, which allow the diverse species of the Galapagos to thrive. The main attraction of the islands is the wildlife, which is what inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. About 50% of birds and plants, 15% of fish, and nearly 90% of reptiles species of the Galapagos can be found nowhere else in the world. To explore first-hand what makes this archipelago such a unique place, a group of Capital University faculty and students travelled to the Galapagos Islands in May 2010. The group observed the effects of natural selection and mantle plumes first hand while hiking up volcanoes, snorkeling along deep sea cliffs, and exploring the diverse ecosystems associated with each island visited. The group saw the effects of speciation and evolution in ways that cannot be learned from a classroom or textbook. Such Capital University trips are important because they allow students to experience directly the basic theories of the discipline.