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.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Corals and climate change

Dr Dan Barshis, a new faculty member in the Biology Department publishes two articles on the effects of climate change on ocean corals. Check out the ODU News summary here

The first in Science makes the case for corals being able to adapt to waters that are dangerously warm (read the abstract for the Science article here).

The second paper in Molecular Biology and Evolution examines the climate-change adaptability of a dinoflagellate (Symbiodiniumone), one of coral's symbiotic algae partners; these symbionts don't seem to notice the water changing around them. Article here

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Jessica Beard - Outstanding graduate teaching assistant 2014

Congratulations to Jessica Beard who this year is one of two Outstanding GTA award winners for the entire university.  Jessica was nominated by the department for the College award, and then by the College for the University Award. Jesscia has been a GTA in the General Biology class, but recently has been the instructor for Animal Behavior and Entomology.

Erin Heller - Grad Student in Biology collects awards _UPDATED

Erin Heller, a Masters student in the lab of Dr. Eric Walters is a 2014 recipient of a National Science Foundation Graduate ResearchFellowship. Erin competed with over 14,000 other applicants for this prestigious award. The award provides a stipend and tuition support for 3 years towards a PhD. Upon completing her Masters degree on the effects of urbanization on the relationship among birds, ticks, and tick-borne disease pathogens here at Old Dominion University, Erin plans to continue her studies in avian ecology and behavior at the doctoral level. More about this here.

Erin also won the Virginia Society of Ornithology's J.J. Murray Research Award.  The award is designed to promote graduate and undergraduate research, and the research must consist of current or projected field studies on Virginia birds.  Proposals will be judged for their scientific merit and the likelihood that the work will make a meaningful contribution to our understanding of Virginia avifauna.

Erin Heller has been awarded a Champion of Diversity award by the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity.

Since originally posted Erin has recieved yet another couple of awards:

Erin was awarded a 2014 Old Dominion University Alumni Association Outstanding Scholar Fellowship.

Erin was awarded the Best Student Oral Presentation by a graduate student at the annual meeting of the Virginia Academy of Science for her paper entitled “The effects of urbanization on the relationship among birds, ticks, and tick-borne pathogens.”

Congratulations, Erin!


Thursday, April 24, 2014

Monarchs for Monarchs project

Tatyana Lobova co-ordinates a joint effort between the Department of Biological Sciences , ODU student botanists, the Orchid Conservatory, the ODU grounds department and Norfolk Botanical Garden.  Check out what the program is all about:  Monarchs for Monarchs, Monarch project milkweed, Milkweed planting on campus.

Butler at Caribbean Fisheries Forum

Professor Mark Butler attends Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) meeting where his years of study on lobsters moves beyond pure science into policies related to fisheries management. Read more here

Honey Bees or Mason Bees

Check out the latest work of Dr Horth and her students on bees and strawberries...
honeybees decline - mason bees eyed

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Bees and UV cues

Check out the latest work by Associate Professor Lisa Horth on the effect of floral UV cues in attacting bees to flowers just published:
Horth, L., L. Campbell & R. Bray. 2014.  Wild bees preferentially visit Rudbeckia flower heads with exaggerated ultraviolet absorbing floral guides. Biology Open (2014) 3, 221–230 doi:10.1242/bio.20146445
This research demonstrates for the first time that floral guides are not just important in directing pollinators to floral reward, but also in recruiting pollinators to flowers from a distance.

The ultraviolet absorbent floral guides found on black eyed susans were manipulated to be larger and smaller than they typically are in nature. 

This ultraviolet absorbent pattern forms a 'bullseye' around the center of the flower where pollen and nectar rewards are located.

In this study the size of that bullseye was diminished and enlarged. Bees preferred enlarged cues and recruited to flowers from a distance more often when this cue was big.

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