Elon students, faculty share research at N.C. Academy of Science Conference 

Five faculty members and eight undergraduate researchers from the Biology and Environmental Studies departments represented Elon University at the N.C. Academy of Science conference at High Point University on March 24-25, 2017.

Five faculty members and eight undergraduate researchers from Biology and Environmental Studies departments represented Elon University at the N.C. Academy of Science conference at High Point University on March 24-25, 2017.

Heading out from McMichael Science Center: Matt Sears '18, Warren Grunvald '17, Dawson Nance '17, Lauren Miller '17, Bea Balajonda '17, Emma Eskeland '17, Cas Levy '17 and Gabi Resh '17.
Student researchers included Bea Balajonda ‘17, Emma Eskeland ‘17, Warren Grunvald ‘17, Cas Levy ‘17, Lauren Miller ‘17, Dawson Nance ‘17, Gabi Resh ‘17 and Matt Sears ’18. Faculty attendees included Assistant Professor Eric Bauer, Assistant Professor Amanda Chunco, Associate Professor Dave Gammon, Assistant Professor Jen Hamel and Professor Mike Kingston.

In addition to attending the interdisciplinary poster session and research talks in environmental science, ecology, behavior, microbiology and science education, Elon students and faculty also presented their own work.

Levy presented a poster, “Correlates of Dung beetle introduction to Australia.” Levy used data from a deliberate introduction of dung beetles from the around the world to Australia as a case study in predicting species invasions. Her findings suggest that current methods used to predict how far invasive species might spread in the future could be vastly underestimating the potential range of that invasive species.

Students with Mike Kingston at the NC Academy of Science conference.
Nance gave an oral presentation, “Examining the effects of parasitism on mate choice and copulation duration.” Nance found that in a focal species, parasitism does not affect female choosiness about prospective mates, but that parasitism may increase mating durations, and the parasite or host may benefit from longer mating times.

Eskeland gave an oral presentation, “Examining two closely related species for evidence of selection against hybridization.” For two insect species that have likely been hybridizing for about 80 generations, Eskeland found no evidence that reproductive barriers are evolving via female choice. Her work suggests that the outcomes of hybridization may depend on whether individuals mate once or more than once.

Grunvald presented a poster, “Assessing morphological traits for evidence of in situ hybridization between two closely related insect species.” Grunvald assessed the usefulness of several physical traits for distinguishing between two parental species and hybrids produced in the laboratory. His work suggests that most hybrids are indistinguishable from one parental species, and molecular markers are needed to assess the extent of hybridization occurring in nature.

Eric Bauer presents during the Friday evening poster session.
Balajonda and Miller presented a poster, “Potential effects of habitat and host plant use on opportunity for hybridization between two insect species.” They show that two insect species that hybridize in the field each occur more abundantly on different plant species and habitat types, although there is some overlap in plant and habitat use. Their work shows that habitat and plant preferences can limit the opportunity for hybridization.

Resh gave an oral presentation titled, “Who is the mockingbird really mocking?” Nearly everyone has assumed that if a singing mockingbird makes a cardinal or a titmouse sound then it must have learned that sound from a cardinal or a titmouse. However, young mockingbirds could potentially learn their mimetic songs from other mockingbirds, who already produce the mimetic song. Resh showed that some song types are popular within the model species but not the mimic, and vice versa. Perhaps true imitation of another species is much rarer than previously thought.

Bauer presented a poster, “Substrate-vibration behavioral sensitivities of two terrestrial snail species”, showcasing data that he and his two research students, Emma Lavandosky and Ellen Montgomery, collected. Little is known about the sensory world of snails, including whether they can detect and respond to vibrations in the soil or leaf litter over which they are moving. Bauer showed that snails detect and respond to vibrations, though they are selective as to which vibrations they respond to. His research group will now further explore and quantify snail vibrational sensitivities.

Dave Gammon presenting a poster on&nbsp;<em style=”font-size: 1.0769em;”>Paths of Inquiry&nbsp;</em><span style=”font-size: 1.0769em;”>(ECF111) on Friday evening.</span>
Gammon presented a poster in collaboration with Alexa Darby (Psychology), Sean Giovanello (Political Science), and Nina Namaste (World Languages). Their poster focused on the experiences and perceptions of Elon College Fellows before, during and after taking Paths of Inquiry (ECF111), a Winter Term course that focuses on the three branches within the Arts and Sciences. Their data support previous findings that students feel anxiety towards STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), avoid it when possible, and resist changing their perceptions.

Levy is mentored in research by Chunco; Nance, Eskeland, Balajonda, Miller, and Grunvald are mentored by Hamel; Resh is mentored by Gammon.

Kingston and Hamel also served as Dereaux Student Award judges for student talks and posters. Kingston attended the conference as a past-president of the Society, and he also served as the trip photographer.