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Assessment of the Vertical Stratification of Microbial Community Structure in Permafrost Peatlands

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Peatlands are a type of wetlands where the rate of accumulation of organic matter exceed the rate of decomposition and have accumulated more than 30 cm of peat (Joosten and Clark, 2002). Peatlands store approximately 30% of all terrestrial carbon

Peatlands are a type of wetlands where the rate of accumulation of organic matter exceed the rate of decomposition and have accumulated more than 30 cm of peat (Joosten and Clark, 2002). Peatlands store approximately 30% of all terrestrial carbon as recalcitrant peat, partially decomposed plant and microbial biomass, while simultaneously producing almost 40% of the globally emitted methane (Schmidt et al., 2016), making peatlands an important component of the carbon budgets. Published research indicates that the efficiency of carbon usage among microbial communities can determine the soil-carbon response to rising temperatures (Allison et al. 2010). By determining carbon consumption in peatland soils, total community respiration response, and community structure change with additions, models of carbon use efficiency in permafrost peatlands will be well-informed and have a better understanding of how the peatlands will respond to, and utilize, increased availability of carbon compounds due to the melting permafrost. To do this, we will sequence Lutose deep core samples to observe baseline microbial community structure at different depths and different age-gradients, construct substrate incubations of glucose and propionate and observe community respiration response via a gas chromatography flame ionization detector, track the glucose and propionate additions with high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), and sequence the samples once more to determine if there was a deviation from the initial community structure obtained prior to the incubations. We found that our initial sequencing data was supported by previous work (Lin et al., 2014), however we were unable to sequence samples post-incubation due to time constraints. In this sequencing analysis we found that the strongest variable that made samples biologically similar was the age-gradient site in which they were extracted. We found that the group with glucose additions produced the most carbon dioxide compared with the other treatments, but was not the treatment that dominated the production of methane. Finally, in the HPLC samples that were analyzed, we found that glucose is likely forming the most by-product accumulation from mass balance calculations, while propionate is likely forming the least. Future experimentation should focus on the shortcomings of this experiment. Further analysis of 16S rRNA sequencing data from after the incubations should be analyzed to determine the change in microbial community structure throughout the experiment. Furthermore, HPLC analysis for the several samples need to be done and followed up with mass balance to determine where the added glucose and propionate are being allocated within the soil. Once these pieces of the puzzle are put into place, our original question of how the microbial community structure changes at different depths and age-gradients within permafrost peatlands will be conclusively answered.

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2018-05

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Examining sound and urban-desert differences in the acoustic properties of Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottus) calls as it relates to species survival

Description

Human activity produces ambient noise that potentially alters species’ abilities to communicate with each other—among other impacts. Given that birds are known to be sensitive to structural changes in habitat and highly communicative through sound, it is beneficial to

Human activity produces ambient noise that potentially alters species’ abilities to communicate with each other—among other impacts. Given that birds are known to be sensitive to structural changes in habitat and highly communicative through sound, it is beneficial to understand how changing acoustic ecologies and ambient noise impact birds’ ability to communicate in their respective environments. In this study, mockingbird calls from an urban, desert, and intermediate study site were recorded and analyzed for differences in acoustic properties. Acoustic properties such as frequency and amplitude differed significantly across sites as it was determined that mockingbirds in urban areas increase both the peak frequency and amplitude of their calls in order to communicate. This study identifies what these changes in acoustic properties mean in relation to the survival and conservation of birds and concludes with recommendations for novel research.

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2019-05

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Plant contributions to the nitrogen budget of a constructed treatment wetland in Phoenix, AZ

Description

Constructed treatment wetlands (CTW) are being increasingly utilized in urbanized areas as a cost-effective and environmentally-friendly method for treating wastewater. CTWs can be especially useful for urban areas in aridland environments because they facilitate the reuse of water during

Constructed treatment wetlands (CTW) are being increasingly utilized in urbanized areas as a cost-effective and environmentally-friendly method for treating wastewater. CTWs can be especially useful for urban areas in aridland environments because they facilitate the reuse of water during water shortages. In my study, I determined the rates at which the aboveground and belowground emergent macrophytes sequestered nitrogen in a 42 ha aridland CTW in Phoenix, Arizona, USA. To do so, I measured foliar nitrogen content in aboveground and belowground biomass of three plant species groups (Typha latifolia + Typha domingensis, Schoenoplectus acutus + Schoenoplectus tabernaemontani, and Schoenoplectus californicus). Using these data, I calculated aboveground and belowground nitrogen budgets for the three species groups annually from 2011 to 2018.

