Poster Session Abstracts

32nd Annual "Poster" Session - April 12th to April 22nd, 2021

Author Index

Presenting Authors (sorted by department)



Each hyperlink will direct you to the video of the research presentation 


Lateral Root Growth of Arabidopsis thaliana Mutants in Response to Hormone Treatments

Patrick Sydow and Dr. Courtney Murren
Department of Biology, College of Charleston

The plant hormone auxin directs many developmental processes including the initiation of lateral roots. Auxin-related genes have been linked with early cycle root initiation, but we know less about whole root structure architecture at maturity in annuals. A quantitative synthesis of 194 publications of Arabidopsis thaliana mutants revealed that most experimental plants are assayed on agar at 11 days old, while the plant’s life cycle is 8-10 weeks. To begin to fill this gap and to study lateral root development across the life cycle in field-like soil conditions, I conducted pilot studies growing A. thaliana auxin mutants in a soil-like medium with various auxin application methods, concentrations, and schedules.  Root phenotypes displayed increased lateral roots when auxin was added to the substrate. Results from these pilots and the quantitative literature analysis, add initial data to our understanding of auxin’s role in mature roots that will guide our further studies.


Incorporating Augmented Reality into a Child's Reading Experience

Meg Krawczyk and RoxAnn Stalvey
Department of Computer Science, College of Charleston

Many students struggle to grasp the concept of reading. Once a student is behind, it can be difficult for them to catch up because schools typically shift from learning-to-read to reading-to-learn in the 3rd and 4th grades. This research was dedicated to creating a piece of software that would help emerging readers read independently as well as help with reading comprehension and enjoyment. For this research project, I created an app to achieve these goals using augmented reality and traditional picture-to-word flashcard association. We tested this app with adults to test the app mechanics, as well as parents and teachers to get feedback on the concept. From the testing results, the app was well-received. There were minor issues with the mechanics of the app, but several participants could see their children enjoying this app.


Prefrontal cortical activity dynamics during cue-induced natural- vs drug-reward seeking

Elizaveta V. Romanova1,2, Elizabeth M. Doncheck1, Roger I. Grant1, Kelsey M. Vollmer1, Kion T. Winston1, Christopher W. Bowen1, Preston N. Siegler1, Madeline R. Hohmeister1, Ana-Clara Bobadilla3, Ivan Trujillo-Pisanty4 and James M. Otis1,5
1Neurosciences Department, Medical University of South Carolina
2Department of Biology, Program of Neuroscience, College of Charleston
3School of Pharmacy, University of Wyoming
4Langara College
5Hollings Cancer Center, Medical University of South Carolina

Presentation of environmental cues associated with rewards, such as food or drugs of abuse, can trigger cravings and initiate reward-seeking behaviors. While the mechanisms underlying cue-induced reward seeking are not fully understood, the prelimbic-prefrontal cortex (PrL-PFC) is particularly important for cue-induced cravings. Although PrL-PFC integrates the information necessary for cue-reward recall, PrL-PFC responses during cue-driven reward seeking have not been characterized. Here, we paired head-fixed reward-seeking behaviors with simultaneous in vivo PrL-PFC multiphoton microscopy. Activity patterns of thousands of PrL-PFC neurons were visualized during either Pavlovian sucrose conditioning or intravenous heroin self-administration. Preliminary analyses reveal five different PrL-PFC cell clusters displaying unique activity patterns during adaptive cue-induced reward-seeking behavior. Ongoing investigations of specific PrL-PFC cell ensembles and their activity during cue-driven reward seeking aim to determine their function and potential overlap in their contribution to natural- versus drug-reward seeking behavior.


Contributing to the Habitica Open Source Project

Collin Bauer, Dr. Jim Bowring, Isabel Lally, Chloe Harris, and Ashley Woods
Department of Computer Science, College of Charleston

Habitica is a free and open source application that aims to assist people in improving productivity by turning habits, daily tasks, and to-dos into an RPG style game. Over the course of this semester, we contributed toward the solutions to four issues from the Habitica Android GitHub. The issues were the lack of player-viewable timestamps on system messages, the lack of notifications when messaging a deleted user, an ineffective pop-up concerning challenges when users left groups, and the lack of support for tasks with sub-tasks in both the 'To-Dos' and 'Dailies' widgets. The solutions were implemented primarily in Kotlin, and sometimes Extensible Markup Language if it was necessary for a view to be altered or created. We communicated with the moderators of Habitica Android to ensure that our solutions fit their vision, and teamed up with a group from Mills College who asked to assist with the challenge pop-up issue.


Blood Fluke Egg and Granuloma Density in Spotted Seatrout Hearts by Season

Eva Patnoude, Dr. Isaure de Buron-Connors and Dr. Eric McElroy
Department of Biology, College of Charleston

The spotted seatrout, Cynoscion nebulosus, is parasitized by blood flukes, Cardicola laruei. Fluke eggs are released into the host seatrout’s bloodstream and may become trapped in the heart‘s tissues where they induce an immune reaction. Granulomas that form around the eggs can be associated with serious pathologies in the fish. Previous research indicated a higher prevalence of infection of seatrout with flukes in the summer and with granulomas in summer and fall. We predicted that granuloma and egg density in seatrout hearts would be highest in the summer months. Both were counted from the same 120 fish. Granuloma and egg density were found to be highest in fall and winter and winter, respectively. Findings did not support our hypothesis but suggest that granulomas take over a year to clear the hearts and thus may accumulate over the fish life as fish become reinfected each year.


Experiences in Open Source Contribution

Nathan Bell, Jim Bowring, Dylan Evans, Wes Ford, Thomas Marshall and Hollande Powell
Department of Computer Science, College of Charleston

Zotero is a Free and Open Source Software project designed to provide writers with the ability to quickly and easily create bibliographies and use them to cite their works. Using Github, a service designed to allow programmers to collaborate and share their work, the authors were able to find bugs and replicate them on their own Zotero builds on a Virtual Machine. The authors located, fixed, and submitted several bug fixes for issues spanning from basic visual changes to more in depth functionality problems. Through this experience, the authors were able to gain experience developing software outside of a classroom environment and learn how to work in a team on a large codebase. 


Team Heximal: Zulip Open Source Contributions

Luke McGuire, Chris Taylor, Matt Walter, Robert Niggebrugge, Rex Ferrer, Josh Gilley and Jim Bowring
Department of Computer Science, College of Charleston

Zulip is an open source group chat application featuring real-time chat and threaded conversations. Our group Heximal, which consists of the members Luke McGuire, Chris Taylor, Matt Walter, Robert Niggebrugge, Rex Ferrer, and Josh Gilley has made wide ranging contributions to the application. Our experiences with on-boarding and integrating into the Zulip community was overall a learning experience where we encountered various problems at differing stages of development that were resolved through collaboration, communication, and ingenuity.


Genome Sequences of Mycobacteriophages Awesomesauce and LastJedi

Maddie Davis and Christine Byrum 
Department of Biology, College of Charleston 

This project characterizes the genomes of two F1 bacteriophages, Awesomesauce and LastJedi, in collaboration with the Science Education Alliance-Phage Hunters Advancing Genomics and Evolutionary Science (SEA-PHAGES) program. Both bacteriophages infect Mycobacterium smegmatis mc2155, a prominent acid-fast Gram-positive soil bacterium. The Awesomesauce genome is 57,054 bp with 94 protein-coding genes and 62.9% GC content while the LastJedi genome is 55,149 bp with 94 protein-coding genes with 61.8% GC content. Both genomes displayed key structural and assembly genes on the left arm and nonstructural coding sequences on the right. Whole-genome BLASTn alignments revealed that Awesomesauce is most similar to F1 mycobacteriophages TootsiePop, Misha28, and Piper2020. Interestingly, these four genomes share a synteny block (gp49 to gp61) which is unique within the F1 cluster but is also found in the singleton LilSpotty, suggesting a common origin. LastJedi is highly homologous to F1 bacteriophages Clifton and Brocalys.


