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Experiencing research: CURO Symposium highlights work in undergraduate research

Mar. 31, 2017



Writer: Stephanie Schupska, schupska@uga.edu

Contact: Martin Rogers, martyr@uga.edu


Sydney-Alyce Bourget stands at the edge of Harvard Forest, measuring the height of one of the 25 garlic mustard plants she's been studying.

Emil Dmello sorts through election data, looking at economic indicators like unemployment, inflation, the misery index and GDP searching for their connection to election outcomes.

Zack Flagel scrolls through the spreadsheet on his computer, checking baseball stats not many people know by heart: the number of spectators injured by foul balls at Major League Baseball games.

McKenna Barney easily spots trends in case studies on maternal malnutrition in conflict zones: Hunger and conflict go hand in hand, and food is often used as a weapon.

These four University of Georgia students are among 554 undergraduates—including 22 from the Odum School of Ecology—who presented their research at the annual CURO Symposium. They've spent hours, semesters, years working with faculty mentors as they study topics that interest them.

Hosted by the Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities, the Symposium is a chance for students to "tell the world about our research," Bourget said. Held April 3-4 at the Classic Center in downtown Athens, the event included students in 91 majors and 13 colleges and schools and involved 311 faculty mentors from 73 UGA departments.

Over the past several years, Symposium organizers have seen an increase in the number of students participating. CURO, administered by the Honors Program, was expanded to non-Honors students in 2010, a year when about 200 undergraduates took part in the event. In 2014, participation broke 250 and has been skyrocketing ever since.

"It has been a great pleasure to observe the growth of undergraduate research across the UGA campus in recent years," said David S. Williams, associate provost and director of the Honors Program. "This growth is the result of both student interest and faculty support. To be able to offer students up to a full four years of faculty-mentored research in any field of study is truly amazing."

Much of the growth is due to a $1,000 research stipend the university launched in 2014 as part of a series of academic enhancements. Known as the CURO Research Assistantship, the program now awards 500 stipends annually.

"The success of the CURO Research Assistantship has resulted in dramatic growth in participation for the CURO Symposium," said Martin Rogers, associate director of the Honors Program and CURO. "The wide distribution of majors, faculty departments and subject matter we see in our Symposium program reflects the expansive impact of that initiative."

At the heart of the numbers are students like CURO Honors Scholar Sydney-Alyce Bourget from Jonesboro, a third-year ecology major in the Odum School of Ecology who studies with professor Jeb Byers. She is fascinated by invasive plants. This summer, she'll analyze cordgrass impact on the Georgia coast.

"I've always had the desire to learn and investigate things, and UGA definitely solidified my passion for doing research and for learning," she said.

To help students in their research, CURO offers coursework, support staff and information sessions on how to begin conducting research. In addition to stipends, the program offers $3,000 summer fellowship grants. Research through CURO fulfills the university's newly implemented experiential learning requirement.

For more information, visit curo.uga.edu/symposium.

2017 CURO Posters and Presentations by Ecology Students

Organic Fertilizer Improves Revegetation of Roadside Soils
Evan Barnard, Ramsey Scholar
Mentor: Dr. Nina Wurzburger, Odum School of Ecology
Tuesday, April 4, Oral Session V: 9:30-10:45 a.m.
Athena Breakout Room D


A Comparison of Functional and Fitness Traits of Alliaria petiolata along a Forest Gradient
Sydney-Alyce Bourget, CURO Honors Scholar, CURO Research Assistant
Mentor: Dr. James E Byers, Odum School of Ecology
Monday, April 3, Oral Session II: 12:20-1:10 p.m.
Athena Breakout Room A


Effect of Prescribed Burning of Riparian Zones on Stream Hyphomycete Fungi Productivity
Sarah E Clement, CURO Summer Fellow
Mentor: Dr. Catherine Pringle, Odum School of Ecology
Poster #136

Predicting Oyster Larval Recruitment and Growth Using Cheaply Obtained, Remotely Sensed Data
John Coffin, CURO Summer Fellow
Mentor: Dr. James E Byers, Odum School of Ecology
Monday, April 3, Oral Session IV: 2:30-3:20 p.m.
Athena Breakout Room J


