Nature includes everything from the universal to the subatomic: all things animal, plant, and mineral; all natural resources and events (such as hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes), and the behavior of living animals, and processes associated with inanimate objects. It is all around us and it is a fertile subject of study and research.
Scientists on the SUNY Fredonia campus focus their considerable talent, energy, and knowledge on studying the natural world, from the rocks and soil under our feet, to the plants and wildlife living in our waters and on mountains, to the microscopic and genetic organisms and the creatures with whom we share the planet.
Gary D. Lash, Professor of Geosciences, has long undertaken research centering on rock fracturing in Western New York, and the stratigraphy and tectonics of the Appalachian orogen, particularly in southeastern Pennsylvania. He is currently doing a Shale Sampling and Analysis Project. Comfortable in the field or in the laboratory, students often work shoulder to shoulder with him on his research.
Jonathan Titus, Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology, works with living plants and the preservation of endangered species. His current NSF-funded project, The Formation and Influence of Spatially Trophic Interactions in Primary Succession at Mount St. Helens, involves the quantification of the effects of herbivory on the plant community structure, vegetational physical structure and development of biotic and abiotic soil properties on Mount St. Helens. Dr. Titus took a crew of students to Mount St. Helen's volcano last summer to measure plant succession in the area devastated by the volcano of 1980. Nearly 230 square miles of forest was blown over or left dead and standing after the Sunday morning, May 18, earthquake that caused Mount St. Helens to erupt. The north face of this tall, symmetrical mountain collapsed in a massive rock debris avalanche.
In the Water
Dr. Alicia Perez-Fuentetaja, Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology, studies aquatic ecology. Her research interests include different aspects of aquatic community ecology, such as the biology, ecology and behavior of aquatic organisms and how those traits influence the dynamics of food webs. The organisms she most frequently works with are fish, zooplankton and algae. She studies their trophic interactions and the nutrient and energy pathways that determine food web structure and dynamics. She is also intrigued by the factors affecting food web stability, and the degree of food web resistance and resilience to different levels of stress. In this sense, she is interested in the alterations to food webs by introduced fish and zooplankton species in local bodies of water. Dr. Perez-Fuentetaja is the recipient of a $10,000 grant from the Great Lakes Protection Fund to study Endocrine-Mediated Effects of Estrogenic Compounds and Persistent Organic Pollutants in Fish Populations from Eastern Lake Erie.
Living Among Us
One of the more unusual studies by a campus researcher is that of bats. Funded under an award from the Chautauqua Institution, Karry Kazial, Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology, is studying Little Brown Bats of Chautauqua Institution: Population Monitoring, Bat House Preferences, and Sonar Call Variation. Chautauqua Institution has one of the largest bat populations in western New York and has been the site of previous bat research. Anecdotal evidence from residents suggests the little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus) population has suffered a decline. Undergraduate research students and Dr. Kazial have collected data with regard to three main projects, including 1) a characterization of the current bat population by emergence counts, 2) a survey of homes to determine current bat colony locations, and construction of a bat banding database, 3) an examination of the insects available to the Chautauqua bat population and the bats' actual diet, and 4) an investigation of sonar call variability in the little brown bat. These projects allow us to monitor the population as well as examine whether sonar calls contain information linked to characteristics of the bat producing the call, such as age, gender, or colony membership.
Microbiology and genetics study that which is essential to living, but cannot be seen. Dr. Ted Lee, Chair and Associate Professor in the Biology Department, has undertaken studies of that which we cannot see. In his continuing research project, Microbial Source Tracking: Identifying Sources of Escherichia coli Pollution in Cassadaga Lake, Chautauqua County Water Net Subaward, microbial source tracking is used to identify animal species responsible for the presence of bacteria in specific locations. This project uses a DNA-based approach to identify the possible sources of Escherichia coli in Cassadaga Lake. Elevated levels of E. coli are indicative of fecal contamination and will result in recreational waters being closed to the public. The E. coli strains from different host organisms (such as humans, geese, cattle) have different genetic sequences that can be compared using molecular techniques. The genetic characteristics of the strains from different species, such as humans, geese, cattle and deer, will be characterized and then compared to the properties of the E. coli strains isolated from the waters of Cassadaga Lake. Dr. Lee and his graduate student assistant, Damian Salerno, collected over 500 bacterial samples from the lake, 300 of which were determined to be E. coli, and compared their genetic profiles with those of E. coli from geese, humans, dogs and deer. Mr. Salerno isolated DNA from all of the identified E. coli strains, which allowed them to determine the source of the contamination. Based on the success of the last summer's work, Dr. Lee has received a second grant to continue the research this summer.