Past Awards - 2018

Below are abstracts of KU BEARS grant awards from 2018. Click on the titles to read each abstract.

  • Developing Culturally Responsive Literacy Materials to Implement in a Study Abroad Course in Cape Town, South Africa

    Tabetha Bernstein-Danis

    College of Education | Special Education

    Emily Rudderow

    Major: Special Education

    Jennifer Jenkins

    Major: Elementary Education


    Overview: This research engaged pre-service teachers as student researchers in the development of culturally responsive literacy interventions with culturally relevant texts, which were implemented by their peers in a literacy interventions study abroad course that paired pre-service teachers with primary school students in South Africa. To best meet the needs of students from diverse backgrounds, particularly those who struggle with literacy, it is paramount to develop instructional tasks that acknowledge students' ways of knowing, understanding, and learning in the context of their own communities (Gay, 2010; Ladson-Billings, 2009). This requires that pre-service and in-service teachers be open to honoring ways of learning, understanding, and demonstrating knowledge that may be quite different from their own educational experiences, which for the majority occurred in predominantly white, middle-class communities. Further, the use of both literature that students connect to culturally and familiar pedagogical practices have been found to lead to improvement in the area of literacy for students of color (Bui and Fagan, 2013). In addition to learning about and developing culturally responsive lessons, the pre-service teachers who served as student researchers through the grant learned to work with community insiders (culture coaches) to ensure texts used and lessons developed were truly relevant to the primary school students in the program. The culture coaches also served as peer mentors for this year’s study abroad students as they implemented the lessons developed by the student researchers. 

  • Flood Frequency Distributions in the Northeast United States

    Michael Davis

    College of Liberal Arts & Sciences | Geography

    Elizabeth Geesey

    Major: Environmental Sciences / Geography

    Overview: The United States National Climate Assessment, as well as climate science literature, depicts a much wetter climate across the northeast region of the country. This trend in increased moisture is the result of atmospheric warming (largely from anthropogenic forcings), which allows for a greater water carrying capacity. Heavy rainfall events can lead to flash flooding conditions in communities within this highly populated region of the United States leading to high economic and property loss and potential loss of human life. 


    An aspect of this emerging and significant climate research topic is the consideration of wet/dry events that precede flash flooding. Utilizing precipitation and drought data from the National Center of Environmental Information, seasonal trends in precipitation and the Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI) are used to assess the vulnerability of the 42 climate divisions that comprise the northeast US region. Spatial trends will be analyzed to assess whether specific sub-regions are exhibiting seasonal tendencies in terms of “pre-flash flooding.” Climate model projections will also be incorporated to augment the historical trends and identify regions that may experience significant flash flooding in the future.  

  • Isolation of Soil Bacteria with Antifungal Activity Against the Fungal Pathogen Alternaria Solani

    Kaoutar El Mounadi

    College of Liberal Arts & Sciences | Biological Sciences

    Angeline Digiugno

    Major: Environmental Sciences / Biology

    Claire Santa

    Major: Environmental Sciences / Biology


    Overview: Early blight is an economically important disease of tomato caused by the fungal pathogen Alternaria solani. The disease can lead to significant yield losses. Despite the use of fungicides and breeding tomato plants for resistance, early blight remains difficult to control. Microbial agents with antifungal activity can offer a more durable, safer and sustainable alternative to control and eradicate the disease. These potential biocontrol agents can be found naturally in soils in organic crop fields. In this project, we have isolated bacteria from the soil of organic fields at Rodale Institute. The bacteria were then tested for their ability to inhibit the growth of the fungus. Out of the 104 bacteria isolated, 9 showed potent antifungal activity. Molecular biology techniques were then used to determine the species of these bacteria. The ultimate goal of this research is to find bacteria that can be used to control fungal growth but are also safe for humans and animals. These preliminary data provide us with a pool of bacterial candidates that have the potential to be developed as biocontrol agents. Plant pathology is a field that has significantly less female scientists compared to other areas in biology. Thus, training and mentoring the next generation of women in plant pathology and disease control is necessary to close the gender gap in this field. The grant has offered a great opportunity for two female students to learn techniques in microbiology, fungal biology, and plant disease control. The students also had a chance to present their findings at a regional meeting, which strengthened their oral and written communication skills.

