College of Arts and Sciences

Student Researchers

Brian Cheda

Project Goal/Abstract:

Development of a DNA bar-coding region in Sargassum. I will be learning all of the laboratory techniques and assisting with several projects before I commit to a single research investigation.

What is your favorite thing about research at Arcadia?

The independent and collaborative aspects of working in the lab will develop the skills needed for medical school while allowing me to contribute to Arcadia’s scientific lineage.

How has faculty research benefitted you?

This research will enhance my preparation for medical school by helping me apply concepts and techniques taught within my lectures, and allowing me to critically analyze and understand the manipulation of genomic mechanisms.

Favorite fact about algae/Bioko monkeys:

Sargassum is a really widespread genus. It amazes me how one genus can expand across such a large scope of the world.

Chelsea Colón

Project Goal/Abstract:

The Phaeophyceae phylogeny is highly unresolved due to the morphology classification system used. New methodologies to resolve the phylogenetic tree have been discovered, one of which is DNA barcoding. The goal of this research is to develop a barcode in the genus Sargassum in order to better classify the genus, subgenus and species. Sargassum can be found in coastal regions of Panama.  A barcode is a DNA sequence that is variable enough to distinguish between species. There are 21 samples that were collected and will be analyzed using three gene regions (LSU, rbcl, and ITS-2). 

What is your favorite thing about research at Arcadia?

My favorite thing about research at Arcadia is the ability to work as a team. It prepares you for a future in an actual laboratory setting. Being able to work with a faculty member is great, because you learn directly from an individual who has many years of experience in the field.

How has faculty research benefitted you?

Without faculty sponsored research, I would not have gained the hands on experience and the knowledge that is accompanied by the experience. It has provided many skills, such as problem solving, team working, and public speaking, while strengthening additional skills I possess.

Favorite fact about algae/Bioko monkeys:

Algae are every color of the rainbow!

Haley Grunwald

Bioko Island, a part of Equatorial Guinea, is located off the west coast of Cameroon and supports a tremendous level of biodiversity despite its small size. There are seven primate species endemic to the island that are on the verge of extinction. Three of those primates are  the Mandrillus leucophaeus poesnis (African drill), Colobus satanas satanas (black colobus), and Procolobus pennantii (red colobus). The reasons these primates are at risk of extinction is deforestation, disease, competition, and illegal hunting. The most impactful risk of extinction is the hunting and selling of these animals as bushmeat in the local market. This project has genetically characterized these three species with the goal of conservation in mind. Microsatellite loci were bioinformatically mined from the Macaque genome and were PCR screened with positive amplicons cloned and sequenced for 18 different loci. Fifty-four individuals for the three species were genotyped using these microsatellites. High numbers of polymorphism were seen in loci 13, 28, 34, 21, 17, 37, and 46; while loci 10, 49, and 40 showed low levels of polymorphism. This research will benefit the Bioko Biodiversity Protection Program and ultimately lead to conservation through genetic characterization.

What is your favorite thing about research at Arcadia?

My favorite thing about researching at Arcadia is that I get to work in a lab with great people and have made some great friends. My second favorite thing is that I get to work on a project that actually makes a difference in this world. Being able to hopefully prevent a species from going extinct is a huge accomplishment.

How has faculty research benefitted you?

Doing faculty research has allowed me to look at the field of Biology in a different way. I think it has improved my instinctual learning about certain topics. In class I can more fully understand the concepts we talk about. Getting hands on experience in anything automatically makes you learn more from it.

Favorite fact about algae/Bioko monkeys:

The Red and Black Colobus monkeys I study do not have thumbs

Aimee Malzahn

Project Goal/Abstract:

The goal of my project is to evaluate the effectiveness of several gene regions as a barcode for the subgenus Sargassum. This will help with species identification as well as contribute to the resolution of taxonomic issues. The specimens are from Panama, where there is a lot of estimated, uncatalogued biodiversity. The formation of the isthmus also gives the marine life around Panama a unique and interesting evolutionary history.

What is your favorite thing about research at Arcadia? 

Arcadia has been really supportive of their research groups. Dr. Phillips dedicates so much time towards helping us succeed and it shows in our work. I’ve formed some great relationships with faculty and my labmates all while gaining valuable work experience.

How has faculty research benefitted you?

Faculty research has benefitted me in so many ways. I’ve grown to be an independent decision maker and to enjoy confidently presenting my work to the general public as well as fellow researchers.

Favorite fact about algae/Bioko monkeys:

Giant kelp is the world’s fastest growing organism! 

Brian Murphy

Project Goal/Abstract:

My project looks at a specific species of kelp Eisenia arborea, also known as the Southern Sea Palm of the coast of Baja, California.  There are 2 populations of interest to me, the shallow subtidal and the deep subtidal.  Each population has a different morphology due to the local environmental pressures.  The shallow are a thicker narrower rigid blade, whereas the deep subtidal are a wider more broad.  When these plants were transplanted they maintained their original morphology and didn’t revert to the other morphology due to its environment which leads us to believe that the species may have actually speciated into 2 different species.  The project goal is to extract the DNA from samples of each population and compare certain gene regions as genetic markers in order determine if the species is now 2. 

What is your favorite thing about research at Arcadia?

