A look at life science research, programs at ASU
School of Life Sciences professor Pierre Deviche holds a rufous-winged sparrow captured on the Santa Rita Experimental Range, east of Green Valley, Ariz. Deviche and his team of researchers use this species as an experimental model to investigate the environmental control of reproduction and the hormonal regulation of behavior in Sonoran desert birds.
Professor Pierre Deviche (right) broadcasts the song of a Rufous-winged sparrow in an attempt to elicit an aggressive, territorial response from the resident male sparrow. Ph.D. students Sisi Gao (left) and Scott Davies (rear) listen and watch for the bird they are trying to capture.
Ph.D. student Sisi Gao sets up a mist net near a mesquite tree where School of Life Science researchers are attempting to capture a bird. Mist-netted birds are sampled, individually marked, measured and released at the capture site.
The School of Life Sciences research team observes a target sparrow. One objective of the research is to understand the mechanisms by which the birds’ circulating hormones regulate their behavior, as well as how changes in a bird’s behavior in turn influence its hormonal secretions. The studies also aim at identifying which environmental factors, such as precipitation, vegetation, or food availability, influence the birds’ physiology and how these factors exert their influence.
Professor Pierre Deviche measures the wing of a captured bird. The bird has already received a uniquely numbered metal leg band that will be used to identify it if it is subsequently captured. It will be released on site after all measurements have been taken.
Ph.D. student Sisi Gao takes notes and records measurements taken by professor Pierre Deviche. Standard data collected for each individual bird include weight, size, capture location, date and reproductive condition. A small blood sample is generally collected for hormone concentration analysis in the laboratory.
As part of the School of Life Sciences Undergraduate Research program, students who were working on various research projects toured the Conservation Center at the Phoenix Zoo. Stuart Wells (left), the zoo's director of conservation and science, briefs the students. Wells is also an adjunct research faculty member at ASU, and he spoke about the zoo’s work in conservation with numerous species, including the Arabian oryx, black-footed ferret, narrow-headed garter snake and leopard frog.
Sharon Biggs (left) of the Phoenix Zoo speaks to Michelle McQuilkin, a senior biochemistry major, about the zoo’s conservation efforts with the narrow-headed garter snake.
The School of Life Sciences Undergraduate Research (SOLUR) program has some of the most formative and engaging learning experiences that a research university can offer. The program endeavors to teach students about the process of scientific investigation in a way that encourages and includes students from the School of Life Sciences and prepares them for careers in the life sciences.
Here, students take a SOLUR field trip to the Butcher Jones Recreation Site at Saguaro Lake. Ron Rutowski (right) points out a colony of seed harvester ants. He and some of his graduate students explained their research and introduced the participants to some of the field research techniques used by the researchers.
Kimberly Pegram (left) spoke about her research involving the warning coloration of the pipevine swallowtail butterfly (Battus philenor). Predators, such as insectivorous birds, use the bright coloration of the pipevine swallowtail butterfly to learn that the butterflies are distasteful. Her studies focus on what aspects of the warning signal make it most effective and to which parts of the signal the predators pay attention.
Kimberly Pegram demonstrated her field research, in which she put different colored models of butterflies out in the field for 72 hours and looked at predator attacks to determine which colors were attacked the most. For more information on Pegram’s research visit http://rutowski.lab.asu.edu/Kim_Pegram.html.
Barbara Birtcil wades into Saguaro Lake to deploy a net used in water sampling.
Hanh Han, a senior biology major, uses an electronic device to check the light transmission through a water sample.
Tyler Sawyer, a graduate teaching associate (center), talks to students about field techniques used in testing water.
Forrest Noelck (left) and Zach Smith (right) perform a demonstration on the human ear at the Arizona Science Center. Both seniors this semester, Noelck, a biology and economics major, and Smith, a biochemistry major were interns at the Science Center this past summer.
Kerry Boesen (right), an education senior, also served as an intern at the Arizona Science Center this summer. Since 2009, 43 students have been supported through the NSF-funded STARR Noyce Scholarship project (including 10 paid interns at the Arizona Science Center) and 13 have graduated and are currently in the field working as science teachers in high-need schools. For more information visit http://www.education.asu.edu/noyce.
Heather Matthies, of the Vermaas lab, takes a sample from a 55L photobioreactor. The research is for the development of an optimized strain of cyanobacteria (Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803) that produces and secretes fatty acids that will be converted into carbon-neutral and sustainable biofuel. Using cyanobacteria as the source of biofuels eliminates the problems of other plant-based biofuels that have limited growing seasons, use valuable farm land, and convert food sources to fuel. The research is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy and is in collaboration with North Carolina State University. For more information on the research visit http://bioenergy.asu.edu/faculty/vermaas/biofactories.html.