Contributing to Open Source Software

Grant Jackson, Patrick Amons, Rob Coker, Montrel Nesbitt and Dr. Bowring
Department of Computer Science, College of Charleston

This semester we contributed to the open-source project Ancient Beast. Ancient Beast is a turn-based strategy game that is played online against other players. Originally we started with a project name Blockly and we decided to switch from this because it was already fairly established and the issues were a little advanced for us. Our first contribution involved an issue where when a character was clicked its icon would “bounce” once, the creator of the project wanted it to bounce multiple times to make it more recognizable. Another we worked on the modification of a character’s description to include the range of one of their attacks. We also opened an issue to shift one of the buttons down for better visibility but it was solved before we could make a pull request. Our most recent contribution involved adding costs for several character’s abilities so that when the game attempted to load they would no longer show the energy field is undefined. While we worked at this we also improved some of the grammar in the character’s descriptions as the creator of the game is not a native English speaker.


TEAMMATES: Contributions to Free and Open Source Software 

Chloe Stapleton, Sophia Frankel, Christian Ellwood, Ethan Graham, Daniel McBane and Dr. Jim Bowring
Department of Computer Science, College of Charleston

Open Source software is a type of software that can be freely used, modified, and distributed according to the guidelines associated with its respective copyright. We contributed to an open source project called TEAMMATES -- a peer evaluation tool used by over 1600 universities and educational institutions around the globe. Collectively, we have added documentation and fixed several bugs throughout the project. These bug fixes include, but are not limited to: improving functionality by ensuring that feedback forms revert appropriately when refreshed, increasing consistency by reformatting numbers to show a uniform number of decimals, and improving usability by modifying a feature to copy questions in a more intuitive way. Through our work we have gained experience in end to end testing, following git workflow, and how to join an established project and navigate the structures and procedures that are in place.


Mission Proposal to Titan with Orbital, Aerial, and Lander Components to Investigate Planetary Dynamics and Biological Potential

Joe Tidwell1, Logan Oxener1, Jaime Wright1, Aly Nida1, Dr. Jon Hakkila1, Hannah Cunningham2, Dr. Cassandra Runyon2 and Jacob McDaniels3
1Department of Physics and Astronomy, College of Charleston
2Department of Geology and Environmental Geosciences, College of Charleston
3Department of Computer Science, College of Charleston

Titan, the largest moon of the Saturnian system, is one of the most perplexing worlds in the solar system. With dynamic surface features (including liquid methane-ethane lakes) and a stratified atmosphere, it is analogous to Earth in many respects and a prime candidate in the search for biological life. The College of Charleston's NASA design team proposes an extended mission to Titan with 3 synergistic probes: orbiter, aerial, and lander. The mission will develop a clear picture of how Titan functions as a dynamic system and determine if Titan currently or potentially supports biological life. A complete mission proposal and traceability matrix are available upon request. 


Mass Spectrometry Analysis of Prebiotic Molecules

Brison A. Shira and Dr. Jay G. Forsythe
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, College of Charleston

Sophisticated macromolecular structures such as peptides and proteins enable life to function and their evolution remains an open question in origins of life research.  Depsipeptides – polymers of α-hydroxy and α-amino acids containing ester and amide bonds – are candidates which could have bridged the evolutionary gap between an abiotic organic “soup” and bio-functional peptides and proteins.  In this study, depsipeptides were sequenced using mass spectrometry (MS) and were compared to traditional biological peptides. Though peptide fragmentation in MS is well characterized, depsipeptide analogs behave differently, despite their structural similarity.  Peptide standards were sequenced using electrospray ionization - tandem mass spectrometry (ESI-MS/MS) under various energetic conditions. Dry-down reactions of hydroxy and amino acids are being conducted to generate mixtures of depsipeptides, which are analyzed by liquid chromatography coupled to ESI-MS/MS.  More research is needed to optimize depsipeptide separation and make direct comparisons between depsipeptides and peptides.


Two-Scale Factor Universality in O2: Experiments Under Density Gradient

Seth Zoppelt1, Ana Oprisan1, Derek Morgado2, Christan Hawkins2, Gurunath Gandikota3, Denis Chatain3, Yves Garrabos4 and Daniel Beysens5
1Department of Physics and Astronomy, College of Charleston
2College of Charleston
3Université Grenoble Alpes
4Université de Bordeaux
5Sorbonne Université

In this study, we show that light transmission measurements directly on the image of a critical fluid sample under magnetic compensation of gravity as provided by a solenoid can give turbidity data with the same precision as the classical techniques using a laser beam. The novelty of this technique is noticeable as it also authorizes both a detailed observation of the sample and the local measurement. When density gradients exist, as it is often the case in space experiments, different image zones can be chosen and compared, the more turbid zone corresponding to a density closest to the critical density. It was shown that light turbidity data, a quantity due to density -induced refractive index fluctuations, could be directly obtained from image analysis. As an example, images of oxygen taken near their critical temperatures of 155K are analyzed and values of isothermal compressibility and fluctuation correlation lengths are compared with literature values.


The Effect of Cold Acclimation and Deacclimation on WRKY Knockout Lines

Gracen E. Mitrick and Matthew T. Rutter
Department of Biology, College of Charleston

The WRKY family is a group of transcription factors that play a major role in biotic and abiotic stress response in Arabidopsis. Cold acclimation is the process of plants increasing freezing tolerance in low temperatures and deacclimation is the process of losing freezing tolerance in warmer temperatures. The purpose of this investigation is to study the phenotypic effects of cold acclimation and deacclimation on WRKY knockout lines. 480 plants of 8 lines across 3 treatments were grown in growth chambers. Plants were grown in 22°C for 3-weeks, then 2 chambers were set to 4°C, and deacclimation plants were moved to the warm after 3 days. WRKY39 took longer to bolt compared to COL in both warm and deacc treatments. WRKY39 was significantly smaller than other lines in warm treatment. WRKY23 produced less good fruit than WRKY59 in both treatments. Finally, there were significant differences between all treatments with rosette diameter.


Working with Open Source Software: Sugarlabs

Patrick McCabe, Josh Hones, Cormac Conahan, Bradley Odac and Jim Bowring
Department of Computer Science, College of Charleston

Free Open Source Software (FOSS) and Humanitarian Free Open Source Software (H/FOSS) have been a steady trend in the last ten years. For our capstone project, our group worked with git and a Python project, Sugarlabs, to contribute to their H/FOSS project. Sugarlabs is an activity based, open source learning platform for children in underdeveloped areas of the world. They were key in the deployment of the “One Laptop per Child” initiative that was started in the early 2000s. We focused on the Music Blocks activity from Sugarlabs, which is a music creation application that is built similarly to the Scratch programming language with music blocks that can be built into musical output. Our group focused on the examples folder and the need for a README document to describe all the examples that have been made for Musicblocks.


