Learn more about the faculty research happening in the Luther College Biology Department:
Dr. Larsen leads the entomology research laboratory at Luther College. The mission of the entomology research laboratory at Luther College is to provide students meaningful research experiences in insect ecology and opportunities to explore entomology as a subdiscipline of biology, while contributing to our knowledge of and the conservation of insect diversity in northeast Iowa.
The laboratory’s overall research question is: How does habitat and habitat management affect insect biodiversity in northeast Iowa native ecosystems? It has two goals:
- To document insect diversity in northeast Iowa through surveys of selected taxa in native habitats and maintaining a research insect collection.
- To communicate our research findings with the broader entomological and scientific community through presentations at scientific meetings, publications in primary research journals, and reports to conservation agencies.
Contact Dr. Larsen if you would like to participate in this research.
My research examines how ecological factors influence evolutionary processes in plants, particularly the origin of new plant species. I examine adaptation and speciation in plants using a range of approaches and tools, including field experiments, molecular techniques, and computer simulations.
Dissertation: Ecological factors affecting tetraploid speciation in snow buttercups (Ranunculus adoneus: Ranunculaceae)
My doctoral dissertation examined barriers to tetraploid (= 4 sets of chromosomes) speciation in snow buttercups (Ranunculus adoneus) in the Colorado Rockies. I found strong spatial segregation of the diploid (=2 sets) and tetraploid snow buttercups (see figure 1), but no evidence for ecological differentiation. Strong reproductive exclusion operates to maintain spatial isolation. Stochastic models suggest that limited seed and pollen dispersal can lead to local tetraploid majorities which greatly reduce the barriers to their persistence and establishment.
Postdoctoral Work: Sunflower domestication, crop-wild gene flow, and genome evolution
My postdoctoral work with Dr. Loren Rieseberg at Indiana University and the University of British Columbia focused on barriers to gene flow between crop and wild sunflowers (Helianthus annuus). Populations of wild sunflowers adjacent to the crop retain their distinct morphology despite ongoing hybridization, which suggests that strong selection removes crop alleles. Field experiments in Indiana and Nebraska found that although the traits under selection differed, the loci under selection were the same in the two environments. One allele from the crop was favored at one locus, while an allele from the wild was favored at a second locus.
Research at Luther College
My research at Luther College continues to explore plant adaptation and speciation. I have begun selecting on large seed size in wild sunflowers in an effort to re-domesticate the sunflower from its wild relatives. Early selection likely favored larger seeds, yet the crop differs in many traits besides seed size. Will re-domestication result in the same suite of traits? Work on crop-wild hybrids continues, with the most recent grant focusing on patterns of introgression in long-term hybrid zones.
In addition, I am working with students to examine patterns of drug resistance in E. coli and Staph found in the springs and streams of NE Iowa.
Students work with me as assistants on sunflower research, as part of the team examining drug resistant bacteria, or on their own projects, which have included incidence of Lyme disease in ticks, the effects of endophytic fungi on plant growth, and ploidy variation in Iowa prairie grasses.
Recent Student Research Collaborators
|Isabel Ayala, Abby Mark||Genome size estimates for perennial sunflowers. Independent project.|
|Kayla Ingvalson, Luke VonEschen, Joel Denny, Max Eness||Multi-drug resistant bacteria in springs and streams in NE Iowa. HHMI funded research.|
|Sheri Schwert||Connections between sinkholes and springs in NE Iowa. Funded by the McElroy Foundation and the Iowa Ground Water Association.|
|Ellen Behrens||Co-infection of deer ticks (Ixodes scapularis) by three pathogenic parasites: Borrelia burgdorferi, Anaplasma phagocytophyllum, and Babesia microtii. HHMI funded research.|
|Kimberly Howell||Diversity of fungal endophytes in Indian Grass Sorghastrum nutans) and effects on growth. Dean’s office collaborative research.|
|Anna Gudjonsdottir, Matthew Rosene, Rebekah Schulz||Frequency of multi-drug resistant bacteria in NE Iowa streams. Independent project.|
|Molly Tulkki||Research assistant on ‘A multigenerational assessment of the fate and impact of crop gene introgression into wild sunflower’ (Grant from USDA)|
|Chelsea Weiss||Multi-drug resistant bacteria and efflux pumps. Independent project.|
|Katrina Freund||Isolation and Characterization of Endophytic Fungi from Prairie Plants. Honors project.|
|Rachel Albert||Effect of ovulation on female behavior and male perceptions. Honors project.|
|Paul Atkins||Effect of chloroplast genotype on hybridization. Dean’s office collaborative research.|
|Maria Carr||Evolutionary response of native plants to allelopathic invaders. Honors project.|
|Kristin Manges||Epidemiological analysis of medical outcomes related to the historic 2008 flood in Winneshiek County, Iowa. Honors project.|
|John Delaney||Chromosome number variation in Iowa grasses. Dean’s office/Grow Iowa Values Fund.|
|Adam Ragheb||Evolutionary response of native plants to allelopathic invaders. Iowa Science Foundation.|
My research focuses around the control of blood pressure and mechanisms that contribute to the development of hypertension (high blood pressure). My longstanding interest in hypertension has been on how the central nervous system contributes to the elevation in blood pressure, with a particular focus on how dietary salt can exacerbate the degree of hypertension in many individuals.
