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Symposium Proceedings


Note: Presentations are grouped by the student’s area of research (based on the faculty mentor’s academic department), not the student’s academic major.


Poster Session E: 

2:15 - 3:15 pm

Natural Resource Ecology and Management; Nutritional Sciences; Physiological Sciences; Plant and Soil Sciences; and Plant Biology, Ecology, and Evolution (36 posters)




E-01       Braden Coats

Research Collaborators:  Elizabeth Haymaker, Eric B. Duell

Research Presentation Title:  Assessing belowground plant traits to assess drought resistance in Hard Red Winter Wheat (Triticum aestivum)

Faculty Research Mentor:  Gail Wilson, Natural Resource Ecology and Management


Maintaining or increasing capacities for grain production is a key challenge due to increasingly variable precipitation patterns, greater drought intensity and duration, and greater soil water limitation. Our study assesses how alternative and potentially complementary belowground plant traits, such as rhizosheath formation, arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) symbiosis, and root system architecture, mediate plant resilience to water limitation. Previous research has indicated rhizosheaths, mycorrhizas, and root architecture co-vary among and within plant species, and soil moisture may be an important driver of trait expression. We evaluated two cultivars of hard red winter wheat (Triticum aestivum: Double Stop CL and Smith’s Gold) as our model cultivars. Eighteen seedlings of each cultivar were planted into steam-pasteurized low-nutrient sandy loam soil inoculated with AM fungi and an additional 18 were planted without AM fungal inoculation. All pots (6 x 25 cm) were amended with native soil microbial communities without AM fungi. Three soil moisture treatments were initiated following seedling transplant: 100% field capacity (FC, well-watered), 80% FC (consistent moderate drought), and pulse droughting (50% of plants displaying visible wilting followed by adequate soil moisture). Plants were maintained in a 20-22º C growth chamber for 5 months. At harvest, above- and belowground biomass, rhizosheath formation, and AM fungal root colonization were determined. Root architecture determination is in process. Both cultivars responded similarly regardless of drought, and moderate or pulsed drought did not significantly affect biomass production or AM fungal colonization. However, plants grown in the absence of AM fungi had 66% greater development of rhizosheaths and, although rhizosheath formation was initiating on all roots, formation was significantly increased with drought. Plants exposed to a consistent moderate drought had 74% greater development of rhizosheaths  and plants exposed to pulse drought had 195% greater development of rhizosheaths, compared to well-watered plants. This study sets an important baseline to build further studies assessing the role of plant root traits in response to water limitation. Understanding the role of belowground traits increases predictive abilities to determine plant vulnerability, sensitivity, or resilience, and will improve our capacity to manage for increased grain production under increasing aridity.


E-02       Chaille Driggers

Research Collaborators:  Lindsey Buehler, Andrew Jolin, Zoe Protzman, Lydia Laughlin

Research Presentation Title:  Mesocarnivore responses to prairie dogs across a range of latitudes

Faculty Research Mentor:  Courtney Duchardt, Natural Resource Ecology and Management


Black-tailed prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus) are a keystone species; this means that they have a disproportionately large effect on their environment relative to their abundance. They play a critical role in maintaining the health of the surrounding ecosystem. They eat and clip grass to ensure the visibility of predators which improves forage quality by keeping plants in an earlier phenological state, but clipping decreases forage quantity. The value of their presence in the ecosystem is debated because of the quality-quantity tradeoff. Farmers tend to think of them as a nuisance because their diet overlaps with cattle and their burrows appear potentially hazardous to livestock. We have strategically placed on and off prairie dog colony game cameras on Kaw Lake, the Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge, and Kiowa/Rita Blanca National Grassland in order to observe ecosystem interactions and record associated species data in relation to prairie dogs. Preliminary results from the cameras at Kaw lake have shown opossum (Didelphis virginiana), skunk (Mephista mephista), raccoon (Procyon lotor), coyote (Canis lantran) bobcat (Lynx rufus), red fox (Vulpes vulpes), and white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) present on the colony. While observations from this early data indicate that prairie dogs are likely a prey species for mesocarnivores, wildlife could also be attracted to the supplemental human feeding of this roadside colony. Our observations support previous research that has shown that prairie dogs provide a food resource for multiple carnivores and habitat for other wildlife species such as burrowing owls and the endangered black-footed ferret. This work will also provide the only comprehensive dataset to examine how predator communities associated with prairie dogs differ across the state of Oklahoma. By conducting more research and providing evidence of prairie dogs being a keystone species in Oklahoma, we will hopefully be able to better educate the public and ensure prairie dog management does not negatively impact ecosystem function and services.


