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CURO Symposium features Odum School students, faculty

Mar. 25, 2015

Writer: Camie Williams, camiew@uga.edu

Contact: Martin Rogers, martyr@uga.edu

Twelve undergraduates from the Odum School of Ecology were among the nearly 400 UGA students presenting original research at the 2015 Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities Symposium. The event, which included oral presentations and poster sessions, took place on March 30-31 at the Classic Center in Athens.

Sonia Altizer, Odum School Associate Dean and UGA Athletic Association Professor of Ecology, gave the keynote address. Her talk, “Infectious Diseases on a Changing Planet: How Ecology Drives Epidemics,” was followed by the presentation of awards, including Best Paper in the Physical and Environmental Sciences to ecology major Timothy Montgomery for "Gracilaria vermiculophylla’s Impacts on Herbivory in Georgia’s Coastal Ecosystems," and the CURO Research Mentoring Award to Odum School Professor Jeb Byers.

The annual CURO Symposium was created in 1999 to highlight undergraduate student research achievements in all disciplines. Participation in the program has increased by 50 percent in the past year to a record-setting 388 students.

"We are very pleased by the remarkable growth we are seeing in student-and faculty-participation in CURO in recent years, which has been made possible by the strong support of campus leaders, especially the central administration," said David S. Williams, associate provost and director of the Honors Program. "It is increasingly important to provide students meaningful opportunities to extend their learning beyond the traditional classroom setting, and it is exciting that CURO is one of the programs that helps UGA to be a national leader in this regard."

CURO is administered by the Honors Program but expanded to become available to all undergraduates in 2010. In fall 2014, the CURO Research Assistantship, which provides $1,000 stipends to 250 undergraduates, was launched as part of a series of academic enhancements announced by President Jere W. Morehead and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Pamela Whitten. CURO has offered $3,000 summer fellowship grants for nearly a decade.

Projects range from laboratory work to humanities research. Some examples include:

  • A study on "Internalized racism, linguistic discrimination and the policing of ethnic identity on Twitter" by fourth-year linguistics student Minh Nguyen.
  • Research on proteins linked to diseases such as cancer, congenital muscular dystrophy and HIV/AIDS, conducted by Danish Singh, a biochemistry and economics double major who worked as a 2014 CURO Summer Fellow.
  • An exploration of "The Impact of Monsoon Severity on Southeast Asian Bond Markets," by third-year economics major Carson Aft.
  • Research on floral trait evolution of wild sunflowers, conducted by fourth-year microbiology major Hiral Patel.

"We're proud to have student representatives like these from all over campus," said Martin Rogers, associate director of the Honors Program and CURO, who noted that nearly half of the students participating in the symposium are from outside of the Honors Program. "I think it is a demonstration of the excellent learning enrichment opportunities available to undergraduate students at UGA."

The 2015 CURO Symposium, which is also sponsored by the Office of the President, the Office of the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost, the Office of the Vice President for Research, the Office of the Vice President for Instruction and the UGA Alumni Association, will begin at 11:15 a.m. March 30 with four concurrent oral sessions.

Besides Montgomery, who was mentored by Byers, Odum School participants were:

  • Malcolm Barnard, Ramsey Scholar. Mentor: Prof. James Porter. "Utilization of Spirogyra grevilleana as a Method of Algal Filtration for Reduction of Limnetic Nutrient and Escherichia coli Levels."
  • Ryan Chitwood, with Joanna Hatt and graduate student Mason Cline. Mentor: Warnell Prof. Bob Cooper. "Assessing the Effects of Different Types of Parental Care on Nestling Survival in a Migratory Songbird."
  • Kaleigh Davis. Mentor: Prof. Jeb Byers. "Sponge Colonization across Varying Salinity Regimes."
  • Allison Koch, Foundation Fellow, ecology minor. Mentor: Asst. Prof. Scott Connelly. "Clearing Natural Forest Lowers Decomposition Rates and Results in Less Diverse Macrofauna and Mesofauna Communities."
  • Jack Owen. Mentor: Prof. Alan Covich. "Do Non-Native Apple Snails Feed Preferentially on Non-Native Aquatic Plants in Lake Seminole, Georgia?" and "Using Environmental DNA to Detect and Track Dispersal of the Island Apple Snail Invasion in Lake Seminole, Georgia."
  • Meryom Pattillo. Mentor: Adjunct Prof. Mary Freeman. "Investigating Invertebrate Utilization of Bryophytes in a Mid-Order Piedmont River."
  • Sarah Perry. Mentor: Prof. Jeb Byers. "Differential Consumption of Eurypanopeus depressus When Infected by Loxothylacus panopaei."
  • Stuart Sims. Mentor: Asst. Research Scientist Andy Davis. "Will Butterfly Gardens Take Off? Butterfly Dynamics and Recruitment in Response to Planted Gardens."
  • David Stoker,CURO Research Assistant . Mentor: Prof. Cathy Pringle. "Leaf Litter Quality, Not Local Adaptation of Macroinvertebrate Communities, Drives Leaf Decomposition in Forested Headwater Streams."
  • Rachel Usher, CURO Research Assistant, with graduate student James Wood. Mentor: Assoc. Prof. Amy Rosemond and Asst. Prof. Seth Wenger. "Response of Stream Biofilms across an Urbanization Gradient."
  • Katherine Zarada, CURO Research Assistant/CURO Graduation Distinction. Mentor: Assoc. Prof. John Drake. "Time to Extinction in Deteriorating Environments."

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