Aboveground nitrogen content showed a maximum in 2011, decreasing until 2015, increasing again until 2017, and dropping in 2018; belowground nitrogen content showed the opposite temporal trend. Because foliar nitrogen content was assumed to be relatively constant over time, my data suggested that belowground nitrogen content increased between 2011 and 2015 and decreased between 2015 and 2017. Aboveground nitrogen content underwent fluctuations due to fluctuations in aboveground biomass. This occurred due to ‘thatching’, or events of widespread toppling of large macrophyte stands. The ratio of aboveground to belowground biomass can vary widely in the same CTW. My findings suggested that managing senesced aboveground plant material in CTWs may optimize the CTW’s ability to sequester nitrogen. Further research is needed to determine the best management strategies, as well as its possible implications.

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2019-05

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Somatosensory Modulation during Speech Planning

Description

Previous studies have found that the detection of near-threshold stimuli is decreased immediately before movement and throughout movement production. This has been suggested to occur through the use of the internal forward model processing an efferent copy of the motor

Previous studies have found that the detection of near-threshold stimuli is decreased immediately before movement and throughout movement production. This has been suggested to occur through the use of the internal forward model processing an efferent copy of the motor command and creating a prediction that is used to cancel out the resulting sensory feedback. Currently, there are no published accounts of the perception of tactile signals for motor tasks and contexts related to the lips during both speech planning and production. In this study, we measured the responsiveness of the somatosensory system during speech planning using light electrical stimulation below the lower lip by comparing perception during mixed speaking and silent reading conditions. Participants were asked to judge whether a constant near-threshold electrical stimulation (subject-specific intensity, 85% detected at rest) was present during different time points relative to an initial visual cue. In the speaking condition, participants overtly produced target words shown on a computer monitor. In the reading condition, participants read the same target words silently to themselves without any movement or sound. We found that detection of the stimulus was attenuated during speaking conditions while remaining at a constant level close to the perceptual threshold throughout the silent reading condition. Perceptual modulation was most intense during speech production and showed some attenuation just prior to speech production during the planning period of speech. This demonstrates that there is a significant decrease in the responsiveness of the somatosensory system during speech production as well as milliseconds before speech is even produced which has implications for speech disorders such as stuttering and schizophrenia with pronounced deficits in the somatosensory system.

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2019-05

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A Supporting Model for Teaching Fundamental Ecological Principles to Third Through Fifth Grade Students

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In today's world, critical thinking and using a systems approach to problem solving are skills that are far too rare. In the age of information, the truth has become muddled by "fake news" and a constant barrage of exaggerations or

In today's world, critical thinking and using a systems approach to problem solving are skills that are far too rare. In the age of information, the truth has become muddled by "fake news" and a constant barrage of exaggerations or blatant falsehoods. Without critical thinking skills, "many members of our society do not command the scientific literacy necessary to address important societal issues and concerns" (NCES 2012, p.11). Additionally, far too many people are incapable of thinking long term and understanding how their actions affect others. Because of this shortsightedness our world is facing one of its biggest ecological crises \u2014 global warming confounded by overpopulation and overconsumption. Now, more than ever, it is critical "for our young people to have a basic understanding of the relevant scientific ideas, technologies and ethical issues and powers of reasoning, to be prepared to face these issues" (Harlen et al., 2015). I believe that investigating innovative ways to teach ecology could be an important step to accomplishing this. Learning to think like a scientist forces people to rely on facts, follow similar protocols to deduce these facts, and be able to think critically about misleading events. More specifically, ecology education will allow people to develop those skills while also learning about team work, open-mindedness, and their environment. Ecology is defined as "the branch of biology that deals with the relations of organisms to one another and to their physical surroundings" (Dictionary.com, 2018). It is clear that this subcategory of science could act as a powerful introduction to the scientific world and how we relate to it. Its introduction at a young age has the potential to create a generation of conscientious and curious lifelong learners. In an attempt to support effective ways to teach ecology, I developed an educational unit and applied it in different educational contexts. My target audience was elementary aged students and I tested this unit with children in Phoenix Metropolitan Area afterschool programs. I taught core concepts of ecology \u2014 the water cycle, the sun's energy, plants and photosynthesis, and food webs \u2014in a sequence of lesson plans that build upon each other. Finally, I determined the appropriate age group and setting for these lesson plans through research and in-class observations. In this document, I explain the process I went through in developing my lesson plans, why I felt compelled to make them, and my experiences in implementing them.