Mushroom Biochar: The Properties and Potential Applications of Novel Biochars Derived from Mushroom Fruiting Bodies
Jared Conner, CURO Research Assistant
Mentor: Dr. Valentine A Nzengung, Geology, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences
Tuesday, April 4, Oral Session V: 9:30-10:45 a.m.
Athena Breakout Room D


The Effect of Litter Leachate from Fresh Riparian Rhododendron Leaves on Microbial Respiration in Headwater Streams in the Southern Appalachians
Desirae Ann Dickerson, CURO Research Assistant
Mentor: Dr. Catherine Pringle, Odum School of Ecology
Poster # 137

Nitrogen Fixation of Biological Soil Crusts in Longleaf Pine Savannas Respond to Alterations in Precipitation Frequency
Sumaya El-Khalidi, CURO Research Assistant
Mentor: Dr. Nina Wurzburger, Odum School of Ecology
Poster #143

Effects of Acid Rain on Brassica rapa
Luke Gamblin, CURO Research Assistant
Mentor: Dr. Ford Ballantyne, Odum School of Ecology
Tuesday, April 4, Oral Session VIII: 2:00-3:15 p.m.
Athena Breakout Room C


The Necessity for Ethics in Developing Adaptive Management Strategies for Water Scarcity
Taylor Alicia Hill, CURO Honors Scholar, CURO Research Assistant
Mentor: Dr. Don Nelson, Anthropology, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences
Poster #71

Sensitivity of Heterotrophic Soil Respiration (HSR) to Temperature as Mediated by Mycorrhizal Fungi
Grace Anne Ingham, CURO Honors Scholar, CURO Research Assistant
Mentor: Dr. Nina Wurzburger, Odum School of Ecology
Tuesday, April 4, Oral Session VIII: 2:00-3:15 p.m.
Athena Breakout Room C


Determining Reoccurring Tick and Tick-Borne Disease Associations with Mammal Hosts
Jenna Kay Lea, CURO Research Assistant
Mentor: Dr. Andrew W. Park, Odum School of Ecology and Infectious Diseases, College of Veterinary Medicine
Monday, April 3, Oral Session III: 1:25-2:15 p.m.
Athena Breakout Room I


Effect of Invasive Macroalgae Gracilaria vermiculophylla on Feeding Behavior of Callinectes sapidus
Katie Maddox, CURO Summer Fellow
Mentor: Dr. James E Byers, Odum School of Ecology
Monday, April 3, Oral Session II: 12:20-1:10 p.m.
Athena Breakout Room I


Local Perceptions of Wildlife in Samburu, Kenya
Erin Malsbury
Mentor: Dr. Vanessa Ezenwa, Odum School of Ecology and Infectious Diseases, College of Veterinary Medicine
Poster #147

The Call of the Crypt Keeper: E.C. Influences in the Films of George A. Romero
Audrey Miller, CURO Research Assistant
Mentor: Dr. Christopher Sieving, Theatre and Film Studies, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences
Tuesday, April 4, Oral Session VI: 11:00 a.m.-12:15 p.m.
Athena Breakout Room A


Comparing Activity Budgets between Adult and Juvenile Asian Elephants
Nam Money, CURO Research Assistant
Mentor: Dr. Vanessa Ezenwa, Odum School of Ecology and Infectious Diseases, College of Veterinary Medicine
Poster #149

Discovery of Foliar Endophytic Nitrogen Fixation in Pinus palustris (Poster)
Kelsey Morton, CURO Research Assistant
Mentor: Dr. Nina Wurzburger, Odum School of Ecology
Poster #144

Exploring Uncertainty in Models of Mosquito Vector-Borne Disease
Jack Owen, CURO Research Assistant
Mentor: Dr. Courtney Murdock, Infectious Diseases, College of Veterinary Medicine and Odum School of Ecology
Monday, April 3, Oral Session IV: 2:30-3:20 p.m.
Athena Breakout Room I


Identity, Cosmology, and Subsistence in Madagascar (Poster)
Rose Parham, CURO Research Assistant
Mentor: Dr. Bram Tucker, Anthropology, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences
Poster #69

Do Changes in the Quality and Quantity of Leaf Litter Inputs Affect Growth Rates and Emergence of Stream Macroinvertebrate Consumers Following Reach-Scale Removal of Rhododendron?