  • Host-Parasitoid Model with Parasitoid Migration

    Brooks Emerick

    College of Liberal Arts & Sciences | Mathematics

    Safal Raut Chhetri

    Major: Mathematics

    Overview: Extensive work has been done on analyzing host-parasitoid interactions using discrete-time models, the most notable of which is the Nicholson-Bailey model. Recent work on host-parasitoid modeling incorporates a continuous feature in the traditional discrete-time system. A set of differential equations is used to capture the dynamics during which the two species interact, allowing specific host and parasitoid characteristics to be included and analyzed. We use this semi-discrete approach to study the effects of parasitoid migration between two sites, both of which contain a proportion of the entire host population. We find that in the simplest case, when the migration and parasitism rates are constant, a stability region exists. This suggests that parasitoid migration to and from host sites has a stabilizing effect that depends on the distribution of the host population among each site at the beginning of the vulnerable period. The stability of the system is characterized by relatively lopsided migration rates in the sense that parasitoids will likely not revisit a patch previously parasitized. In this work, we present analytic and numerical results that describe the region in parameter space in which coexistence among the two species is possible.  This parameter space is characterized by two factors: the number of viable larvae per adult host and the fraction of host larvae present at the initial location each year.

  • Transcribing Recipes and Project-Based Learning in Secondary Education and College Classrooms

    Jennifer Forsyth

    College of Liberal Arts & Sciences | English

    Lauren Verna

    Major: Secondary Education / German


    Overview: My research goal was to work with an undergraduate student, Lauren Verna, to prepare transcriptions of a large number of recipes involving garden flowers from manuscript recipe books available in academic libraries’ digitized images that had not yet been transcribed to better understand how authors such as William Shakespeare were using floral references in more complex ways than they are currently recognized. In order to accomplish this, Lauren and I worked to identify appropriate texts with a variety of floral references, transcribe the very difficult-to-read Renaissance handwriting, and prepare preliminary analyses of the results. We located numerous valuable texts at the Welcome Library in London, and Lauren prepared transcriptions for over 100 recipes. This form of crowdsourcing using trained scholars is becoming increasingly recognized as a valuable form of scholarship, and employing project-based learning both motivates and empowers young scholars.


    Following our initial work with transcription, Lauren worked with Dr. Patricia Pytleski, whose area of specialization is pedagogy in the secondary education classroom, to research best practices in the use of project-based learning and preparing instructional materials for teaching transcription. These materials would be useful in either college or high school classrooms.


    The value of our work is already being recognized; the editors of a well-known academic blog relating to Renaissance recipes have invited Lauren and me to write posts about our experiences and results for publication.

  • The Cost of Antibiotic Resistance and Its Effect on T7 Bacteriophage

    Richard Heineman

    College of Liberal Arts & Sciences | Biological Sciences

    Christine Holland

    Major: Biology / Pre-Med & Health

    Anneliesse Braden

    Major: Biology / Pre-Med & Health


    Overview: Christine Holland's Project (Nalidixic Acid): Antibiotics, widely used to prevent bacterial infections, are becoming less reliable over time as bacteria evolve to resist their effects. This resistance can involve a variety of mutations, which may differ in their effect on both resistance and the growth rate of the cell when no antibiotics are present. Bacteriophages, viruses that infect bacteria, can be used to treat bacteria, an approach known as phage therapy. As phage therapy typically involves antibiotic-resistant bacteria that can be treated no other way, understanding how phages reproduce in resistant cells may be clinically important. In the presence of antibiotics, T7 preferentially kills antibiotic-resistant cells, which suggests that phage therapy combined with antibiotic usage could interact favorably.