Alternative N-termini Splicing of the B52 Protein in Apis mellifera (Western honeybee) Flight Muscles During the Nurse to Forager Transition

Matthew Magee and Dr. Agnes Southgate
Department of Biology, College of Charleston

Alternative splicing enables cells to produce multiple related proteins (isoforms) from a single pre-mRNA. We propose that in female Western honeybees (Apis mellifera), alternative splicing helps regulate the polyethism event of transitioning from nurses to foragers by allowing the synthesis of muscle proteins better adapted to flight activity. During this transition, nurses develop thicker flight muscles and increased aerobic metabolism among other metabolic, neural, and behavioral changes. RNA extraction methods and qPCR analyses were used to investigate differences in isoform levels during this transition for one splicing factor, B52. The preliminary results of the analyses show that there are fairly constant levels of total B52 mRNA across samples, but there are also some differences in isoform expression across nurses and foragers. However, further research is necessary to determine if these differences are statistically significant.


Simulating Tilted Black Hole Accretion Disk and Their Effects on Astrophysical Jets

Tri Nguyen and Chris Fragile
Department of Physics and Astronomy, College of Charleston

This is an update on our efforts to simulate precession of tilted accretion disks in orbit about a rotating black hole. The main motivation for this research is to assess what impact a precessing disk has on the orientation of relativistic jets associated with it. Precession, in this case, is caused by relativistic torques from a rotating black hole acting on the tilted disk. Since jets are an important instrument of feedback of accreting black holes on their environments, it is important to study them at their source. We found correlations between the disk and jet twist, indicating that our jets follow the precession of the disk over time. Measurements of tilt followed in the same way, with the jets slowly tracking the disk as they both align with the black hole. Our next step will be to help further sustain the jets and utilize more parameters.


Developing a Mobile Application for Flood Warning in the Charleston, SC Region

Connor Cozad, Cole Westbrook, Norman Levine and Lancie Affonso
Department of Geology and Environmental Geoscience, College of Charleston
Department of Computer Science, College of Charleston

As the sea level rises, flooding is becoming increasingly common in coastal areas, including in the Charleston region. The goal of this project, funded by the South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium, is to develop a map application that shows current and predicted street flooding across Charleston County, South Carolina. We evaluated multiple sources of near-real-time current and predicted tide height data for use in the app. Once identifying these sources, which included products generated by NOAA’s National Ocean Service and National Weather Service, we developed Python code that retrieves this data in near-real-time. We have also started planning and developing the app’s user interface, a critical aspect in making our street flooding maps easily accessible for anyone. This is an ongoing project that is projected to be completed in early 2022.


Reading in the Dark

Ethan Barczak, Christopher Bush, Joe Mezera, Taylor Monk, Tyler Tracy and Dr. James Bowring
Department of Computer Science, College of Charleston

The effects of blue light has been a subject of study for years and results indicate that blue light has some positive effects on the body such as an increase in attention, reaction time and mood. At night, however, it can disrupt the circadian rhythm, suppress melatonin and result in difficulty falling asleep. There have been several proposed solutions to this problem including blue-light blocking glasses and software that reduces the amount of blue light produced by digital screens. Dark Reader is a browser-based addon that will provide a dark mode version of every website. This effectively limits the blue-light portion of the screen to the bright text on the dark background, rather than the inverse. Due to the dynamic nature of web design, sometimes there are situations where the algorithm doesn’t make all of the necessary changes and some manual intervention can provide a consistent look across the web.


Annotation of the Q cluster mycobacteriophage Luna22 genome

Grant Dixon, Sarah Hunter, Gracen Mitrick, Alexander Parry, Jonathan Stewart and Christine Byrum
Department of Biology, College of Charleston

The mycobacteriophage Luna22 was discovered in 2018 from a soil sample on the College of Charleston campus in Charleston, SC. Luna22 was isolated, purified, and amplified within Mycobacterium smegmatis mc2155 through the protocol outlined by the SEA-PHAGES Discovery Guide. Luna22 is a Q cluster mycobacteriophage and a member of the Siphoviridae morphotype. The Pittsburgh Bacteriophage Institute utilized Illumina MiSeq technology to sequence the 53,730 bp genome (67.5% GC content). To annotate the genome, PECAAN was used to pool analyses from GeneMark, Glimmer, Phamerator, and Starterator. We verified that the Luna22 genome contains 87 protein-coding genes and assigned putative functions to 42 of these genes. Luna22 shares typical virion structural and assembly genes, while none were unique to Luna22. The Luna22 genome is most similar to those of Ein37 (GCS score, 99.4; query coverage, 100%) and Webster2 (GCS score, 99.4; query coverage, 100%).


The Journey to Competency - A Tale of Software Maintenance

Ethan Waugh, Grayson Nix, Stevie DuPree, George Lutas and Dr. Jim Bowring
Department of Computer Science, College of Charleston

When working on existing software, specific and necessary skillsets are required in order to be a proper contributor to it. One must understand the nature of what they're about to get themselves into and the odd synchronicities of said activity. Software maintenance is an activity best done by those that have already done it, and the process of getting to the point where one knows what they're doing is time-consuming and riddled with challenges both trivial and grand in nature and scope. Specifically, working with Open-Source software can be a different experience than working on a solo project or school project. Ours is a tale of said self-discovery and self-improvement. It is one of great difficulties and subtle mysteries, one of terrible frustrations and unparalleled triumphs. This is our story of working with Blockly, developed by Google.


Investigation of Fluctuations in Superparamagnetic Nanoparticle Colloids

David Dorf
Department of Physics and Astronomy, College of Charleston

Abstract: Iron oxide (Fe2O3) nanoparticles display a variety of unique properties that allow them to serve several purposes. Fe2O3 nanoparticles have an inherent attraction to external magnetic fields can be utilized in the biomedical industry as a coating on drugs to transport them around the body to a specific location.This can be used against diseases such as viral infections and certain types of cancer. Our research into the fluctuations of iron oxide colloids uses a shadowgraph method and BEMD image sifting to better understand the nature of the substance’s motion within a confined cell.


Development of a Jupyter Notebook to Automate the Hydro-Conditioning Workflow of Charleston County Elevation Data

Julia Kempton1, Hannah Dougherty1, Maddie Carrino1, Lancie Affonso1, Norman S. Levine2, Alex Braud2 and Landon C. Knapp2
1Department of Computer Science, College of Charleston
2Department of Geology and Environmental Geosciences, College of Charleston

Automated data analysis algorithms are essential for efficient and accurate data processing, especially contributing to a larger project at the scale of Charleston County, focused on providing the public with reliable road flooding information. A necessary step in converting collected real-time tide and rainfall data into predictive flood analyses, is to “hydro-condition” a digital elevation model (DEM) to more accurately depict waterflow. This task is tedious and time consuming. We have built a workflow tool in order to optimize the analysis of our large dataset. The tool we have developed and fully integrated in ESRI’s ArcGIS Pro software, is an interactive Jupyter Notebook that tracks work progress via an online map application, automates a series of ArcGIS processes allowing multiple users to simultaneously perform and evaluate progress while providing quality assurance, and includes a “How-To Guide” providing users with the necessary knowledge to effectively use our tool.