My research has examined a number of areas related to this topic, including how the brain detects sodium ingestion and the synergistic relationship between the hormone angiotensin and dietary sodium.
My newer research has moved from a neural focus to a vascular one. My most recent research has examined the role of vascular 20-hydroxyeicosatetraenoic acid (20-HETE) in high blood pressure. 20-HETE is derived from the metabolism of arachidonic acid by the enzyme cytochrome P450, which results in formation of multiple metabolites.
While many of these metabolites appear to exert an action on vascular smooth muscle, 20-HETE demonstrates the strongest effect, causing constriction of the blood vessels that reduces flow to that region and leads to an increase in blood pressure.
20-HETE is also of great interest as cytochrome P450 levels are overexpressed in the Spontaneously Hypertensive rat (SHR), which is a commonly used hypertensive rat, causing an increase in 20-HETE formation and potential increase in vascular constriction.
While the majority of research has focused on renal 20-HETE on altering blood vessels in the kidney, other studies have demonstrated elevated 20-HETE in additional vasculatures (e.g., the liver and gut, cerebral circulation and in skeletal muscle). Thus, 20-HETE may exert a more widespread systemic vascular action in SHR.
Students in my laboratory have utilized state-of-the-art technologies, including chronic telemetric monitoring of heart rate and blood pressure as well as laser Doppler flowtometry, to examine the effect of inhibiting cytochrome P450 activity (and corresponding reduction in 20-HETE levels) on changes in blood pressure, water balance, and regional blood flow.
Gender Differences in Hypertension
Other areas I have explored include gender differences in hypertension—females display a greatly reduced risk of hypertension until the onset of menopause—and diabetes, as hypertension occurs in the vast majority of diabetic individuals and increases diabetic-related damage to internal organs.
My studies have largely been funded by external grants from the National Institutes of Health and the American Heart Association, and the research technologies have been acquired through a National Science Foundation grant.
All of my research incorporates undergraduate students who are interested in exploring physiological research, either as a potential career, as preparation for professional school, or simply have an interest in trying it out. Students participate in all aspects of my research, including surgical preparations and data collection and analysis, and students have presented this research at the local level as well as at regional and national meetings.
Additionally, students learn state-of-the-art technologies, such as telemetric recording, Doppler flow probe monitoring and vascular reactivity studies, which are techniques usually not available at the undergraduate level. I am always looking for students who express an interest in working in my laboratory.
Current Research Interests
Water Quality Research
Water quality and availability is of major importance locally, in the State of Iowa, and the world. We have been performing water quality research in a local watershed that is impaired for bacteria, specifically the Dry Run Creek Watershed. This 20,000-acre watershed drains into a common stream that enters the City of Decorah and subsequently empties in the Upper Iowa River. We have surveyed over 10 sites in the Dry Run Creek Watershed for multiple years, with the goal of identifying sites that are more prominent contributors of pollution. We assess a variety of field parameters, including temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, conductivity (a measure of the number of charged molecules), and turbidity (a measure of water cloudiness). We also measure chemical and biological parameters, including nitrate, ammonia, total phosphorus, total nitrogen, chloride, E. coli (indicator of fecal pollution), and benthic macroinvertebrates (the ‘critters’ that dwell at the bottom of a stream). An urban water quality project in the City of Decorah examines many of these same parameters. Water quality data are evaluated in the context of associated land use, and research results are shared with area landowners and City officials in order to provide information for decision-making and implementation of practices to improve water quality. We also present this research at regional and national conferences, including the annual Iowa Water Conference.
Electron microscopy image of Vibrio parahaemolyticus cells. Photo by Robert Fitton and research student Michele Jaeger.