    Anneliesse Braden's Project (Adaptation on a Plaque): Bacteriophages, viruses that infect bacteria, may be useful to treating bacterial infections. However, they have mainly been studied in liquid culture, an environment that mixes cells and bacteria and allows viruses to infect any bacteria in the culture. In nature, these viruses may more often be found in spatial structure, in conditions that allow phages to infect only cells that are close to the previous site of infection. These conditions can be replicated on a Petri dish. We adapted phage populations to grow on a Petri dish overnight over many generations and observed the phenotypic and genotypic results. The evolved phages dispersed farther on a Petri dish, and one replicate adaptation appears to have evolved to take more time to kill its host.

  • Role of BIR2 Domain in the Ability of the DIAPI Protein to Inhibit Apoptosis Caspases

    Matthew Junker

    College of Liberal Arts & Sciences | Physical Sciences

    Brett Graver

    Major: Biochemistry


    Overview: Apoptosis (programmed cell death) occurs in all animals as a way to safely eliminate unneeded or potentially harmful cells. Apoptosis dysfunction can lead to cancer and neurodegenerative diseases. Apoptosis requires the activity of caspases, protein enzymes inside cells. These caspases are kept inhibited (“turned off”) in living cells by an inhibitor of apoptosis proteins (IAPs). The IAP‐caspase interaction is a key regulatory point of apoptosis. The biochemical mechanism by which IAPs inhibit caspases was investigated using proteins from Drosophila (fruit fly) that were expressed in and purified from E. coli. Quantitative measurements comparing different fragments of a Drosophila IAP showed that each of two distinct BIR (baculovirus IAP repeat) domains in the IAP contributed equally to the IAP’s ability to inhibit a caspase. Having both domains present in the same IAP fragment resulted in enhanced inhibition, revealing an additive effect. Recombinant DNA methods were used to modify the N‐terminus of a Drosophila caspase in two different ways to further dissect the physical interactions between the caspase and IAP. Both modified caspases retained their catalytic function and are now being tested for alterations in their inhibition by the IAP.

  • Community Needs Assessment

    Ahyoung Lee and Juliana Svistova

    College of Liberal Arts & Sciences | Social Work

    Caleb Baukman

    Major: Social Work


    Overview: The purpose of this study was to conduct a community needs assessment for nonprofit social service agencies – Friend, Inc. and Kutztown Strong – serving Kutztown, Fleetwood, and Brandywine school districts. Specifically, this study aimed to investigate the unmet needs of the community members in terms of health services, mental health services, job trainings, transportation, elderly services, education, financial barriers, and their knowledge of services available through these organizations. This project was initiated through the community-university partnership. The study employed an online and in-person survey methodology. A survey questionnaire was developed and pilot-tested. Community-wide comprehensive recruitment was conducted through, but not limited to, the school districts, social service agencies, trailer parks, and senior living facilities. The project employed one junior social work student who was eager to learn about community needs assessment and strengthen their research skills. Study results will be shared with the social service agencies and expected to be used as a way to evaluate current services and develop future programs.

  • Redistricting and Third Party Emergence in the U.S. House Elections

    Steve B. Lem

    College of Liberal Arts & Sciences | Political Science & Public Administration

    Laura Graziano

    Major: Geography


    Overview: Third-party candidacies are an enigma in U.S. Congressional elections given the low likelihood of electoral success. Despite these odds, they continually challenge the major party duopoly. This project examines how decennial Congressional redistricting and apportionment incentivizes third-party candidates by increasing the uncertainty of electoral outcomes for the major parties. Specifically, district boundaries determine the diversity of political interests that the successful candidate must represent in Congress. As such, a small number of candidates is unlikely to satisfy the interests of a heterogeneous electorate, which leads to the hypothesis that diverse districts should produce more third-party candidates.


    To analyze the relationship between these elements, the project requires a quantitative measure of district heterogeneity. The Sullivan Index (1973), initially constructed as a state-level indicator of diversity, calculates the proportion of characteristics that differ if a pair of individuals are randomly drawn from the population. The index is calculated from data for six social, economic, and religious variables that are, in part, drawn from the Association of Religious Data Archives. Calculating the Sullivan Index for Congressional Districts is particularly challenging since the raw data are collected at the U.S. county level and many Congressional districts cross county lines. As a result, estimates of religious affiliation must be calculated by disaggregating the county-level data into sub-county units and then re-aggregating those units into their respective Congressional districts.