A Novel 3D Imaging System for Improved Screening of Cervical Pre-Cancers

Jenna Snead, Dr. Joe Carson, Stanley McAfee, Kevin Gainey and Bailey Williamson
Department of Physics and Astronomy, College of Charleston
Pensievision Research Team

Cervical cancer is entirely treatable when caught early, yet continues to be especially lethal in sub-Saharan Africa and other developing communities. CervImage is a 3D medical imaging device developed by Dr. Carson's research group that targets the needs of this demographic by employing simple-to-use screening strategies with low-cost technology. The handheld, battery-powered device is controlled by an inexpensive touchscreen computer that stores and compiles the image data into an all-focus 3D image. Unlike traditional 3D imaging that uses multiple perspectives, CervImage collects images at different focus measurements from one position, decreasing the complexity of the process. The depth map, which serves as the step between the 2D collection and final 3D result, is an accurate indicator of final image quality. In my project, I used quantitative measurements of these depth maps to systematically evaluate the precision of the images, setting the stage for future image quality algorithms as testing continues.


Contributing to Zulip

Anthony Farah, Janneke Morin, Megan Simpson, Mitch Suzara, David Thompson and Dr. Jim Bowring
Department of Computer Science, College of Charleston

Free and open source software (FOSS) makes its source code publicly available, fostering a community approach to development. Dr. Bowring’s Software Engineering Practicum class divides into teams of students, each of which chooses an open source software project to contribute to over the course of the semester. Our team chose Zulip, an open source group chat application that improves upon the model of its competitor, Slack, through a threading model. We selected five existing “Github Issues” representing bugs, desired improvements, or documentation fixes identified by the project’s leaders. We assigned one to each team member and worked on the set of issues collaboratively throughout the semester. Some of our areas of focus included bugs in search functionality and JavaScript modals. This project recounts our trials, successes, and lessons learned from working on these issues within an open source software community.


Anoplohora glabripennis Potential Invasive Affects in the Charleston

Dr. Brian Scholtens and Alexis Quevedo Galan
Department of Biology, College of Charleston

Anoplophora glabripennis, the Asian Longhorned Beetle, is an invasive species that attacks and kills maples, elms, willows and several other tree genera.  In 2020, this species was discovered near Hollywood, SC, the first recorded outbreak south of Ohio.  This study quantified the potential impact in urban and suburban areas around Charleston.  I sampled five 2km transects in three developed areas, downtown Charleston, West Ashley, and suburban Mt. Pleasant.  Less than 8% of all trees were susceptible to attack, but each area was dominated by only a few genera.  In these developed areas, the impact of an outbreak would be relatively small, but could be significant for individual property owners.  The lack of tree diversity in these developed areas could be disastrous as in past attacks by the emerald ash borer and Dutch elm disease.  Increasing the diversity of our urban plantings would help prevent a repeat of these events.


The Quantification of Microplastic Ingestion by Shark Pups in South Carolina Estuaries

Morgan Lattomus1, Gorka Sancho1, Barbara Beckingham2, Bryan Frazier3 and Ashley Galloway3
1Department of Biology, College of Charleston
2Department of Geology and Environmental Geosciences, College of Charleston
3SC Department of Natural Resources

The stomach and intestinal tracts of four different species of shark pups collected as bycatch in South Carolina estuaries were digested, filtered, observed under a dissecting microscope to quantify and identify the microplastics. Microplastics were confirmed using a hot needle test at around 349℃. Preliminary data on the average microplastics per species and the percentage of each type of microplastic were found and compared against the findings in studies observing adult sharks. These findings show shark pups possessing much fewer microplastics per organism than adult sharks, and determined the most abundant microplastic type as fibers, which are preliminarily 93% of the total microplastics found.


Incomplete Mixing of Andesite and Dacite Magmas in the Lassen Volcano Eruption of 1915

Emily Lowe and Dr. John Chadwick
Department of Geology and Environmental Geosciences, College of Charleston

Lassen Volcano in northern California last erupted in 1915. The lava is not homogenized but consists of a variable mixture of low-silica (andesite) and high-silica (dacite) lavas. We analyzed the mineral phenocrysts in a 1915 lava sample and found olivine from the andesite and quartz from the dacite, and these minerals show disequilibrium textures that indicate they are not stable in the hybrid magma. To study the magnitude of magma mixing, we dissolved samples in hydrofluoric acid and separated Pb, Sr, and Nd isotopes using chromatographic resins.  A standard (BCR-2) and a blank were also run for comparison and quality control. Multiple cuts were taken to refine the lab resin protocols for Sr and Nd. The separated isotope samples were sent to the University of Florida for analysis on their mass spectrometer. The isotope data reveals the magnitude of mixing in the magma chamber prior to the 1915 eruption.


Genome Annotation of Subcluster L2 Mycobacteriophage Netyap

Maximiliano Flota, Avery Goff, Caitlyn Moss, Emme Raieta and Dr. Christine Byrum 
Department of Biology, College of Charleston

The bacteriophage Netyap genome was isolated from enriched soil in Cullowhee, NC, and examined in collaboration with the HHMI SEA-PHAGES program. This virus infects Mycobacterium smegmatis mc²155 and is an L2 subcluster member exhibiting Siphoviridae morphology. This linear dsDNA genome is 76,366 bp and contains 129 predicted protein-coding genes. It has 10-base 3’ sticky overhangs and 58.9% GC content. The genome was adopted following DNA extraction and sequencing performed by Western Carolina University. Sequences were annotated by members of our Fall 2020 Molecular Biology Lab. Students examining this genome identified protein-coding regions and made functional assignments using bioinformatic resources in the PECAAN workflow tool. ARAGORN and tRNAscan-SE confirmed 12 tRNA and no tmRNA sequences. The Netyap genome contains genes with predicted functions related to capsid assembly, tail assembly, and lysis as well as two orphams. In BLASTn alignments, this genome was most similar to that of L2 mycobacteriophage Faith1.


A Biomimetic Approach to Quality Education 

Jake Brown and Deborah Bidwell
Department of Biology, College of Charleston

Nature can inform sustainable and regenerative design lessons in the human world. I took a biomimetic approach to the quality education UN sustainable development goal. I identified scores of  well-adapted forms, processes and systems functionally adapted for contexts experienced in higher education, then honed in on three key mentors. Slime mold has no central nervous system, but it is still able to communicate effectively with each component of the organism, indicating that communication is extremely important and teaching us ways to efficiently communicate without a centralized, hierarchical system. Honey bees teach us that distributing power throughout the group creates a democratic process for smoother high quality decision making. Coral reefs demonstrate that high diversity, mutualism, and balanced roles build resilience to disturbance. The goal of this ongoing research is to create a nature-inspired solution to improve the function of higher education.  


Examination of Stereochemistry in the Copper-Catalyzed Benzylation of Epoxides

Sophia Gierszal and Dr. Timothy Barker
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, College of Charleston

Examination of organoboron reagents is a topic of great importance concerning the field of asymmetric synthesis. Boronic esters provide an excellent example of the versatility of organoboron reagents, displaying a broad spectrum of reactivity, tolerance of functional groups, the ability to undergo stereospecific transformations, nucleophilicity after activation, and the ability to form Csp3-Csp3 bonds. This research examines the reactivity and stereospecificity of Csp3-Csp3 bond formation via nucleophilic attack of epoxides with benzyl boronic pinacol ester. Products of this reaction were purified via flash column chromatography and characterized with nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. It was found that the reaction was stereospecificity with respect to the electrophile. An explanation for this result is that the boronate nucleophile forms a racemic alkylcuprate via a radical benzyl intermediate during activation. Further research will be conducted to determine conditions that make the reaction stereospecific with respect to the nucleophile. 