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2018-05

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THE INFLUENCE OF SURFACE ROCK COVER ON WATER AND NUTRIENT AVAILABILITY FOR WINTER ANNUAL PLANTS IN THE SONORAN DESERT

Description

Water is the main driver of net primary productivity (NPP) in arid ecosystems, followed by nitrogen and phosphorous. Precipitation is the primary factor in determining water availability to plants, but other factors such as surface rocks could also have an

Water is the main driver of net primary productivity (NPP) in arid ecosystems, followed by nitrogen and phosphorous. Precipitation is the primary factor in determining water availability to plants, but other factors such as surface rocks could also have an impact. Surface rocks may positively affect water availability by preventing evaporation from soil, but at higher densities, surface rocks may also have a negative impact on water availability by limiting water infiltration or light availability. However, the direct relationship between rock cover and aboveground net primary productivity (ANPP), a proxy for NPP, is not well understood. In this research we explore the relationship between rock cover, ANPP, and soil nutrient availability. We conducted a rock cover survey on long-term fertilized plots at fifteen sites in the Sonoran Desert and used 4 years of data from annual plant biomass surveys to determine the relationship between peak plant biomass and surface rock cover. We performed factorial ANCOVA to assess the relationship among annual plant biomass, surface rocks, precipitation, and fertilization treatment. Overall we found that precipitation, nutrients, and rock cover influence growth of Sonoran Desert annual plants. Rock cover had an overall negative relationship with annual plant biomass, but did not show a consistent pattern of significance over four years of study and with varying average winter precipitation.

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2015-05

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Early Assessment of Phage Communities in Amazon Peatland Soils

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Little is known about the diversity and role of bacteriophages in carbon (C) rich ecosystems such as peatlands in tropical and temperate regions. In fact, there is no currently published assessment of phage abundance on diversity in a key tropical

Little is known about the diversity and role of bacteriophages in carbon (C) rich ecosystems such as peatlands in tropical and temperate regions. In fact, there is no currently published assessment of phage abundance on diversity in a key tropical ecosystem such as Amazon peatlands. To better understand phage assemblages in terrestrial ecosystems and how bacteriophages influence organic C cycling to final products like CO2 and CH4, phage communities and phage-like particles were recovered, quantified, and viable phage particles were enriched from pore water from contrasting Amazon peatlands. Here we present the first results on assessing Amazon bacteriophages on native heterotrophic bacteria. Several steps to test for methodological suitability were taken. First, the efficiency of iron flocculation method was determined using fluorescent microscopy counts of phage TLS, a TolC-specific and LPS-specific bacteriophage, and Escherichia coli host pre- and post-extraction method. One-hundred percent efficiency and 0.15% infectivity was evidenced. Infectivity effects were determined by calculating plaque forming units pre and post extraction method. After testing these methods, fieldwork in the Amazon peatlands ensued, where phages were enriched from pore water samples. Phages were extracted and concentrated by in tandem filtering rounds to remove organic matter and bacteria, and then iron flocculation to bind the phages and allow for precipitation onto a filter. Phage concentrates were then used for overall counts, with fluorescent microscopy, as well as phage isolation attempts. Phage isolations were performed by first testing for lysis of host cells in liquid media using OD600 absorbance of cultures with and without phage concentrate as well as attempts with the cross-streaking methods. Forty-five heterotrophic bacterial isolates obtained from the same Amazon peatland were challenged with phage concentrates. Once a putative host was found, steps were taken to further propagate and isolate the phage. Several putative phages were enriched from Amazon peatland pore water and require further characterization. TEM imaging was taken of two phages isolated from two plaques. Genomes of selected phages will be sequenced for identification. These results provide the groundwork for further characterizing the role bacteriophage play in C cycling and greenhouse gas production from Amazon peatland soils.