    Since this aspect of the project relies heavily on geographic deconstruction and reconstruction, Ms. Graziano, a geography major, served as the research assistant on the project. Given her coursework in Introduction to Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Advanced Geographic Information Systems, she provided an invaluable skillset that is not common to students or scholars in political science. Ms. Graziano completed her 2018 Summer BEARS experience working with U.S. Census data and Congressional district maps in KU’s state-of-the-art GIS labs.

  • Developing a Novel Polymer Based Laboratory for Incorporation into the Organic Chemistry Sequence

    Lauren Levine

    College of Liberal Arts & Sciences | Physical Sciences

    Jenna Kanyak

    Major: Chemistry / Secondary Education Chemistry


    Overview: The field of organic chemistry is constantly evolving. In order to keep our curriculum current, new laboratories need to be continually implemented into the program. Our work this summer developed innovative laboratories that combine contemporary topics dealing with polymer synthesis as well as analysis for incorporation into the Organic Chemistry laboratory curriculum.  Polymers were chosen based on the clarity of synthetic procedures, variety of techniques used, and the novelty of inclusion into the undergraduate laboratory curriculum. 

  • Reconstructing Work and Life at Stoddartsville, a 19th Century Milling Village in Northeast Pennsylvania

    Khori Newlander

    College of Liberal Arts & Sciences | Anthropology & Sociology

    Haley Grebousky

    Major: Anthropology


    Overview: Over the last 200 years, the United States has transformed from a mostly rural and agricultural society into a largely urban and industrial society. Historical studies of this period of dramatic socioeconomic transformation commonly focus on the lives of famous people. This project, in contrast, seeks to tell the stories of the “invisible” men and women who lived and worked at Stoddartsville, a 19th-century milling village built along the upper Lehigh River. During the summer of 2018, Haley Grebousky worked with me to analyze artifacts recovered during the last three seasons of archaeological fieldwork at Stoddartsville, focusing especially on glass bottles. Our analysis of these artifacts provides insight into the role of socioeconomic status and ethnicity in structuring work and life at Stoddartsville as well as the connections established between Stoddartsville and the surrounding area as the villagers participated in the burgeoning regional economy.

  • Developing a Novel Polymer Based Laboratory for Incorporation into the Organic Chemistry Sequence

    Julie A. Palkendo

    College of Liberal Arts & Sciences | Physical Sciences

    Megan O’Neill

    Major: Biochemistry


    Overview: Pharmaceuticals and their metabolites in recent years have become labeled as “newly-emerging contaminants” in drinking water by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). A likely source of contaminants is believed to be from treated wastewater, which flows back into watersheds that downstream communities may use as drinking water sources. Current wastewater treatment plants are very capable of removing pathogens, inorganics, and solid materials; however, little is known about if and how a treatment plant’s design impacts the removal of drugs and their metabolites. Most studies in this arena have focused their results on estimating the amount of drug use in a given community’s population. In this study, the focus to date has been to develop the analytical method. Analytes in wastewater effluent were concentrated using solid phase extraction (SPE), and an LC-MS/MS method was created to quantify over 30 drugs and drug metabolites. In order to assess the method, a sample of wastewater effluent was spiked with a standard pharmaceutical mix, amphetamine (AMP), methamphetamine (MAMP), and 11-nor-9-Carboxy-Δ9-THC (nor-THC). All compounds except acetaminophen, ciprofloxacin, and nor-THC were detected. Additionally, unspiked drugs of methadone, codeine, oxycodone, oxymorphone, and hydrocodone were easily detected in the wastewater sample. The SPE technique will be modified further to recover all target compounds, and the LC-MS/MS method is being refined to better elucidate and quantify drug isomers.

  • Kutztown University: The Game!