E-03       Jamie Eastep

Research Collaborators:  Lindsey Bruckerhoff

Research Presentation Title:  Diet Variability in Green Sunfish Across a Gradient of Body Size and Stream Sizes in the Kansas River Basin

Faculty Research Mentor:  Lindsey Bruckerhoff, Natural Resource Ecology and Management


Diet variability among consumers in river systems is thought to be directly tied to the body size of the consumer and the stream size in which the consumer is dwelling. The Kansas River Basin in the Flint Hills of Kansas provides a large gradient in stream conditions where Lepomis cyanellus (green sunfish) are known to be widespread. We looked at diet variability in green sunfish and determined if the body size and stream size drove the variability of diets. To investigate this; over 300 green sunfish were collected from tributaries across a gradient of stream sizes and the contents of their stomach were analyzed to determine variability in their diet. Variability is quantified by the number of different types of prey items found in the stomach. We predict that the variability of prey will stay the same as body size and stream size increase. This research is important because green sunfish are becoming more common and currently, we do not understand how this is influencing streams in the Kansas river basin. Further, this research builds on current hypotheses on what drives consumer consumption, such as optimal-foraging theory and the niche-breadth hypothesis.


E-04       Skyla Johnston

Research Collaborators:  Sue Fairbanks, Mason Reichard, Vanessa Wong, Tiana Sanders

Research Presentation Title:  Trichinella species infection in bobcats (Lynx rufus) in Oklahoma

Faculty Research Mentor:  Sue Fairbanks, Natural Resource Ecology and Management


Trichinellosis is a zoonotic disease caused by Trichinella species. Trichinella is a parasitic roundworm found worldwide that is transmitted by ingestion of raw or undercooked meat. In wildlife, Trichinella is mostly transmitted through predator-prey relationships. Wild felids in many regions are becoming infected with Trichinella species and bobcats (Lynx rufus) in Oklahoma are joining the list. As the number of infected bobcats increases, so does the risk of transmission to other companion animal and livestock species as well as people. This study aimed to detect the prevalence of Trichinella infection in legally trapped or hunted bobcat tissue submitted for testing throughout Oklahoma. The tissue samples were digested and examined for the presence of Trichinella worms and nurse cells. Of the submitted samples, four out of the 29 counties submitted bobcat tissue samples that resulted in positive identification of Trichinella species. These findings coincide with previous findings of positive Trichinella infections in some Oklahoma counties with the addition of three counties that tested negative previously or samples were not collected from those counties at that time. Due to the limitation of only testing samples received from legally trapped or hunted bobcats, the actual intensity of Trichinella infection could be higher than what is reported in this study. Combining the results of the two studies, we can investigate the geography of Trichinella infections and possibly identify factors correlating with bobcat infection.


E-05       Andrew Jolin

Research Collaborators:  Lindsey Buehler, Chaille Driggers, Zoe Protzman, Lydia Laughlin

Research Presentation Title:  Ecological Effects of the Black-Tailed Prairie Dogs at Kaw Lake Colony

Faculty Research Mentor:  Courtney Duchardt, Natural Resource Ecology and Management


Rangelands are vital yet misunderstood biomes that humans depend on for environment and economical services. The Black-Tailed Prairie Dog ( Cynomys ludovicianus ) is a keystone species and environmental engineer crucial for the preservation of rangelands. The species have faced years of government extermination campaigns and negative perceptions stemming from being rodents. We have decided to research the colonies at Kaw Lake in Ponca City, OK and the Wichita National Wildlife Refuge near Lawton, OK to understand how they affect the flora and fauna in new habitats inside and outside their historic range. We chose these colonies specifically because they were both established by humans using prairie dogs from Fort Supply. Furthermore, the Kaw Lake Colony is highly unique as it has had woody-plant encroachment, no other nearby prairie dog colonies, a small starter population chosen at random, little help from the Corps of Engineers, but has thrived for forty years. To achieve our goal, our team placed two game cameras on and two cameras off colony at both sites, took vegetation samples, monitored for predation activity, documented the prairie dog behavior, and determined any outside influences that may aid the prairie dogs’ survival.  In addition, we will provide information to the US Army Corps of Engineers Tulsa District so they can educate people about the Kaw Lake Colony. Currently, the research is still ongoing, so we do not have any final results.