Understanding the Effect of Flooding on Businesses, Property Ownership through the Lens of the Dutch Dialogue Recommendations

Isaiah Stapleton, Gabby Stubbs, Norman Levine and Lancie Affonso
Department of Geology and Environmental Geoscience, College of Charleston
Department of Computer Science, College of Charleston 

Charleston is a coastal city that is plagued by a considerable amount of flooding. The city has already experienced over a foot of sea level rise in the past century as well as an increase in flooding days. As time goes on this is only expected to get worse. Flooding that will put six feet of water on the land will be a common occurrence in the later part of this century. This area is what planners refer to as the “Zone of Retreat”. Using data provided by the ArcGIS business analyst database it was possible to predict the economic impact of future flooding as well as at risk businesses and properties. It was found that these at risk businesses have a net worth of almost 5 billion dollars. In addition, the combined value of at risk properties account of over 31 billion dollars of taxable revenue for Charleston County.


Our Work with SugarLabs

Ian Dudderar, Joshua Lumpkin, Makayla Middleton and Dr. Jim Bowring
Department of Computer Science, College of Charleston

This semester we were able to interact with an open source community, understanding the dynamics of an open source project. We learned how to use an industry standard tool called “Git” through Github. This allowed us to gain valuable experience in project management and team collaboration. We worked with SugarLabs which is a free open source learning platform which promotes learning through the user created “sugar activities.” We were able to contribute to these activities by enhancing the code and performing bug fixes.


Time Series Analysis of Harmful Algal Blooms in the Great Lakes Using High Resolution Satellite Sensor

Jordan James and Dr. Adem Ali
Department of Geology and Environmental Geosciences, College of Charleston

The Great Lakes represent a vital resource for the fishing industry, tourism, and recreational activities, especially in Saginaw Bay, Michigan. Fertilizer runoff and warm water temperatures exacerbate harmful algal blooms (HABs) in Saginaw Bay, which negatively impact local economies. HABs are difficult and expensive to track by traditional field sampling methods, but high resolution satellite sensors provide a cost effective alternative to monitor HABs over large regions such as Saginaw Bay.  The Sentinel-2 MSI satellite sensor was utilized to develop optical based water quality indices for Saginaw Bay.  In this study, the predictability of chlorophyll using empirical formulas from spectral band ratios was analyzed in comparison to extracted chlorophyll values. Results indicated that the Rrs490/Rrs560 band ratio provided the best relationship with the chlorophyll variability in Saginaw Bay with model performance displaying a R2 of 0.77 and a RMSE of 0.42.


Hips Don’t Lie: Pelvic Bone Sexual Dimorphism in Common Bottlenose Dolphins

Molly Albers1, Jessica Blackburn2, Amber Lea Kincaid2 and Gretchen Lovewell2
1Department of Biology, College of Charleston
2Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium

Pelvic bones not only leave behind essential clues regarding the skeletal makeup and evolution of a particular animal, but they can also provide insight into an individual’s potential mating success. Common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) are a promiscuous species that possess sexually dimorphic anatomical features. If male dolphins surpass females in length and mass at physical maturity, it is likely that their pelvic bones display sexual dimorphism as well. This study examined specimens from the Sarasota Bay area curated in The Ruth Delynn Cetacean Osteological Collection at Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium. Both subadult and adult males were determined to have longer pelvic bones than their female counterparts by an average of 17.78 mm. These results are consistent with similar studies.


Estradiol Administration as a Therapeutic Approach for Treating Peripheral Nerve Injury in Mice

Vernon Kennedy Jr., Shynese Wilson and Dr. Jennifer Wilhelm
Department of Psychology, College of Charleston 

Each year 100,000 Americans experience injuries to their nerves; however, less than 10% fully recover.  This is in part because peripheral nerve injury results in withdrawal of synaptic inputs from injured spinal motoneurons. Previous research demonstrated that testosterone treatment may mitigate this withdraw. Knowing that testosterone can be aromatized to estrogen, this study investigates whether estradiol treatment produces similar effects. Mice underwent surgical sciatic nerve transection, and a subset were treated with systemic 17-beta-estradiol for two weeks after injury. Lumbar spinal cord tissue was harvested and stained for vGLUT1, a marker for excitatory glutamatergic synaptic inputs. Synaptic contacts were quantified by measuring the percentage of motoneuron somata in contact with vGLUT1 immunoreactive structures. We found a reduction in synaptic contacts in untreated mice but not in estradiol treated mice when compared to uninjured mice. This indicates that estrogen signaling may be important for the maintenance of excitatory synaptic connection post-injury.


Detecting Potential Raindrop Clustering with Dynamic Binning

Brianna G. Brunson and Dr. Michael L. Larsen
Department of Mathematics, College of Charleston
Department of Physics and Astronomy, College of Charleston 

The existence of small-scale structure in rainfall has implications for rain microphysics and measurement. To explore possible temporal clustering within existing raindrop arrival data, we utilized the Bayesian Blocks Algorithm, which detects change-points in the underlying arrival rate. The algorithm was applied to simulated rain drop arrival data to confirm that it effectively localized known change points. Real rain drop data obtained with a 2-dimensional video disdrometer (Joanneum Research) was then explored. The Bayesian Blocks algorithm identified change-points that provided a non-parametric partitioning of the data into non-equal intervals with steady drop arrival rates. The partitioning revealed potential sub-second clustering of rainfall, which could contribute to refining rainfall measurement strategies. This discussion will focus on the changing physical properties of rainfall according to this partitioning and its implications on rain measurement strategies.


Hot or Not? Evaluation of the Hot Needle Test

Adriana Apintiloaiei and Dr. Barbara Beckingham
Department of Geology and Environmental Geosciences, and Environmental and Sustainability Studies, College of Charleston

Microplastics are small (<5 mm) synthetic polymers that are ubiquitous in indoor and outdoor environments and may affect human and ecological health. The hot needle test (HNT) helps researchers identify suspected microplastics under the microscope by probing their melt behavior with a heated metal tool, and is a method considered accessible enough for widespread use. However, the accuracy of this test hasn’t been confirmed. The HNT response of 9 fibers, an assortment of synthetic, natural, or semi-synthetic materials, were observed and then a single-blind trial was prepared with these fibers randomly arranged on a grid to test the ability of researchers (N=8) to characterize them using their preferred HNT conditions. Synthetic and some natural fibers were identified correctly over 70% of the time. Cotton and semi-synthetic fiber results were less consistent (<55% correct). Future work will aim to update HNT conditions and to improve its application in microplastic research. 


Refactoring JavaScript in OpenLibrary

Noah Drake, Clifton McCallum, Brett Hardiman, Stefan Veloff and Dr. Jim Bowring
Department of Computer Science, College of Charleston

Open Library relies on a web framework called, a Python package which enables developers to construct web applications. OpenLibrary used to incorporate JavaScript into their web pages, and because of this, their JavaScript code had to become incorporated into the Templator language used in HTML templates representing these web pages. One of the lead developers of Open Library invited the community to help migrate the JavaScript out of these templates and into their own files. This would be helpful to developers in the future who are attempting to avoid embedding JavaScript into Templator’s Python-like syntax. Our group refactored several of these templates, preventing them from breaking JavaScript code as well as providing developers an easier means to incorporate logic from the server into the logic of JavaScript programs running in the user’s browser.


