Read the latest news from the Biology Department in our periodic newsletter, HOT out of the Autoclave! Find alumni stories, ongoing projects and other exciting departmental news.
Restoring Our Local Watershed through Research, Education and Restoration
Congratulations to Gail Heffner (Community Engagement), Dave Warners (Biology), Mike Ryskamp (Plaster Creek Stewards), and the grants office (especially Beth Dykstra) on their grant from the MI Department of Environmental Quality for over $1.1 million for Plaster Creek Watershed Restoration. This two-year grant will begin in March 2015 and involve significant research opportunities for students, educational outreach to diverse community audiences, and three large on-the-ground restoration projects located throughout the watershed. One particularly exciting aspect of this grant is a neighborhood restoration focus in the Alger Heights neighborhood in partnership with Alger Park CRC: two demonstration rain gardens will be installed at the church, and 20 residential rain gardens will be installed in the neighborhood to help capture storm water, reducing erosion and bacterial contamination to Plaster Creek.
Professor John Wertz is one of five recipients receiving a National Science Foundation grant, which is for five years and in total is $1,997,046 ($479,794 of which is coming to John) is done in collaboration with individuals at George Washington University (Scott Powell), Drexel University (Jacob Russell), and the Field Museum (Corrie Moreau). It is a “Dimensions” of biology grant, which seeks to integrate individuals from different fields of biology at different institutions to answer big scientific questions. The title of the grant is “Dimensions: Identifying how the ecological and evolutionary interactions between host and symbiont shape holobiont biodiversity.”
As John explains, "In a nutshell, we propose to utilize the turtle ants (genus Cephalotes) to study how symbiotic gut bacteria shape, and are shaped by, the diversification of animals. The turtle ants are a cool group to use to do this, since they are one of the few ant genera that have a diverse and heritable community of symbiotic microbes in their guts. Further, the turtle ants themselves are diverse, encompassing 117 different species, and are found in diverse environments and have different feeding habits. Hence, by doing some state-of-the-art genomics, metagenomics and microbial functional assays, we can tease apart how the microbial component of the system has shaped the diversification of turtle ants, as well as how the diversification of turtle ants has shaped the microbial component."
Effects of Human Noise on Songbirds
Calvin College biology professor Darren Proppe and a team of Calvin students spent the summer investigating the effects of human noise on songbirds.
Earth Day Proclamation
Mayor George Heartwell issued a special Earth Day Proclamation at a recent City Commission meeting and recognized in particular Calvin College for its leadership and work in the area of sustainability and creation care. Gail Heffner, Dave Warners, and Owen Selles (a graduating senior) received the Proclamation on behalf of Calvin. After receiving the proclamation Gail voiced appreciation for this recognition and Mayor Heartwell's commitment to sustainability, affirming the work Grand Rapids is doing and expressing our gratitude for the many community partners with whom Calvin has been able to work on many important sustainability initiatives. Congratulations to the Calvin community for this recognition!
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