    Thiep Pham

    College of Liberal Arts & Sciences | Computer Science & Information Technology

    Braden Luancing

    Major: Computer Science / Software Development


    Overview: “Kutztown University: The Game!” (2018) aims to provide the video gaming generation an isometric 3D tour of a partial map of the North Campus and the Old Main lobby of Kutztown University. The point-and-click demo simulates how prospective students and incoming freshmen could have an opportunity to virtually explore the campus and interactively engage with non-player characters (computer AI).


    This KU BEARS project was set out to explore how gamification can be applicable for marketing a virtual 3D tour of the campus. Gamification, applying video gaming’s competition and reward system to real life, has been used in a variety of ways, such as weight loss and learning a foreign language. It provides an economical and enjoyable approach to learning. The project also provides an opportunity for computer science and art students to engage in a collaborative learning environment to design and implement the functional product.

  • Performance Characteristics of Photo-Voltaic Cells Subjected to Temperature Gradients Over Time

    Paul V. Quinn

    College of Liberal Arts & Sciences | Physical Sciences

    Carlos Sosa

    Major: Physics


    Overview: The use of solar cells has continued to increase exponentially since their early incorporation into the space program. The overall worldwide capacity of photo-voltaic systems reached just under 305 gigawatts in 2016. While promising green technology on earth to help reduce the consumption of fossil fuels, the extraction of solar energy from photo-voltaic cells in space-based applications is a necessity. Both terrestrial and space-based applications subject solar cells to large temperature variations. On earth, only a small portion of the electromagnetic energy from the sun, mostly in the visible spectrum, is used in the generation of electricity while the remainder is absorbed only as heat. In space-based applications, the lack of atmosphere exposes the solar cells to extreme thermal variations on a regular basis.


    Previously, students investigated the performance characteristics of mono-crystalline, silicon, photovoltaic cells subjected to a high and low-temperature thermal shock as compared to baseline measurements of the unaltered cells. In this study, we will investigate the real-time performance characteristics of mono-crystalline, silicon, photovoltaic cells subjected to gradients between high and low temperatures. This will allow us to monitor changes in the performance characteristics of the cell while the temperature is changing. In particular, we will be examining effects to the open-circuit voltage, Voc, and the fill-fraction as a function of temperature.


    Results showed that cooling the cells with liquid nitrogen for significant amounts of time permanently improved the performance of the cells at low temperatures. The Voc of the photovoltaic cells increased when the cell was cooled at low temperatures for long periods of time. This led to an improved performance of the photovoltaic cells when tested at low temperatures. This improvement is a low-temperature effect that is not noticeable at room temperature but is significant for the use of solar cells at low temperatures, particularly in space, where temperatures can be as low as 4 K.

  • Organized Labor and External Threats in the Age of Social Media

    Glenn W. Richardson Jr.

    College of Liberal Arts & Sciences | Political Science & Public Administration

    Uttam Paudel

    Major: Political Science


    Overview:  This research project explored communication on Twitter about and by organized labor unions. Data was collected over several months, involving tweets mentioning the word “unions,” as well as nearly two dozen collections of Twitter messages mentioning specific unions or labor-related topics. Additional data was compiled to explore the networks of communication on Twitter about unions with an eye toward identifying the role of a union in communication about that union, as well as illuminating the Twitter users who were most influential in and central to these communication networks.

  • Family and Before Gender: A History of Matrilineages in Central and Eastern Africa

    Christine Saidi

    College of Liberal Arts & Sciences | History

    Elizabeth Tumbleson

    Major: Women & Gender Studies - Self-Designed Program


    Overview: The research student worked on the linguistic and ethnographic data I had secured in Tanzania and Zambia this summer. The project was part of a three-year National Endowment for the Humanities Grant entitled, “Expressions and Transformations of Gender, Family, and Status in Eastern and Central Africa, 500-1800 CE.” The central research for this project involved examinations of pre-colonial histories in Eastern and Central Africa and the intersections of three vital humanities topics: 1) gender (social concepts of female, male, masculinity, and femininity); 2) family (extended in matri/patrilineage); and 3) status (power, authority, prestige, and privilege). This research into pre-colonial histories of gender, family, and status is significant because it can inform understandings and approaches to issues concerning the role of gender in modern Africa.