AI Recognition of Subvocalized WordsUsing EEG Data

Maximus London-Kolb and Sorinel Oprisan
Department of Physics and Astronomy, College of Charleston

Using neural networks to evaluate EEG recordings, it will soon be possible to "read" someone's brainwaves and decipher what they are thinking. Subvocalization is the process of actively thinking of a word while not engaging in any of the physical movements involved with saying the word. The aim of this research is to utilize the analysis capabilities of neural networks in order to discern what word is being subvocalized within a subject's mind. Increasing the ability to communicate to machines via brain signals would significantly help the process of creating prosthetic limbs that mimic the range of functions that organic limbs can perform. Additionally, this technology can be used to aid impaired humans that cannot communicate naturally. Accurate subvocalization technology will also greatly increase the abilities of non-impaired humans, allowing people to transfer information to their devices without wasting any time or energy on manual input.


Examination of the Relationship Between Synaptic Withdrawal after Peripheral Nerve Injury with Exercise and Estradiol

Vershelle Peterson
Department of Biology, College of Charleston 

Each year, peripheral nerve injury impacts many individuals, with significant limitations in functional recovery (Gordon & English, 2015). Limitations are attributed to neuron circuitry changes in the central nervous system that cause synaptic inputs onto injured motoneurons to withdraw. Previous studies identified exercise as an effective therapy for reducing synaptic withdrawal (Liu et al., 2014). However, most patients cannot engage in exercise early enough to benefit from its therapeutic effects. Therefore, alternative treatments must be developed. Our lab previously discovered that estrogen signaling is essential for exercise mediated axon regeneration. We proposed to examine whether estradiol treatment can stabilize synaptic inputs following peripheral nerve injury. We predict that estradiol treated mice will show increased synaptic coverage, while mice treated with an estradiol antagonist will reduce synaptic coverage. The results from the study could help improve our understanding of signaling pathways during regeneration and aid in the development of new treatments.


Assessing the Dimensions of Human Urinary Muddy Brown Granular Casts

McKinley H. Antley1, Akanksh Ramanand2, Juan Carlos Velez2 and Michael G. Janech1
1Department of Biology, College of Charleston
2Department of Nephrology, Ochsner Medical Center

Muddy Brown Granular Casts (MBGCs) are found in urine sediment through microscopic examination and are pathognomonic for acute tubular necrosis which leads to acute kidney injury. Although the MBGCs have long been described using light microscopy, the size has never been reported. As a result, it is unclear if cast length or width correlate to any medical outcome. The objective of this ongoing study is to measure MBGCs and report size distributions for individual patients using images obtained by light microscopy. Specimens from two patients were collected and MBGCs were imaged. A total of three MBGCs were measured using ImageJ with external calibration provided by a stage micrometer. MBGC lengths were highly variable (84 -143 μm); whereas width was less variable (37 - 42 μm) and corresponded well with cortical tubule lumen diameter.


Physiological Effects of Temperature and Parasite Load on Metabolism of Spotted Seatrout

Emily G. Dombrowski and Jody M. Beers
Department of Biology, College of Charleston

The spotted seatrout, Cynoscion nebulosus, is one of South Carolina’s most sought-after game fish. Upwards of 90% of the adult population is reported to be infected with the myxosporean parasite, Kudoa inornata. Infection by K. Inornata has been found to increase seatrout swimming performance. This study analyzed the relationship between specific metabolism indicators (hematocrit, glucose, and lactate quantities), parasite load, and temperature variations in seatrout. Analysis found that there is a significant difference in lactate levels between seatrout in both temperature acclimations, as well as a significant difference in hematocrit levels in both temperature variants. Further investigation into these parameters will be useful in discerning temperature’s role in Kudoa infection and the mechanism of K. inornata.


Heme-binding Proteins Identified in "Muddy" Brown Granular Casts

Patrick O’Reilly1, Juan Carlos Velez2 and Michael G. Janech1
1Department of Biology, College of Charleston
2Department of Nephrology, Ochsner Medical Center

Urinary casts are cylindrical structures that naturally occur in the urine. Formed in the kidney tubule, casts vary in morphology and composition, and are often used to support a diagnosis or follow a course of disease. Presence of “Muddy” brown granular casts (MBGCs) are indicative of acute tubular necrosis, the most common reason for acute kidney injury. The distinct brown pigmentation of these casts is often attributed to mitochondrial proteins or lipofuscin granules; although published analytical data is lacking. Proteins composed of heme groups attached to polypeptides are strong coloring agents. I hypothesize that heme-binding proteins (HBPs) are present in MBGCs. Urine specimens were collected from 3 patients experiencing acute tubular necrosis and prepared for tandem mass spectrometry. An analysis of the observed proteins showed that there is a substantial presence of HBPs in MBGC-enriched sediment that likely contributes to the enigmatic brown coloration of “Muddy” brown granular casts.


Monitoring Lassen Volcano Subsidence with Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar

Josh Premak, Reece Hammond and Dr. John Chadwick
Department of Geology and Environmental Geosciences, College of Charleston

Lassen Volcano in Northern California is on the southern end of the Cascade Volcanic Arc, a string of large volcanoes that extends through Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia. Lassen last erupted in 1915, but as a dormant stratovolcano, it will likely erupt again. One way to monitor volcanoes for signs of renewed activity is to measure subsidence of the land around them. As new magma intrudes beneath a volcano, the surrounding terrain will slowly warp downward in response, creating a low topographic “moat.” We compared pairs of Sentinel satellite Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) images that were taken several years apart, and used SNAP interferometry software to look for this subtle deformation. We generated topographic change interferograms and compared the terrain surface from the different years. Our results show several centimeters of subsidence, with an average of 0.7 cm/year at Lassen between June 2015 and September 2020.


Voxel Based Technologies in Medicine, 3D Scans, and Art

Noah Ballenger, Jaid Basket, Evander Carnie, Tony Vu, Nicole Warner and Jim Bowring
Department of Computer Science, College of Charleston

Voxel based technology found its footing in the digital space through its popularity in game engines and visual design. This popularity led to a demand for more voxel based games causing more and more people to contribute to the technology. Today many contributions to voxel technology, be it for use in video games or in other environments, are open source, meaning anyone can contribute and further push the development of the technology forward. Allowing voxel technology to be developed in an open source environment allowed for voxel technology to be used in more complex scenarios, such as 3d modeling, printing, and scanning, along with applications in the medical field that are still being developed today. Our team worked within this open source environment to contribute art and code to an open source voxel project “Veloren” and decided to discuss some of the applications of this technology we found fascinating.


Growing up in Charleston: Patterns of Recruitment and Succession in Coastal Environments

Mylene Gonzales and Christopher Freeman
Department of Biology, College of Charleston

Ecological succession, or change in community structure over time following a disturbance event, is central to our understanding of how species richness and diversity varies over space and time. We assessed the recruitment of organisms on bare panels and followed primary succession of marine organisms for six months at four sites adjacent to Grice Marine Lab. Organisms began recruiting to the panels rapidly, with 78% cover of panels at the intertidal (inshore) site and 55% for the subtidal (outer) site in the first month. The percent cover of organisms remained relatively steady after the first month, but the inshore site had a greater percent cover than the subtidal site by approximately 2-20%; these differences are likely driven by unique environmental conditions at each site. Preliminary analyses of these panels suggest that community composition changes over time, but work on succession is ongoing.