Investigating how bacteria sense and respond to their environment
Microbes play tremendously important roles in the natural world, serving as major contributors to the base of the food chain and for recycling nutrients for all life. Understanding how bacteria both sense and respond to their environment is essential to understanding how they perform their important roles. Vibrio parahaemolyticus is a gram negative bacterium that can be found universally in ocean and estuarine waters. This organism is also a major human pathogen in areas of the world where raw seafood is consumed. Our current research seeks to understand how this organism senses and responds to various metals in the environment, including calcium, magnesium, and iron. We have uncovered a variety of bacterial cell processes, behaviors, and gene activities that respond to varying levels of these metals. Ultimately, we hope to use this information to better understand how this bacterium functions in marine, estuarine, and human host environments.
R. Manges, K. Bies, K. Mahachi and J. Enos-Berlage. 2015. The effect of a calR mutation on Vibrio parahaemolyticus gene expression under varying calcium and iron conditions. National Conference on Undergraduate Research, Eastern Washington University, Cheney, WA.
Bies, Kelsey. 2014. Yeasty Beasties: How are Microorganisms Affected by their Environment? Iowa Council of Teachers of Mathematics-Iowa Science Teaching Section of the Iowa Academy of Science Conference. Ames, IA. (mentored this education major student for HHMI Trio program)
Bohr, L., J. Wittman, C. Dembsky, S. Zook, T. Nelson, and J. Enos-Berlage. 2014. Investigating water quality in the Dry Run Creek Watershed over seasons with varying precipitation. Iowa Water Conference, Ames IA.
Wittman, Jacob, and Jodi Enos-Berlage. 2013. Expanding opportunities and responsibilities in water resource education. Iowa Water Conference, Ames IA. Presentation awarded 1st place in Poster Competition.
Swanson, L., M. Thompson, E. Voelschow, L. Hieb, M. Cannon, A. Villard, J. Allen, A. Roos, L. McCarter, and J. Enos-Berlage. 2012. Calcium-regulated Gene Expression in Vibrio parahaemolyticus. Abstracts of the American Society for Microbiology General Meeting, San Francisco, CA. Abstract awarded ASM Student Travel Grant based on quality and significance of research.
Enos-Berlage, J. 2012. Involving Microbiology Students in a Watershed Project: Reconnecting Students with the Land. Abstracts of the American Society for Microbiology General Meeting, San Francisco, CA.
Wittman, J., A. Weckwerth, and J. Enos-Berlage. 2012. Exploring the Dry Run Creek Watershed: Molecules, Microbes, and Macroinvertebrates. Luther College Biology Colloquium Series, Decorah, IA. (Presentation also performed at the Luther College Annual Student Spring Research Symposium)
Voelschow, E., M. Thompson, L. Swanson, L. Hieb, M. Cannon, A. Villard, and J. Enos-Berlage. 2012. Investigating the Effects of Calcium and Iron on Gene Regulation in Vibrio parahaemolyticus. 25th National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR), Ogden, UT. (Also presented at the Luther College Annual Student Spring Research Symposium)
Weckwerth, A., J. Wittman, S. Heyer, C. Weiss, J. Seibert, L. Seigley, C. Ingels, K. Larsen, and J. Enos-Berlage. 2012. Exploring the Dry Run Creek Watershed: Molecules, Microbes, and Macroinvertebrates. Iowa Water Conference, Ames IA. Presentation awarded 1st place in Poster Competition.
Weckwerth, A., J. Wittman, and J. L. Enos-Berlage. 2011. Investigating water quality in the Dry Run Creek Watershed. Biannual meeting of the Dry Run Creek Watershed Improvement Association, Decorah, IA.
Cannon, M. E., L. Hieb, and J.L. Enos-Berlage. 2011. Calcium controls gene activity in the bacterium Vibrio parahaemolyticus. Luther College Annual Student Research Symposium, Decorah, IA.
Siebert, J., C. Weiss, M. Cannon, L. Hieb, S. Heyer, K. Larsen, L. Seigley, and J.L. Enos-Berlage. 2011. Investigating water quality in the Dry Run Creek watershed. Luther College Annual Student Research Symposium, Decorah, IA.
Nelson, H. and J. L. Enos-Berlage. 2011. Characterization of mutants defective in calcium-regulated genes in Vibrio parahaemolyticus. R. J. McElroy Student/Faculty Research Symposium, Wartburg College, IA.