    This research has required several historical methodologies including oral traditions, archeology, comparative ethnographies and historical linguistics. The linguistic data collected for this research has been placed in a massive database on Google Sheets, which includes over 2000 word translations for each of the 80 Bantu languages. The student researcher added words recently gathered in the field and from dictionaries. She also read recent field notes as well as ethnographic studies (published and unpublished) on these same 80 Bantu-speaking peoples and summarized them. The student became very excited about the data on female initiation and she is producing an article and presentation for a gender conference on this subject.

  • Recombinant Production of Engineered Cytochrome c-based Heme/Metal-Binding Proteins

    Carsten Sanders

    College of Liberal Arts & Sciences | Physical Sciences

    Elaine Munoz

    Major: Biochemistry

    Victoria L. Salazar

    Major: Chemistry


    Overview: Project #1 - Recombinant Production of Engineered Cytochrome c-based Heme/Metal-Binding Proteins


    In this project, plasmid vectors have been designed that contain a gene fragment encoding an amino-terminal part of the heme-containing protein cytochrome c from the baker’s yeast. This gene fragment on the designed plasmid vectors is used for genetic fusion with DNA encoding eight different metal-binding heptapeptides. When produced, the engineered proteins would have two incorporated cofactors, a metal and a covalently attached heme. While the metals (such as iron, copper or zinc) are expected to interact with the corresponding high-affinity peptides within the engineered proteins in vivo or in vitro in the absence of specific biological catalysts, for the covalent attachment of heme to the used amino-terminal cytochrome c fragment, specific cytochrome c biogenesis systems are required. Upon construction of the genes encoding the aforementioned dual heme/metal-binding proteins, these proteins will be expressed with appropriate cytochrome c biogenesis components in a bacterial (Escherichia coli) host, purified via affinity chromatography using an added tag to the proteins (Strep-tag), and analyzed using several biochemical or biophysical techniques such as denaturing polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis, heme protein staining, UV/Vis spectrometry, and others.


    Project #2 - Characterization of Cytochrome c Heme Lyase (CCHL) Mutants involved in Binding and Ligation of Heme and Apocytochrome c


    In fungi, metazoans, and some protozoa, the enzyme cytochrome c heme lyase (CCHL), which is also known as holocytochrome c synthase (HCCS), catalyzes the thioether bond formation of heme b molecules to cytochrome c protein precursors (also called apocytochromes c) to produce functional cytochromes (also called holocytochromes) c. Functional cytochrome c is a mitochondrial protein, which has a key role in electron transport processes as well as in apoptosis (programmed cell death). In humans, certain mutations in CCHL are associated with the disease microphthalmia with linear skin defects (MLS). Despite its association with a human disease, little is known about the molecular mechanisms of substrate (heme b and apoctochrome c) binding and ligation. Here, we used site-directed mutagenesis to generate mutations within two highly conserved regions of CCHL and expressed these mutants together with apocytochrome c in an Escherichia coli host. Our data suggest that H128, H193, C135, W136, V139 are essential for either the binding of heme b or apocytochrome c to CCHL, or the ligation process of both substrates by CCHL, while residues M124, V125, Q126, V127, N129, F130, L131, N132 and L140 are not. However, in some mutants (N129C, L131C, N132C and L140H), the content of functional cytochrome c is significantly reduced, indicating that the affected amino acids are mechanistically involved in at least one CCHL-dependent step of substrate binding and/or ligation.