E-06       Lydia Laughlin

Research Collaborators:  Courtney Duchardt, Hailey Freeman 

Research Presentation Title:  Efficacy of cellular transmission in camera traps

Faculty Research Mentor:  Colter Chitwood, Natural Resource Ecology and Management


Camera traps are an important noninvasive tool used by scientists to monitor wildlife. They are becoming more popular as they continue to become cheaper, more efficient, and provide large data sets; however, these large data sets can be daunting to analyze at one time. As with any technology, new features are being added to camera traps constantly to improve performance and encourage more use by researchers and the public. One of these new features is cellular transmission of photo data, which gives the user the ability to receive photos taken by a camera trap without visiting the trapping site. Such technology could greatly reduce the amount of time spent monitoring camera traps for memory card space and battery life. Moreover, the cellular transmission function could also allow for real-time analysis of photos, which could redistribute the time usually devoted to processing a large data set when the memory card is retrieved. Unfortunately, cellular transmission technology in camera traps is still very new, which means little is known about its reliability. Thus, our objective was to determine the effectiveness of cellular transmission technology by designing a camera trap test at Oklahoma State University’s Cross Timbers Experimental Range (CTER). We used ArcGIS to generate a stratified random sample of trap locations, and we placed half (n=5) of the camera traps in open grassland and the other half (n=5) in forested areas. The camera traps were deployed from 4 September to 5 October 2021. We monitored the number of transmitted photos each day, and once we retrieved the camera traps, we compared the number of transmitted photos to those stored on the memory card. Our data indicated the majority of the photos taken each day were transmitted successfully; however, there were a few instances where transmission functionality was a concern, which may limit the effectiveness of this technology for real-time data analysis. We recommend that researchers consider advantages and disadvantages of cellular transmission when designing studies that rely on the technology.


E-07       Ronie Loffelmacher

Research Collaborators:  Sue Fairbanks, Courtney Dotterweich, Jake Humm

Research Presentation Title:  Effects of Den Type and Reproductive Status on Temperature Profiles of Black Bear (Ursus americanus) Hibernacula

Faculty Research Mentor:  Sue Fairbanks, Natural Resource Ecology and Management


Over the last 30 years, climate change has caused detriment to many ecosystems and habits of wildlife across the globe, decreasing population size and threatening species with extinction. While Black Bears (Ursus americanus) are not widespread across Oklahoma like they historically were, they have been recolonizing the state since the 1980’s and have become an important component of ecosystems in eastern Oklahoma. Black bear emergence hibernation is, in part, related to ambient temperature. However, the actual temperature experienced by a hibernating bear likely depends on the type of den it uses for hibernation. My research study, in progress, investigates the difference in temperature profiles of bears with different reproductive status and den type. Reproductive status is classified as non-reproductive male/female, female with cubs, or female with yearlings and den type is classified as standing hollow tree, hollow downed tree, cave, rock pile, ground nest, brush pile, or excavated. My study is part of a larger study using collars and telemetry data in eastern Oklahoma. I use Thermochron iButtons that have been programed to take a reading every hour and are strategically placed inside the hibernaculum away from the bears so that their body heat does not interfere with data collection, and on a structure immediately outside the hibernaculum to access the temperature profile of each den compared to ambient temperature. We deploy the Thermochron iButtons at hibernacula in late February/early March and will be collected after the bears have left their dens in late April/early May. The results of this study will increase our understanding of hibernation behavior and help predict effects of climate change on black bear hibernation.


E-08       Dana Miller

Research Collaborators:  Yevgeniya Malyutina, Gail Wilson

Research Presentation Title:  What do earthworms eat? Carbon isotope signatures determine root and fungal consumption by native and non-native earthworms

Faculty Research Mentor:  Gail Wilson, Natural Resource Ecology and Management


Previous research has shown that non-native earthworms can affect plant communities by changing microbial and fungal abundances within the soil profile. Consumption of arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi has been suggested as an important mechanism for ecosystem disruptions and plant loss following non-native earthworm invasion. Disruptions of plant-AM fungal mutualisms likely occur through earthworm burrowing and feeding activities. It has been proposed that earthworms actively consume AM fungal hyphae and fine roots colonized by AM fungi, however no studies have directly evaluated if earthworm feedings are targeted or random. In addition, there has been no research comparing native and non-native earthworm consumption of fine roots or associated AM fungi. Preferential feeding of AM fungi could have severe implications for ecosystems such as tallgrass prairies, where most dominant plant species are dependent on the symbiosis for nutrient uptake. Using a mesocosm study, we investigated the consumption of native Diplocardia spp. and non-native Aporrectodea trapezoides earthworms, both of which are found in local grasslands. In our mesocosm study, one Andropogon gerardii (big bluestem, C4) seedling was planted into soil collected from an eastern redcedar (C3) forest Each mesocosm was amended with one of the following earthworm treatments: native, non-native, and no earthworms. After 15 weeks, we analyzed earthworm, soil, and root samples for carbon isotopic signatures. Earthworm consumption of AM fungi was determined based on carbon isotopic signatures: soil organic matter (C3); vs C4 plant fine roots or AM fungi (acquires carbon from the C4 host plant).  Our results indicate non-native earthworms consumed relatively more plant-derived carbon, compared to native earthworms. Native earthworms reflected an isotopic signature closely aligned with that of C3 soil, indicating consumption was largely organic matter. However, non-native earthworms comprised a significantly less negative carbon signature, closely reflecting that of C4 plant roots or AM fungi. Our results indicate Diplocardia spp. and A. trapezoides earthworms have distinctly different feeding preferences, with A. trapezoides interacting more directly with the rhizosphere, compared to Diplocardia spp. Our results suggest native and non-native earthworms interact with plants differently despite both being endogeic and occupying a similar ecological niche.