Reed Peloquin, CURO Research Assistant
Mentor: Dr. Catherine Pringle, Odum School of Ecology
Poster #138

Parasite Infection, Group Size, and Feeding Behavior in Grant's Gazelle
Caroline Shearer, Foundation Fellow
Mentor: Dr. Vanessa Ezenwa, Odum School of Ecology and Infectious Diseases, College of Veterinary Medicine
Tuesday, April 4, Oral Session VIII: 2:00-3:15 p.m.
Athena Breakout Room D


Studying the Effects of Valsartan on Daphnia magna

Alyson Ming Wright, CURO Research Assistant
Mentor: Dr. Ford Ballantyne, Odum School of Ecology
Poster #140

Off of the Vermetid Gastropod, Ceraesignum maximum, in Mo'orea, French Polynesia
Margaret Zacharias
Mentor: Dr. Craig W Osenberg, Odum School of Ecology
Tuesday, April 4, Oral Session IX: 3:30-4:45 p.m.
Athena Breakout Room C

In addition, ten students from other units were mentored by Odum School faculty are presenting talks and posters. They are:

Chemical Weapons and the Legacy of War
Ali Elizabeth Anderson, CURO Honors Scholar, CURO Research Assistant
Mentor: Dr. James W Porter, Odum School of Ecology
Monday, April 3, Oral Session I: 11:15 a.m.-12:05 p.m.
Athena Breakout Room A


Testing Immune Function in Naked Mole Rats During Periods of Wound Healing
Madison Demetry
Mentor: Dr. Vanessa Ezenwa, Odum School of Ecology and Infectious Diseases, College of Veterinary Medicine
Tuesday, April 4, Oral Session IX: 3:30-4:45 p.m.
Athena Breakout Room J


The Effect of Litter Leachate from Fresh Riparian Rhododendron Leaves on Microbial Respiration in Headwater Streams in the Southern Appalachians
Desirae Ann Dickerson, CURO Research Assistant
Mentor: Dr. Catherine Pringle, Odum School of Ecology
Poster #137

Vector-Borne Disease Forecasting
Mallory Jessica Harris, Foundation Fellow
Mentor: Dr. John M Drake, Ecology, Odum School of Ecology
Monday, April 3, Oral Session II: 12:20-1:10 p.m.
Athena Breakout Room B


Effect of Reproductive State on Parasite Infection in Wild Rodents
Soo Min Lee
Mentor: Dr. Vanessa Ezenwa, Odum School of Ecology and Infectious Diseases, College of Veterinary Medicine
Poster #146

Is Serum Bacteria-Killing Ability in the African Bush Rat Driven by Complement?

Isabella Mateu
Mentor: Dr. Vanessa Ezenwa, Odum School of Ecology and Infectious Diseases, College of Veterinary Medicine
Poster #148

Physiology into Our Current Understanding of Littoraria-Spartina Interactions within Southeastern US Salt Marshes
Hend Rasheed, CURO Research Assistant
Mentor: Dr. Craig W Osenberg, Odum School of Ecology
Poster #139

Studying Gene Flow in Boechera stricta to Understand the Impacts of Climate Change
Sunishka Thakur, CURO Research Assistant
Mentor: Dr. Jill Anderson, Genetics, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and Odum School of Ecology
Monday, April 3, Oral Session III: 1:25-2:15 p.m.
Athena Breakout Room D


Effect of Various Threat Categories on the Spatial Clustering of Threatened Mammals

Sunishka Thakur, CURO Research Assistant
Mentor: Dr. Patrick Stephens, Odum School of Ecology
Poster #145

Influence of Air Pollution and Socioeconomic Factors on Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
Siva Venkatachalam, CURO Research Assistant
Mentor: Dr. John L Gittleman, Odum School of Ecology
Poster #141

Mapping and Modeling Hotspots of Schistosomiasis
Joseph Walker
Mentor: Dr. John M Drake, Odum School of Ecology
Poster #142

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