A scientific education drawn exclusively from textbooks is incomplete. At Susquehanna, biology majors take part in the advancement of new scientific knowledge, working with faculty on cutting-edge projects with real-world relevance. This experiential learning requirement prepares graduates for success in careers and graduate school.
Following are brief overviews of recent research projects involving student participation.
River, creek and acid mine drainage studies
Projects include studies of the impact of acid mine drainage on local creeks and the Susquehanna River, and the health and heterogeneity of creek environments. Because several projects are supported in part by the Susquehanna River Heartland Coalition for Environmental Studies, Susquehanna students may work with peers from neighboring colleges and universities, including Bucknell, Bloomsburg, Lock Haven, Kings and Lycoming.
Research on ecology, living and fossil vertebrates, and evolution
Students examine the diet ecology of central Pennsylvania owls, minks, foxes and coyotes; identify fossil materials from local caves; and monitor amphibians, reptiles and small mammals at two natural areas near Susquehanna’s campus.
Examination of temperate tree species
Students explore the role extrafloral nectarines—structures that produce nectar outside of a flower—may play in protecting two species of cherry trees from herbivores.
Sea urchin embryonic development
Students focus on characterizing gene sequences that have been identified in urchins in order to learn more about their role in development. Lab techniques include embryo culture and a number of molecularly based approaches such as RNA isolation, cloning and sequencing.
Nerve impulses and nerve development
This research focuses on the interactions that take place between Schwann cells, the extracellular matrix and peripheral nerve axons. Schwann cells are best known for wrapping layers of myelin around peripheral nerve axons, which facilitate more rapid conduction of nerve impulses. This project involves collaboration with scientists at the Weis Center for Research at the nationally recognized Geisinger Clinic, in Danville, Pa.
Behavioral ecology of wolf spiders
Students examine the behavior of wolf spiders to enhance broader understanding of the survival and reproductive consequences of decisions that animals make. In particular, the research focuses on how the spiders’ silk draglines are used as a source of information related to predator-prey interactions and sexual communication.
Students use sea urchin embryos to examine problems related to human embryo development and the drug thalidomide, which was used in the 1960s to control morning sickness, resulting in birth defects. Although removed from the marketplace in the early 1960s, thalidomide is again being used, under a different name, to treat leprosy.
Control of egg production in Drosophila
Students investigate environmentally sensitive means of controlling insect reproduction in Drosophila melanogaster (fruitflies), with a broader goal of applying knowledge gained to control disease-carrying insect populations.
Examination of ecological phenomenon at the Centralia Mine Fire site
Students use techniques such as DNA cloning and DNA sequencing to understand the effects that coal-mine impacted environments have on resident bacterial communities, and to identify new bacterial species that thrive in coal mining environments. Students also identify new antibiotic-producing bacteria in hot soils above the Centralia Mine Fire, with the goal of producing antibiotics that will not only be effective against currently resistant strains of bacteria, but that will also be active at elevated temperatures and thus be more shelf-stable than current antibiotics.