The teamwork that goes into the work at arcadia is my favorite part.  So far in my research I have seen nothing but motivation and helping hands.  When being trained all I see is people who know the protocol passing it onto the next group of individuals working in the lab.  I am happy to be a part of such a team and look forward to what we can accomplish In the future. 

How has faculty research benefitted you?

This research has taught me a lot of techniques in DNA analysis and working with specific families of algae, but the real benefit id from more than just the techniques.  The research has familiarized me with a lab setting and the teamwork that goes along with it.  It also has provided me with a topic and data for my senior capstone project.  I hope to use this experience to my advantage in my future at graduate school and my career. 

Favorite fact about algae/Bioko monkeys:

Algae is no less important than any organism being studied for scientific purposes around the world.  My favorite thing about algae is the versatility of it.  It is used in products form pharmaceuticals to ingredients in everyday products, whether it is edible or clinical.  The fieldwork in this area is extremely interesting and fun and not enough people are on the boat, literally.  Algae is all over the world and gives applications wherever you are on the globe.  

Megan Roche

Project Goal/Abstract:

The goal of this research is to determine, through morphological, chemical, and molecular data, whether the shallow and deep subtidal populations of Eisenia arborea are still one species adapted to different environments or have diversified sufficiently to be considered two distinct species.

Kelp forests are very productive ecosystems in temperate subtidal communities around the world. Past research suggests that water flow and hydrodynamic pressure differences between the shallow and deep subtidal zones may shape algal morphology. Eisenia arborea is an example of a kelp species with populations in the shallow subtidal and deep subtidal zones near Catalina Island, California, each with a distinct morphology. Whether the morphological differentiation is caused by phenotypic plasticity or genetic differences remains unclear. The goal of this research is to determine whether these populations are still one species adapted to two different environments or have diversified sufficiently to be considered two distinct species. Samples were collected from these two subtidal populations and DNA was extracted from all samples. Based on the difference in polysaccharide content from the total genomic DNA extractions; variation between these two populations were evident. Two gene regions, one nuclear (the 5’ end of LSU [Z fragment] and one mitochondrial (cox 1 5’) were amplified and sequenced. Phylogenetic analyses for the LSU Z fragment and cox 1 5’ gene region showed a significant amount of genetic variation. Both showed promise as DNA barcodes/markers to differentiate between individuals in the shallow or deep populations. Further sequencing and phylogenetic analyses of both gene regions for the two populations will be performed with exciting results to follow.

What is your favorite thing about research at Arcadia?

My favorite thing about research at Arcadia University is being able to apply the knowledge I am learning in the classroom and, for me, research is a way to be creative

How has faculty research benefitted you?

Faculty research at Arcadia University has allowed me to further develop my skills as a researcher and determine my graduate school/career goals. Working in the Molecular Genetics Research Lab has also allowed me to develop a relationship with, and learn, from Dr. Phillips, who has been a great mentor.

Favorite fact about algae/Bioko monkeys:

Algae build coral reefs and kelp forests 

Rachel Schwartz

Project Goal/Abstract:

The goal of my research project is to determine if speciation has occurred within two proximal, yet morphologically dissimilar populations of Ascoseira mirabilis Skottsberg via gene sequencing comparisons. The specific gene regions that will be analyzed are the rbcL, Cox3 and ITS-2 gene loci.

What is your favorite thing about research at Arcadia?

My favorite thing about research at Arcadia is the friendships that you form with your lab mates and the willingness each of us has to teach one another things.

How has faculty research benefitted you?

It has taught me so much about working in a lab environment and given me real world problem solving skills, like ways to come up with creative solutions when something doesn’t work as you expected it to.

Favorite fact about algae/Bioko monkeys:

Some algae species, like Golden Alga, hunt and kill fish for food.

Cynthia Zmich

Project Goal/Abstract:

Bioko Island is home to a multitude of unique species and is one of the world’s top biodiversity hotspots. Many of the primate species on the island are endangered due to illegal hunting [bushmeat market] and continual habitat degradation. Although there has been a hunting ban implemented, making it illegal to hunt these endangered species, locals continue to hunt with little to no legal consequence. This research aims to genotype three endangered primate species Procolobus pennantii pennantii (red colobus), Colobus satanas satanas (black colobus), and Mandrillus leucophaeous poensis (African drill) in an effort to determine the genetic health of the populations for conservation efforts while evaluating developed loci for phylogeographic utility. Forty-seven individuals representing the three species, were genotyped using the 3-primer method with loci scored as homozygous or heterozygous. Preliminary results for three of these loci showed heterozygosity levels ranging from 9% to 73% among individuals from the three species. Establishing these loci as useful for determining the genetic health of the populations and should aid in future conservation efforts. Genotyping is continuing with the other loci. By determining the genetic health of the population, this data should prove very useful in developing strategies to conserve these species from extinction.

What is your favorite thing about research at Arcadia?

All of the people in the lab are so friendly and helpful. You can comfortably access the lab at any point so that research can be done on your own time, even on the weekend!

How has faculty research benefitted you?

I have learned many skills that can be used for my future career and also working in a lab setting. It is also rewarding to know that the research that I am doing will benefit the real world to help bring back an endangered species

Favorite fact about Bioko monkeys:

If the hunting of the endangered primate species on Bioko Island is not stopped, they will be extinct within a few years.