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2016-05

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Response of Daphnia feeding rate to food C:P ratio: a test for the ""stoichiometric knife edge"" mechanism

Description

It is well known that deficiencies in key chemical elements (such as phosphorus, P) can reduce animal growth; however, recent empirical data have shown that high levels of dietary nutrients can also reduce animal growth. In ecological stoichiometry, this phenomenon

It is well known that deficiencies in key chemical elements (such as phosphorus, P) can reduce animal growth; however, recent empirical data have shown that high levels of dietary nutrients can also reduce animal growth. In ecological stoichiometry, this phenomenon is known as the "stoichiometric knife edge," but its underlying mechanisms are not well-known. Previous work has suggested that the crustacean zooplankter Daphnia reduces its feeding rates on phosphorus-rich food, causing low growth due to insufficient C (energy) intake. To test for this mechanism, feeding rates of Daphnia magna on algae (Scenedesmus acutus) differing in C:P ratio (P content) were determined. Overall, there was a significant difference among all treatments for feeding rate (p < 0.05) with generally higher feeding rates on P-rich algae. These data indicate that both high and low food C:P ratio do affect Daphnia feeding rate but are in contradiction with previous work that showed that P-rich food led to strong reductions in feeding rate. Additional experiments are needed to gain further insights.

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2014-05

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Red Flames in the Red Rocks: Managing Fire for the Ecological Whole

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This paper explores the relationship between wildfire management and the consideration of ecological and environmental concerns in Arizona. To get a proper perspective on the current state of wildfire management in Arizona, information on two wildfire management programs, the Four

This paper explores the relationship between wildfire management and the consideration of ecological and environmental concerns in Arizona. To get a proper perspective on the current state of wildfire management in Arizona, information on two wildfire management programs, the Four Forests Restoration Initiative and FireScape, was researched and analyzed, as well as contemporary fire policy, a history of wildfire in Arizona, and two recent fires in Sedona, AZ. The two fires in Sedona, the Brins Fire of 2006 and the Slide Fire of 2014, act as a focal point for this ecological management transition, as even within an 8-year period, we can see the different ways the two fires were managed and the transition to a greater ecological importance in management strategies. These all came together to give a full spectrum for the factors that have led to more ecologically-prominent wildfire management strategies in Arizona.

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2015-05

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Secondary Production of Terrestrial Macroinvertebrates Along a Gradient of Streamflow Permanence

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Ephemeral and intermittent streams are valuable sources of surface water support in the arid ecosystems of the Southwestern United States. These streams account for over 80% of the streams in the American Southwest and their importance has been indicated in

Ephemeral and intermittent streams are valuable sources of surface water support in the arid ecosystems of the Southwestern United States. These streams account for over 80% of the streams in the American Southwest and their importance has been indicated in many studies. Ephemeral and intermittent streams support a wide range of plant and animal species in both continuous and episodic fashions. This study aimed to gain a better understanding of the relationship between streamflow permanence and patterns of biomass and secondary production of the riparian fauna these ecosystems support. This was accomplished through a yearlong survey in the Huachuca Mountains of Southeastern, Arizona where macroinvertebrates were collected at various sites along a gradient of streamflow permanence before, during, and after the three month monsoon season that supplies most of the annual rainfall in this region. The results of my surveys indicate that 1) Sites characterized by low streamflow permanence were more responsive to changes in precipitation than sites characterized by relatively high streamflow permanence 2) In ephemeral streams, there is a significant peak in terrestrial macroinvertebrate production and biomass both during and after the monsoon season 3) streamflow permanence may convey consistent but not exceptional secondary production whereas seasonality in rainfall may convey exceptional but episodic secondary production—more so in sites where streamflow is not consistent.

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2014-05