  • Temperature Dependent Performance Characteristics of Photo-voltaic Cells from 77 K – 300 K

    Justin L. Smoyer

    College of Liberal Arts & Sciences | Physical Sciences

    Andrew Venzie

    Major: Physics


    Overview: The use of solar cells has continued to increase at a nearly exponential rate since their early incorporation into the space program. The overall worldwide capacity of photo-voltaic systems reached just under 230 gigawatts in 2015. While a promising green technology to help reduce the consumption of fossil fuels, the extraction of solar energy from photo-voltaic cells is limited in its efficiency. In this study, to better understand the underlying physics of solar cell performance, and performance of the cell over its lifetime, the performance characteristics of silicon photo-voltaic cells was studied at temperatures ranging from 77-300 K. The results of this study have shown a modification to the solar cell performance metrics with prolonged exposure to low temperature. When designing solar energy systems, this information will help to predict the performance of solar cells over the lifetime of the cell, rather than relying solely on performance characteristics of the pristine cell and provide an avenue to increase the efficiency of already produced solar cells.

  • Annual and Seasonal Variation in the Body Condition Index of the Diamond-Back Terrapin

    Matthew D. Stone

    College of Liberal Arts & Sciences | Biological Sciences

    Noah Hish

    Major: Environmental Science / Biology

    Angeline Digiugno

    Major: Environmental Science / Biology


    Overview: Diamondback terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin) populations face a variety of direct and indirect anthropogenic threats throughout their range. One concern is the potential effects of climate change on terrapin habitat quality and physiology; another concern is related to the impacts of mesocarnivore (e.g. raccoon) abundance on the nesting success. The goal of this study was two-fold: to investigate the effects of various environmental factors on the reproductive biology of terrapins and to determine the impact of nest predators on terrapin nesting success. During summer 2018, we monitored terrapin nesting activity at Wallops Island, VA. Specifically, we compared environmental data (e.g. cloud cover) to breeding behaviors and blood osmolarity. We also compared the distribution of mesocarnivore activity along the causeway to Wallops Island to determine where carnivore activity is the highest. This research provides important baseline data that will be useful in predicting the future impacts that climate change and nest predators will have on terrapin populations in the region. These are essential data for conservationists to make effective decisions for management of this species.

  • Behavioral Responses of Red-Winged Blackbirds to Experimental Cowbird Parasitism

    Todd J. Underwood

    College of Liberal Arts & Sciences | Biological Sciences

    Justin Reel

    Major: Biology


    Overview: Brown-headed Cowbirds are obligate brood parasites that lay their eggs in the nests of other bird species and force these host birds to raise cowbird offspring. Because raising cowbird young is costly to hosts, some hosts have evolved defenses against parasitism, such as rejecting the cowbird egg by removing it from the nest, burying a cowbird egg under a new nest, or deserting the nest. Despite the benefits of rejection behavior, only about 10% of cowbird hosts have been documented rejecting cowbird eggs. In this study, we examined whether the lack of observed parasitism on Red-winged Blackbirds in eastern North America compared to central and western North America is due to rejection of cowbird eggs or due to cowbirds avoiding laying their eggs in blackbird nests. We found that Red-winged Blackbirds accepted the majority of experimentally added model cowbird eggs. Thus, rejection behavior does not explain the lack of cowbird parasitism on eastern Red-winged Blackbirds. However, the Blackbird's response to parasitism differed significantly by stage of the nesting cycle with egg rejection higher during the nest-building stage than other nest stages. In addition, we found relatively low frequencies of cowbird parasitism on other songbird host species in northern Berks County, PA. We suggest that the lack of parasitism on Red-winged Blackbirds in eastern North America compared to other areas is due to a combination of factors that include: a lower density of cowbirds here, aggressive nest defense by blackbirds, and the preference by cowbirds to use other hosts.

  • Christina Rossetti’s Environmental Consciousness

    Todd Williams

    College of Liberal Arts & Sciences | English

    Kaitlyn Kerr

    Major: English Education


    Overview: The book in progress, Christina Rossetti’s Environmental Consciousness, takes a cognitive ecocritical approach to Rossetti’s writing as it developed throughout her career. It provides a unique understanding of Rossetti’s identity as an artist through a cognitive model while also engaging significantly with her spiritual relationship to the non-human world. The project treats Rossetti as a deliberate and conscious creator who used writing to simulate and evaluate possible selves. Rossetti used her writing for therapeutic purposes to create, maintain, verify, and, at times, revise her identity. Her understanding of her autobiographical self and her place in the world often comes through observations and poetic treatments of the non-human. Rossetti, her speakers, and her characters seek spiritual knowledge in the natural world and share this knowledge with an audience. In nature, she finds evidence for and guidance from a loving God who offers salvation. Rossetti’s workplaces a high value on nature from a Christian perspective that puts conservation over renunciation. Thus, this book displays new potential for Rossetti’s writings in the face of twenty-first-century environmental issues as her work could serve to shape more ethical attitudes toward the environment from a religious perspective.