Do students know Nephrology? – A Survey of Undergraduate Students

Julia M. Hopkins1, John M. Arthur, M.D.2, Juan Carlos Q. Velez, M.D.3 and Michael G. Janech, Ph.D.1
1Department of Biology, College of Charleston
2Division of Nephrology, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences
3Department of Nephrology, Ochsner Medical Center

Over the past decade, the field of Nephrology has experienced a 43% decline in the number of fellowship program applicants, leading to one of the worst applicant to position ratios amongst medical specialties (~38% of fellowship positions remain unfilled). One barrier to individuals choosing Nephrology as a career could be lack of early exposure. If an individual is not exposed to a field, then there is a low chance of the individual developing an interest in the field. We tested the hypothesis that Nephrology is the least recognized medical specialty amongst undergraduates by surveying the College of Charleston undergraduate population to determine whether differences in name recognition with regards to medical specialties exist in a population of early career-stage students. 274 undergraduate students were included in this survey. Nephrology was the least recognized specialty. Pre-med students and STEM majors were found to be about twice as likely to recognize Nephrology.


Strongly Magnetized Disks and Thermal Stability

Jessica Anderson
Department of Physics and Astronomy, College of Charleston

For years, there has been a discrepancy between theory and observation of properties of low mass X-ray binary systems (LMXRB).The Shakura-Sunyaev thin disk model proposes a radiation-pressure dominated, thermally unstable, inner region. In this region, heating and cooling depend on midplane temperature at different exponential rates, leading to thermal instability, a thermal runaway, and the expansion or collapse of the disk. However, observers see a stable disk, and the question of what stabilizes these disks arises. Strong magnetic fields are proposed to thermally support the disk as radiation pressure is overcome by magnetic pressure. We simulate three different magnetic field configurations: 1) a zero-net-flux, multiple-loop configuration; 2) a net-flux, vertical-field configuration; 3) and a zero-net-flux, radial-field configuration. The results from these simulations help us answer the question of the discrepancy between thin disk theory and observation, giving us more insight on the properties of black hole X-ray binary systems.


Exploring the Microbiome of Tritia obsoleta (Eastern Mud Snail)

Rowan Emerson, Kristy Hill-Spanik and Dr. Craig Plante
Department of Biology, College of Charleston

Tritia obsoleta (Eastern Mud Snail) is native to North America’s East Coast and is invasive to the Pacific Coast. Using metabarcoding and high-throughput sequencing, we examined the effect of the snail’s diet on microbial community structure in their native range so as to extrapolate the effect on community structures in their non-native habitats. Comparing the microbiota from the sediment to those found in the digestive tract and feces will help determine the impact invasive snails may have on microbiota composition in situ. We found that diversity was higher in the sediment and feces compared to that in cleared gut tissues, with distinct communities found for each sample type (ANOSIM R = 0.90, p = 0.001) except for esophagus vs. intestine. Mycoplasma were especially prominent in the gut. We determined that Tritia obsoleta has a resident gut flora and that its feeding does alter the community structure of sediment microbiota. 


Free, But Not Always Easy: An Introduction to Open Source Contribution

Dr. Jim Bowring, Stefanie Elling, Ashanti Long, Jacob Roddam, Sarah Sayce and Michael Shestko
Department of Computer Science, College of Charleston

Open source software enables developers to freely contribute and manipulate source code allowing for continuous maintenance and improvement. Zulip, an open source chat and communicative software, uses Github contributors to fix its issues and bugs. Successful contribution requires finding the bug, fixing the code, and submitting a pull request. If a pull request is approved by administrators, the issue is closed. Compared to other open source projects, Zulip’s clear documentation and communication resources assisted in successfully closing issues and solving bugs.


Physiological Effects of Temperature and Parasite Load on Swimming of Spotted Seatrout

Rylie Talmadge and Jody M. Beers
Department of Biology, Honors College, College of Charleston

The spotted seatrout, Cynoscion nebulosus, is a popular recreational gamefish throughout its range along the east coast. Seatrout are subject to many environmental stressors, such as temperature, that affect their metabolism.  In addition, they are known to be impacted by the presence of a myxosporean parasite, Kudoa inornata, in their swimming muscle.  Thus, our study investigated the relationship between swimming performance and muscle parasite load in relation to differential temperature regimes.  Seatrout were acclimated to a high (30°C; N=12) and low (12°C; N=12) temperature, respective to their environment. Swim performance was measured by an exhaustive chase protocol and ventilation rates were calculated by counting opercular beats per minute. Histological analyses were performed to quantify infection levels of the parasite. It was found that parasite loads ranged from no infection to very high infection levels and we saw the same pattern at both high and low temperature.


Light Simulations Through a Numerically Generated Cloud

Christopher Blouin and Michael L. Larsen
Department of Physics and Astronomy, College of Charleston 

The study of light transmission through the air has a wide range of applications in atmospheric science as a result of the wide ranging applicabiltiy of the Beer-Lambert-Boueger law. However, this law assumes that the positioning of the individual particles comprising air and other atmospheric mediums is uncorrelated. Here, we use computational methods to measure test the accuracy of the Beer-Lambert-Boueger law for correlated "clumpy" mediums generated via a matern particle generation algorithm. We show that particle distributions that feature a large degree of clustering do not agree in optical depth with that of the particle distributions that are uncorrelated.


Ultrasound imaging of composite materials

Hunter Skinner and Dr. Alem Teklu
Department of Physics and Astronomy, College of Charleston

Ultrasound imaging is used as a non-destructive technique for testing materials for defects, mechanical properties, and thickness measurements. Ultrasound imaging is a versatile testing technique because of its ability to test various different materials as well as not being dependent on the size or shape of the object. Using a Ts-1000 immersion scanner with a pulse echo transducer, the scanner was able to scan points in a grid pattern providing up to .1mm resolution. Ultrasound imaging defects in carbon fiber composites and
acrylics were able to be determined through compiling A-scans into C scans so that points of defects could be identified and narrowed down to the affected regions of the materials.


Effects of transient salinity stress on larval growth and development in the southern toad (Anaxyrus terrestris)

Gabrielle Tutelo and Allison Welch
Department of Biology, College of Charleston

Increasing salinity levels are an important threat to many freshwater ecosystems. In coastal freshwaters, transient increases in salinity can result from coastal flooding and storm surge, enhanced by climate change and rising sea levels. Phenotypic plasticity can enable organisms to respond adaptively to changing or unpredictable conditions. When the quality of the environment changes during development, larval amphibians may be able to shift developmental trajectory, by increasing or decreasing rates of growth and development. In an experiment with toad tadpoles, we investigated plasticity in growth and development during and after exposure to elevated salinity during different portions of larval development. We found that tadpoles exposed to salinity early in development grew and developed more slowly but were not smaller at metamorphosis, suggesting that tadpoles may be able to compensate for this deficit in growth. These results help us assess the potential impacts of salinity changes in freshwater habitats.


Effect of Salinity on the Parasitic Barnacle Loxothylacus panopaei and its Host Crab Eurypanopeus depressus

Hails Tanaka and Robert Podolsky
Department of Biology, College of Charleston

We examined effects of salinity on the survival of parasitized and non-parasitized xanthid crabs, Eurypanopeus depressus, as well as on the growth rate of the reproductive externa of its parasite Loxothylacus panopaei. Crabs with and without parasites were kept at six different salinities in a laboratory and tracked for survival while their externae were measured each week. Chi-squared tests were used to evaluate effects of parasitism and salinity and an ANOVA was run to compare means in the growth rate of externae. The results of the Chi-square analyses indicate that parasitism negatively affected survival but there was no significant effect of salinity on survival. The results of the ANOVA analysis indicate that salinity had no effect on externa growth rate.


