Biology Students Present Research Findings at Murdock Science Conference

By Rachel Wood

Nine Walla Walla University undergraduate biology students presented their research findings last November at the Murdock College Science Research (MCSR) Conference in Vancouver, Wash.

“Calling Doctor Cucumber: association of sea cucumbers with a reduction in tropical coral diseases,” a poster presentation by Leah Dann and Carly Leggitt, senior biology majors, summarized their research conducted in the Philippines, which examined sea cucumbers and coral reef health.

“It was so much fun to attend the conference and was so exciting to talk about research that I worked hard on and am passionate about,” says Dann.

The students were assisted in their research and accompanied at the conference by Jim Nestler, professor of biology; Kirt Onthank, assistant professor of biology; and Janice McKenzie, associate professor of biology.

Nestler says that one of the most enjoyable things about attending the conference was “seeing all of the incredibly interesting research that undergraduate students from a variety of colleges and universities are involved in.”

Christopher Lindsey, senior biology major, presented a poster titled “AprA effects on Dictyostelium pseudopods.” His research determined that the chemorepellant protein AprA dispersed Dictyostelium colonies in low food conditions. Previous research by Lindsey specifically looked at pseudopod and filopod formation—key “fake feet” used by Dictyostelium cells to migrate away from AprA.

“The enthusiasm of presenters at the conference was quite contagious,” says Lindsey. “Attending the conference gave me the ability to meet some passionate people and talk science with them.”

Lydia Kore, senior biochemistry major, gave an oral presentation on the effect ocean acidification could have on octopus physiology. “We found that at a lower pH the octopuses experienced an increase in their critical oxygen pressure, so would not be able to handle lower oxygen levels as well,” says Kore.

She says the conference showed her how valuable research is and how so much of what we know comes from people who have devoted their lives to conducting research.

Poster presentations by WWU students at the conference


•"Changes in critical oxygen pressure in Octopus rubescens in response to ocean acidification," by Lydia Kore, Kirt Onthank


• "Don't poo where you eat: location of Pearsonothuria graeffei egesta in a tropical coral reef environment," by Liesl Cole, Leah Dann, Carly Leggitt, Jim Nestler


• "Calling Doctor Cucumber: association between sea cucumbers and reduction of tropical coral disease," by Leah Dann, Carly Leggitt, Jim Nestler


• "Quieting the Kraken: ocean acidification effects on Octopus rubescens growth, feeding, and respiration," by Taylir Schrock, Lydia Kore, Kirt Onthank


• "The role of LmcA at the growth-to-development transition," by Daniel Gross, David Lindsey


• "AprA effects on Dictyostelium pseudopods," by Christopher Lindsey, Richard Gomer


• "A dynamical model of alanine dipeptide," by Rebekah Hawkins, Roy Campbell


• "Categorization of cusp crossing structures at the magnetopause," by Summer Thresher, Karlheinz Trattner