  • Addressing the Opportunity Gap through Teacher Preparation: Teaching as Performance and Teacher With-It-Ness

    Mark Wolfmeyer

    College of Education | Secondary Education

    Anna Nissley

    Major: English


    Overview: The purpose of this research is to question the concept of teaching as performance, building new frameworks and methods off of, and in response to, former conceptions. We’ve all heard the metaphor that teachers are performers, as in the example of secondary education teachers offering “five shows a day, five days a week.” What is truly meant by this comparison, and does it benefit teacher development? The teaching as performance metaphor has been explored for decades and by innumerable scholars (e.g. Rubin, 1985), but only in recent years has it been the subject of more precise criticism. Falter (2015) suggests that analysis of teaching as performance through the lens of poststructural feminism complicates the metaphor for teachers. Thus, this teacher education research project poses the central questions: How effective is the teacher as performer metaphor in preparing teacher candidates for the diverse settings in which they will work? How can this concept be reformed ­­through considering what a teacher should look like, whose script they should follow, how to address broader socio­political contexts that affect the field of education, and how to ­­develop culturally-responsive pedagogies relevant to the identities of teachers and students? While the metaphor has its uses in higher education programs, it must be questioned before being applied to teacher education. This research addresses the question of how to find frameworks for preparing future teachers that are culturally relevant and promote awareness of teachers’ own personas within the classroom setting.

  • Color-Shifting Glaze Development and Experimentation with Ceramic Raw Materials

    Gwendolyn Yoppolo

    College of Visual and Performing Arts | Art Education & Crafts

    Emily Reichelderfer

    Major: Art Education & Crafts


    Overview: When the color of an object shifts dramatically as it moves from one lighting source to another, we feel the limitations of human perception and the restrictions of using language to describe what we perceive. The Lanthanide family of elements, when used as colorants in ceramic glazes, provide a range of color-shifting, as well as fluorescent properties due to the nature of how they absorb and reflect light waves.  


    Our research explored these effects by testing those elements in various base glazes, including shiny, matte, satin, and crystalline. From there, we chose certain base glazes to work with using some more advanced glaze blending techniques, such as line, triaxial, quadraxial, and multiaxial blends, a new test devised by the researcher. We produced a range of glazes that shift in color: from peach to chartreuse; from sky blue to lavender; from slate blue to pink purple; from yellow to pink. We also developed the following fluorescent colored glazes: neon orange, neon red, neon yellow, lavender, and mustard yellow. These glazes glow when exposed to UV light or a blacklight.


    Ceramic art produced by these glazes can stretch the boundaries of human perception, opening our minds to our limitations and questioning our usual mode of understanding the world. When a piece of pottery challenges us in this way, a deeper level of meaningful interaction is engaged. Can a shift in our understanding occur to parallel the shifting of color? As the coming year unfolds, the researcher will exhibit artwork in various contexts to explore those possibilities. 

  • Characterization of Perfect Matching Transitive Graphs and Non-Perfect Matching Transitive Graphs

    Ju Zhou

    College of Liberal Arts & Sciences | Mathematics

    Alexander Miller

    Major: Mathematics

    Angelo Vardaxis

    Major: Mathematics


    Overview: Graph G is perfect matching transitive if for any two perfect matching M and N of G, there exists an automorphism f such that f(M)=N. In this project, we first proved or disproved some special graphs are perfect matching transitive. Then we worked on general conjectures and obtained preliminary results.