Sponges and their evolutionary responses to life on Caribbean reefs

Abigail Stephens and Chris Freeman
Department of Biology, College of Charleston

The success of sponges on Caribbean reefs is linked to their ability to efficiently remove small particulate organic matter from the water column via filter feeding, their evolutionary investment in microbial symbionts, and their production of chemical defenses. However, because these characteristics are variable across sponge species, it is likely that individual species have developed unique strategies for survival on coral reefs. To test this hypothesis, we used multivariate analyses to evaluate the similarity of seven species based on seven characteristics mined from peer-reviewed papers. Species varied widely based on these traits, with three major groupings heavily influenced by traits relating to feeding (consumption of dissolved organic matter [DOC]), palatability (a metric for chemical defense production), and chlorophyll a concentration (cyanobacterial symbiont abundance). These groupings suggest that common sponges on Caribbean reefs have developed unique combinations of traits that contribute to their ecological success in these crowded and dynamic systems.


A Sex Differentiated Study of Rodent Empathic Behavior: Ultrasonic Vocalizations and Oxytocin Activity

Brogan Brown, Stewart Cox MS, Christopher Korey PhD and Carmela Reichel PhD
Department of Biology, College of Charleston
Medical University of South Carolina

Empathy is a higher-order emotional process in which an individual is able to understand another’s internal state. Rodents have shown capacity to reduce the stress of a conspecific, indicating rodents possess empathic capabilities. This experiment attempted to correlate rodent empathic behavior, ultrasonic vocalizations (USVs) and oxytocin activity through a sex differentiated study. Employing a novel behavioral model, male and female rodents were evaluated during the initial learning phase of the empathic task, Early Acquisition (EA). Males and females displayed no differences in empathic behaviors during initial learning but varied overtime. USVs were analyzed revealed a bimodal distribution with increased distressed calls among female Targets. Trends in Oxytocin activity in the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus revealed a potential convergent sex effect. Overall, we believe that studying the relationship between empathy, sex, vocalizations and oxytocin will further our understanding of empathic behaviors.


Measurements of protein biodiversity in the urine of acute kidney injury patients

Makayla A. Cook1, John M. Arthur, M.D.2 and Michael G. Janech, Ph.D.1
1Department of Biology, College of Charleston
2Division of Nephrology, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences

Biodiversity indices, which can be used to indicate the health of an ecosystem, were applied to the proteins in urine of acute kidney injury (AKI) patients. Two groups included patients with stage 1 AKI that progressed to renal replacement therapy (RRT) or did not (No-RRT). Normalized spectral counts (NSC) and normalized spectral abundance factor (NSAF) were used to calculate indices used for ROC curve analysis. There was no difference between mean values for Simpson’s diversity (0.97±0.02 vs. 0.98±0.02, p=0.3), Shannon’s diversity (5.25±0.6 vs. 5.36±0.5, p=0.6), species richness (7.60±1.2 vs 7.41±1.1, p=0.7), or Shannon’s equitability (0.80±0.6 vs. 0.81 ± 0.05, p=0.4) for the RRT vs. No-RRT, respectively. Similar results were obtained for NSAF data. No index had an area under the ROC curve different from 0.5. Severity of AKI is not reflected in the diversity of urine proteins. Whether or not protein diversity can stratify patients with chronic disease remains unknown.


Reproducing Micro Rain Radar Data Using Data From Laser Precipitation Monitors

Carson Barber and Dr. Mike Larsen
Department of Physics and Astronomy, College of Charleston

In preparation for use of two new Micro Rain Radar Pro (MRR) devices, we reinterpreted data from Laser Precipitation Monitors (LPM) to the same format that the MRRs provide. Using the drop fall speed measured by the LPMs we constructed an image of the raindrops in the air at some previous time then calculated results from that image that match what the MRR would have provided when measuring that same image. We also incorporated local wind data to improve upon the algorithm built into the MRR to convert radar returns to rain drop information. Our early analysis of the LPM data indicates that the crucial assumption made by the MRR that drops fall at their terminal speed may be inaccurate, which requires further investigation. 


Investigation of bond characteristics in organic vs inorganic silicon containing compounds; A comparative study between TSP and perfluorotrisiloxane

Abanob G. Hanna, Lucas C. Licaj, and Gamil A. Guirgis
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, College of Charleston

In order to clarify conflicting reports in earlier literature reports, and--if possible--to shed light on the structure of the silicon and oxygen bonding, we have chosen to prepare SiF3-O-SiF2-SiFand study its conformational behavior. The chloro derivative was obtained from a commercial source and fluorinated by silver fluoride using Swarts reactions.  Ab initio calculations clearly indicate that the Si-O-Si bonding is quasilinear, with an angle of 175 degrees, and the ab initio structure was used to obtain accurate rotational constants of this molecule to be used for the analysis of the previously obtained microwave spectra, and to compare the experimentally obtained structure with that predicted from the calculations. This work is a co-operative effort between the College of Charleston, the University of Missouri Kansas City (Prof. C. J. Wurrey) and Missouri University of Science and Technology (Prof. G. S. Grubbs).    


The Role of Oceanic Barrier Layers on Tropical Cyclone Intensity

Maxwell Zollinger and Gabriel Williams
Department of Physics and Astronomy, College of Charleston

This purpose of this study is to analyze sea surface temperature (SST), sea surface salinity (SSS), barrier layer thickness (BLT), and various other components in the eastern Lesser Antilles where freshwater advection from the Amazon and Orinoco Rivers may be interfering with the atmospheric and oceanic processes, such as the intensity of tropical cyclones during the Atlantic hurricane seasons. All tropical cyclones that have passed through this area of freshwater from the 2010-2019 Atlantic hurricane seasons will be examined. The goal is to find out if and how this shallow layer of freshwater at the surface may be affecting storms passing by. Oceanic data for the same years will be culled and compared to see the influence these two rivers play on the Atlantic ocean phenomena during this time period.


Microplastic Ingestion from Atlantic Menhaden of Differing Locations in Charleston Harbor

Francesca Dellacqua, Dr. Barbara Beckingham, Morgan Lattomus and Dr. Gorka Sancho
Department of Biology, College of Charleston

The presence of microplastics in marine environments is seemingly increasing as urbanization in coastal areas increases. Atlantic Menhaden have previously shown high levels of plastic consumption (Parker et al., 2020), reasons potentially including that this species consume large amounts of marine snow which often contains microplastics. The gut contents were analyzed by removing the digestive tracts of the fish and dissolving the epithelial tissue, filtering, then examining the samples under a microscope for presence and types of microplastic. These data were compared with predicted outcomes from the Parker et al. study in order to quantify microplastics being found specifically in this species. Microplastics were found in all samples analyzed, averaging to be about 14 per fish and 8.3 particles per gram of fish. Fibers were the most abundant microplastic found, however fragments, tire wear particles, and foam were also found.


Tombstone Weathering in Charleston

Kate Wells, Dr. Erin Beutel and Dr. Teddy Them
Department of Geology and Environmental Geosciences

Extremes in moisture, temperature, and salt lead to the deterioration of stone within the built environment. Due to the lack of load-bearing stone available in the South when the majority of the historic structures in Charleston were built, the most abundant stone features available to study are tombstones. Noninvasive methods will be used to study tombstone weathering in Charleston and include 1) measuring changes in thickness from base to top; 2) measuring changes in the depth of letters; 3) calculating differences in the linearity of the surface; and 4) noting the grave marker’s appearance, location, and surroundings. Stone from an associated quarry or debris from existing tombstones will be analyzed in the laboratory for a more comprehensive understanding of gravestone weathering in Charleston. The controls of weathering intensity on related stones within the urban setting may have implications regarding the durability and practicality of stone use in the South.