Schwan, W. R., R. Fitton, and J. L. Enos-Berlage. 2010. Loss of Surface Structures makes Uropathogenic Escherichia coli less Prone to Phagocytosis by Monocytes. American Society for Microbiology General Meeting, San Diego, CA
Voelschow, E. and J.L. Enos-Berlage. 2010. Investigating the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster for use as a model host for Vibrio parahaemolyticus pathogenesis. Midstates Consortium for Math and Science Undergraduate Research Symposium in the Biological Sciences and Psychology, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Nelson, H. and J. L. Enos-Berlage. 2010. Phenotypic characterization of mutants exhibiting altered calcium regulation in Vibrio parahaemolyticus. 24th National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR), University of Montana, Missoula, MT
Villard, A. C., L.L. McCarter, and J.L. Enos-Berlage. 2009. Investigating calcium-regulated gene expression in Vibrio parahaemolyticus. American Society for Microbiology North Central Branch Annual Meeting, La Crosse, WI. Presentation awarded 2nd place in Undergraduate Student Oral Competition.
Nelson, H. and J. L. Enos-Berlage. 2009. Phenotypic characterization of mutants exhibiting altered calcium regulation in Vibrio parahaemolyticus. American Society for Microbiology North Central Branch Annual Meeting, La Crosse, WI
Villard, A. C., L.L. McCarter, and J.L. Enos-Berlage. 2009. Investigating calcium-regulated gene expression in Vibrio parahaemolyticus. University of Iowa FUTURE in Biomedicine Research Symposium, Iowa City, IA
Marquardt, M., and J. L. Enos-Berlage. 2008. The effects of calcium on Vibrio parahaemolyticus secreted proteins. 22nd National Conference on Undergraduate Research, Salisbury University, Salisbury, Md.
Blackmore, J., and J. L. Enos-Berlage. 2008. Identification of Genes Involved in the Regulation of a Type III Secretion System in Vibrio parahaemolyticus. Luther College Senior Honors Convocation, Luther College, Decorah, IA
Holland, A. and J. L. Enos-Berlage. 2008. Mutagenesis and subsequent analysis of genes affecting calcium regulation in Vibrio parahaemolyticus. Luther College Senior Honors Convocation, Luther College, Decorah, IA
Lambrecht, J. A. and J. L. Enos-Berlage. 2007. Identification of Genes Involved in Calcium Regulation in Vibrio parahaemolyticus. Abstracts of the American Society for Microbiology General Meeting. Toronto, Canada
Marquardt, M. and J. L. Enos-Berlage. 2007. Colonial Cell Organization of Vibrio parahaemolyticus Under Varying Calcium Conditions in Wild Type and Mutant Strains. Abstracts of the R. J. McElroy Research Symposium. Wartburg College, IA.
Pontasch, H. and J. L. Enos-Berlage. 2006. Examination of the Effect of Calcium on Biofilm Development and Protein Expression in Vibrio parahaemolyticus. Abstracts of the National Council on Undergraduate Research General Meeting.
Lambrecht, J. A. and J. L. Enos-Berlage. 2006. Identification of Vibrio parahaemolyticus Genes Involved in Calcium Sensing and Response. Luther College Biology Colloquium Series. Decorah, IA.
A.P. Roos, J. R. Allen and J. L. Enos-Berlage. 2004. Identification of Calcium-Regulated Genes in Vibrio parahaemolyticus. American Society for Microbiology Regional Meeting-North Central Branch, Madison, WI.
Kelley, N. and J. L. Enos-Berlage. 2004. Investigating Vibrio parahaemolyticus Capsular Polysaccharide Levels in Response to Calcium. PEW Midstates Science and Mathematics Consortia Undergraduate Symposium, Chicago, IL.
Allen, J. R. and J. L. Enos-Berlage. 2004. Isolation and Characterization of Vibrio parahaemolyticus Mutants Defective in Calcium-Regulated Genes. American Society for Microbiology General Meeting, New Orleans, LA
Larson, J. M. and J. L. Enos-Berlage. 2004. Using Transmission Electron Microscopy to Investigate the Effect of Calcium on Vibrio parahaemolyticus. Howard Hughes Medical Institute Symposium for Undergraduate Research in Biology and Chemistry, Grinnel College, Grinnel, IA
Keenan, C. E., Christopherson, M. R., and J. L. Enos-Berlage. 2003. Initial characterization of a calcium-regulated gene in V. parahaemolyticus and isolation of mutants displaying altered regulation at this locus. American Society for Microbiology General Meeting, Washington, DC
Christopherson, M. R., Keenan, C. E., and J. L. Enos-Berlage. 2003. Investigation of Calcium-dependent regulation of gene expression in Vibrio parahaemolyticus. American Society for Microbiology General Meeting, Washington, DC
Christopherson, M. R., C. E. Keenan, and J. L. Enos-Berlage. 2003. Investigation of the role of calcium in bacteria. McElroy Student Research Symposium, Wartburg College, Waverly, IA
Enos-Berlage, J. L. 2003. Using primary literature to enhance learning in undergraduate microbiology courses. American Society for Microbiology General Meeting, Washington, DC
Keenan, C. Christopherson, M., and J. L. Enos-Berlage. 2002. Examination of opaque and translucent biofilms of Vibrio parahaemolyticus. American Society for Microbiology Regional Meeting—North Central Branch. Minneapolis, MN.
