The department has teaching and research interests in many aspects of Biology from the cellular and molecular level to organismal to global ecological and conservation issues

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Amarilis Dyer: Undergrad research project

Here is what one of our undergraduate students (Amarilis Dyer) did during the 2013-14 academic year with funding from the Biology department in the lab of Dr Dayle Daines:

A new cis-complementation system for nontypeable Haemophilus influenzae (NTHi) isolates

The objective of this experiment was to design and construct a cis-complementation system for clinical isolates of nontypeable Haemophilus influenzae (NTHi).Two strains were used in this study: a nasopharyngeal isolate from a child with chronic otitis media, and  a blood isolate from a child with meningitis. The green fluorescent protein gene, gfp, was the reporter used in these experiments to insert as a single copy. A pseudogene in the NTHI chromosome was chosen as the recipient site for cis-complementation.  A set of forward and reverse primers were created that annealed to the 5’ end of the gene (first arm), amplifying 784 base pairs by Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), and another set that bound to and amplified 791 base pairs of the 3’ end of the gene by PCR (second arm). The purpose for cloning the first and second arm of the gene was to know exactly where the inserted DNA was located.

To create strains expressing gfp, a spectinomycin antibiotic resistance cassette was added as a selection marker. Once the antibiotic cassette was inserted, a gfp gene controlled by a strong promoter was amplified and inserted between the two arms of the psuedogene. The reason for the insertion of the reporter gene was to run assays and determine if the gene was present.  The antibiotic cassette was used to insure that the gene would stay in. This resulted in the antibiotic resistance cassette and the reporter gene being flanked by NTHi DNA that is homologous to the pseudogene locus.  This construct was introduced into the two NTHi strains by homologous recombination.  The antibiotic-resistant transformants were tested for GFP expression using fluorescence microscopy. By amplifying the flanking regions and sequencing the products, we determined that the location of the gfp gene was within the pseudogene. An immunoblot was performed to confirm gfp expression in both strains. Our next steps include using this approach to complement existing NTHi deletion mutants in cis.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Academic legend, John Holsinger, to speak at National Speleological Society (NSS) conference

Emeritus Professor John Holsinger will take a walk through 60 years of memories on caves, caving, cave biology and conservation at the National Speleological Society (NSS) conference next month in Huntsville AL. Check out more here

Friday, June 6, 2014

Biology Department Scholarships

Congratulations to the following graduate students who have been awarded departmental scholarships for 2014-15:

The Virginia S Bagley Endowed Scholarship: Chelsea Wright and Robyn Nadolny (shared award)

The Harold G Marshall and Vivian J. Marshall Endowed Scholarship in Biology: Carly York

The Nick Savage Scholarship: Tim Hammer


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Molecular Identification of Otherwise Unidentifiable “Brown Legged” Rodent Ticks

Biology Honors project funded in part by Department of Biological Sciences (Rachel Niemiec).

Ticks have a profound impact on human health due to the pathogens they carry. For this reason, it is important to know which species are collected from different animal that may serve as reservoirs.

There are three prominent species of “brown legged” ticks in the Hampton Roads area. They are the Gulf Coast tick, Amblyomma maculatum, the Lone Star tick, Amblyomma americanum, and the dog tick, Dermacentor variablis. Each of these ticks is different in its host preference, as well as the pathogens they are able carry and transmit (see information in the "Its tick time" blog posting). This project uses different molecular methods to identify brown legged ticks collected from rodents at several different sites. Identification through morphology can be difficult when the tick is engorged or missing mouth parts from ticks in their first two life stages.

During this study DNA was extracted from the ticks, amplified using PCR, and analysed following restriction enzyme digestion (restriction fragment length polymorphism - RFLP). We also tested the extracted DNA for the presence of Rickettsial DNA .

RFLP analysis indicated that we were able to differentiate the three brown legged ticks found in this area- Dermacentor variabilis, Amblyomma maculatum and A. americanum. We had trouble amplifying DNA from some of the ticks; this may have been due to degradation of DNA over time as many of the ticks had been stored for a number of years.  Most of the ticks tested from rodents were identified as Dermacentor variabilis indicating a preference of the immature stages of this tick for rodents. 

Approximately 25% of the ticks tested were positive for the presence of rickettsial DNA; the species of Rickettsia is unknown at this time.

It's tick time

Its that time of the year - ticks are out and so are we.
Do you know what to do when you get a tick bite? How to protect yourself? What ticks are present in the Hampton Roads area? What diseases you are at risk for?
Check out the information in the poster below.
Contact information for tick related questions at the bottom of the poster...

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Faculty/Staff/Student Awards

Congratulations to the following faculty, staff and students who received College of Science and/or University awards for the 2013-14 academic year:

David Gauthier: Provost's Award for Outstanding Undergraduate Research Mentor and College Outstanding Undergraduate Advisor

Marcus Jones: College Outstanding Staff Member of the Year; Curator of the The Arthur and Phyllis Kaplan Orchid Conservatory

Rebecca Bray: College Distinguished Teaching Award for Adjuncts

Student awards:
Graduate Students:
Outstanding Biology lab GTA: Anthony Nanajian
Outstanding Classroon Instructor: Jessica Beard

Undergraduate Students
Quincy Cheesman: Alumni Association's Outstanding College Scholar Award
Taylor D'Etcheverty: Outstanding Undergraduate in Biology
 Allissa Bunner: Outstanding Undergraduate Service in Biology,

Another Fulbright for Lytton Musselman

Professor Lytton Musselman received another Fulbright award (this is number 4; previous awards have been to Sudan, West Bank and Jordan ), this time to work with undergraduates at Universiti Brunei Darussalam in Brunei as a botanist on the flora in the country. He will be involved in training of students in plant identification and with establishing experiments in the field that students and faculty at Brunei Darussalam can pursue in the future.

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