Jaeger, M. and J. L. Enos-Berlage. 2002. Investigation of the morphology of opaque and translucent phenotypes of Vibrio parahaemolyticus. PEW Undergraduate Science Research Symposium. Chicago, IL.
Christopherson, M., Keenan, C., and J. L. Enos-Berlage. 2002. Differential protein expression in response to calcium in Vibrio parahaemolyticus. PEW Undergraduate Science Research Symposium. Chicago, IL.
Howe, B. and J.L. Enos-Berlage. 2002. Investigating the effects of calcium on colony morphology in the marine bacterium Vibrio parahaemolyticus using electron microscopy. R.J. McElroy Student/Faculty Research Symposium. Wartburg College, Waverly, IA.
Keenan, C., Christopherson, M., and J.L. Enos-Berlage. 2002. Isolation and characterization of mutants having altered calcium regulation in Vibrio parahaemolyticus. Howard Hughes Medical Institute Symposium. Grinnell College, Grinnell, IA.
Sime, J. and J.L. Enos-Berlage. 2001. Investigating the role of calcium in bacterial physiology using Salmonella typhimurium as a model system. Undergraduate Research Symposium. St. Mary’s University, Winona, MN.
Enos-Berlage, J. L. and D. M. Downs. 1996. Mutations in sdh, encoding succinate dehydrogenase, alter the role of pantothenate in thiamine synthesis in Salmonella typhimurium. Abstracts of the General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology, K157, p. 562
Enos-Berlage, J. L. and D. M. Downs. 1994. apbB, a new genetic locus which affects the alternative pyrimidine biosynthetic pathway in Salmonella typhimurium. Abstracts of the General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology, K44, p. 283
My research is focused on understanding common features of neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disease. Despite the large number of unique conditions that affect the nervous system, several abnormalities are shared by multiple developmental and degenerative conditions. I am specifically interested in two key cellular functions:
- Regulation of iron. Iron is an important co-factor for many enzymes involved in energy production, RNA synthesis, oxygen regulation, and oxidative stress. Too little or too much iron can damage cells, particularly in the nervous system.
- Insulin signaling pathway activity. Insulin signaling is one important way that all cells respond to their environment to regulate survival, growth, and plasticity in neurons which is important for learning and memory. Abnormal pathway activity can lead to cell death, cancer, altered structure, and neuronal dysfunction.
C. elegans is a great model system for asking questions about why iron and insulin signaling are so important for a healthy nervous system. C. elegans are tiny (~1mm long) worms found in the soil. While they don’t have brains, these worms do have a well-characterized nervous system with most of the same neurotransmitters and receptors as humans. They were the first multi-cellular organism to have a sequenced genome, and there are several mutant strains available including models of diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and ALS, and strains with altered insulin signaling and iron regulation. Students in my lab learn to raise C. elegans and perform genetic, biochemical, and behavioral experiments aimed at better understanding how iron and insulin signaling interact within a healthy and diseased nervous system.
Plant Communities of Northeast Iowa
The Palezoic Plateau of northeastern Iowa is a place of surprising biodiversity. The rugged hillsides were difficult to clear for farming, so they still support hardwood forests, goat prairies, and rare cliff habitats. Cold water seeps create small wetlands, home to several rare plant species. Students interested in spending a summer at Luther can find plenty of opportunities for plant ecology research projects.
Savannah Wilson (‘19) studied the flora of Finch Memorial Hardwoods, part of the Driftless Area National Wildlife Preserve.
Anna Burke (’15) studied forest seeps in Winneshiek County. She completed vascular plant surveys, water quality, testing, and searched for rare Baltimore checkerspot butterflies which use a rare wetland plant for their reproduction. Her work was funded by a grant from the Iowa Science Foundation. The results of her work appear in our paper published in the Journal of the Iowa Academy of Science.
Brian Kurtz (’15) worked on the documenting the rich plant diversity of Malanaphy Springs State Preserve. He collected hundreds of vascular plant specimens for accession into the Luther College Herbarium, and initiated the first ever inventory of bryophytes (mosses and liverworts) in the preserve. His work was funded by a grant from the Iowa Science Foundation and the Dean’s Office.
Shane Steele (’12) spent the summer of 2010 conducting plant surveys in small forested wetlands in the area around Decorah for his senior project. His work was funded by a grant from the Dean’s Office.
Eric Sievers (’11) conducted research on the pattern of herbivory by the moth, Leucanthiza dircella, on leatherwood (Dirca palustris) at Twin Springs Park in Decorah. Eric also assisted with conducting plant surveys on an algific talus slope located on the Luther College campus.
Stephanie Tomscha (’07) entered data from the original Public Land Survey in Allamakee and Winneshiek counties into a database, allowing us to make maps of the mid-19th century distribution of tree species across the landscape.
Fire and Vegetation History of the Northwest Wisconsin Sand Plain
In this project we seek to better understand the interactions among climate, vegetation, and fire in the “pine barrens” of northwestern Wisconsin. We use pollen and charcoal preserved in lake sediments to reconstruct fire and vegetation history over thousands of years. Knowledge of the behavior of fire and vegetation under past climates may help establish guidelines for restoration and conservation of pine barren ecosystems.
This research has been supported by grants from the National Science Foundation and the Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research to Luther College and has been conducted in collaboration with researchers and students from the University of Minnesota and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Luther student projects
Katie Storey (’15) received a grant from the Dean’s Office to engage in a summer research project. She seeks to reconstruct early-Holocene paleoenvironments near Metzger Lake using charcoal, pollen, and fungal spores contained in lake sediments ranging from 13.000 to 6,000 years old. The results formed the basis for her senior thesis.
Madeline Kofoed (’14) received a grant from the McElroy Foundation for her project, The impact of Mid-Holocene climate on fire regimes on a sand plain in northern Wisconsin.
Shelby Eaton (’13) and Shaun O’Neill (’12) continued work on the analysis of an 8,000 year long fire history record from Metzger Lake, WI.
Jimmy Marty (’12) and Chris Nevala-Plageman (’11) presented the results of their senior thesis projects at the American Quaternary Association Biennial Meeting in Duluth, MN. The title of their presentation was Holocene climate history of northwestern Wisconsin reconstructed from lake level changes.
Jimmy Marty (’12) completed his senior research project, The plant macrofossil record of lake level changes at Cheney Lake in the northwestern Wisconsin sand plain. He presented this work at the Midstates Consortium for Math and Science Conference (Washington University, St. Louis, MO) and the St.Croix Research Rendezvous (St. Croix, MN).
This year Chris Nevala-Plagemann (’11) completed a senior honors project, A late- Holocene history of fire and drought at Cheney Lake: has local climate affected fire regimes in northwestern Wisconsin? He presented his research at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research in Ithaca, NY, and at the annual spring research symposium at Luther College. He was also accepted into the medical school at the University of Minnesota to begin his training in the fall of 2012.
Jimmy Marty (’12) joined the lab and began helping with the analysis of the Metzger Lake sediment core. During the summer he began his own research project through the Research Experiences for Undergraduates program in the Geology Department at the University of Minnesota. He presented results from this work at and the University of MN Summer Research Symposium and at the annual spring research symposium at Luther College.
Shelby Eaton (’13) continued learning the art of analyzing charcoal from lake sediments. She began the daunting work of analyzing an 8,000 year-long fire history record from Metzger Lake, WI. Shaun O’Neill (’12) also began working on this long sediment core.
My research typically focuses on plant community ecology, such as what promotes (or inhibits) coexistence of plants species in a community, plants with herbivores, and with processes such as fire and other disturbances. In the past, my research has focused on prairies, but am currently expanding this to Midwestern forests, woodlands, and savannas. I am happy to pursue research opportunities with students during the summer. Past research with Luther students includes examining the effect of fire frequency on oak woodland restoration and the effect of management on wild parsnip (Pastinaca sativa) – parsnip is particularly interesting as it is a non-native, invasive species that has toxic effects on skin when its secondary compounds come into contact with skin and sunlight. An added benefit to research is that I get to ‘geek out’ identifying new plants and playing with statistics.