E-09       Rhea Abraham

Research Presentation Title:  Age as a Determinant of Postprandial Metabolic Health

Faculty Research Mentor:  Sam Emerson, Nutritional Sciences


The goal of the broad study with which I am assisting is to find changes in triglycerides and other factors that can detect cardiovascular disease. The study is designed to be able to detect a change in triglycerides so that something can be done about it. The objective of the research is preventative care and allowing treatment to work the best it can by catching any possible chance of disease early on.  Normally, you must fast to test for glucose and triglycerides in your bloodstream to see if there's too much or too little which can lead to heart disease or a high LDL etc (Medline, 2021).  This can prove to take a lot of time and the results most likely will be similar if you did one blood draw and then come back to the clinic for another one to observe change in the patient's numbers. There are three types of trials that are done in our study. The first one being a Standard in Lab (SL) protocol, in which there is an IV catheter and blood being taken every hour for 6 hours. Another trial was Abbreviated in Lab (AL) where the participant would be able to stay in the lab between the meal given which is a high fat shake and the 4-hour blood draw. The AFTT, which stands for Abbreviated Fat Tolerance Test, is when the participant could leave the laboratory between the meal and 4-hour blood draw. Our study shows that if you don’t fast in a postprandial assessment then you can detect disease early on as well. Each participant will do an SL, AFTT, SL and AFTT trial. I will be measuring what changes with each participant and how it contributes to their lifestyle and how some participants may have different diseases and that may impact their triglycerides. impacted based on any medication that the participant is taking.


E-10       Bailee Arthur

Research Collaborators:  Julia Sylvester

Research Presentation Title:  Title: A Nutrient Analysis of the Fat Content of The Blue Zones Kitchen Recipes

Faculty Research Mentor:  Allison Hepworth, Nutritional Sciences


Objective: To support long-term heart health, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans advise consuming a diet high in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, and low in saturated and trans fats. Using The Blue Zones Kitchen: 100 Recipes to Live to 100 (2019) as a case study of recipes that are promoted to support longevity, this study aimed to 1) Describe the percentage of total energy (kcal; “calories”) from fat across all recipes; and 2) Describe the percentage of total calories from polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, saturated, and trans fat. I hypothesized that the percentage of total calories from fat would be within the Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Ranges (AMDR) for total fat (20-35% of total calories). I also hypothesized that the recipes would be higher in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats than saturated and trans fats. Methods: Ingredient lists were entered into nutrition analysis software, Food Processor. Nutrient analysis reports were exported from Food Processor for analysis. Firstly, the percentage of total calories from all fat in each recipe was calculated. Secondly, the percentage of total calories from polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, saturated, and trans fats were calculated. Descriptive statistics were calculated for all study variables. Results: Across all recipes included in this preliminary analysis (n=35), the median percentage of total calories from all fat was 26% (Range: 3-80; IQR: 9-49). Polyunsaturated fat contributed a median of 5% of total calories (Range: 0-32; IQR: 3-12). Monounsaturated fat contributed a median of 15% of total calories (Range: 0.2-53; IQR: 2-23). Saturated fat contributed a median of 5% of total calories (Range: 0.1-11; IQR: 1-7). Trans fat was largely absent from the recipes (median = 0% of total calories; Range 0-0.03; IQR: 0-0). Conclusion: As hypothesized, the percentage of total calories from all fat (26%) was within the AMDR range of 20-35%. Monounsaturated fat was the highest of all fats and trans fats were found in very small quantities, and levels of polyunsaturated fat and saturated fats were similar. The proportion of fats in The Blue Zones Kitchen recipes align with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans advice for long-term heart health.


E-11       Cody Cummins

Research Presentation Title:  Results of the ROTC and Nutrition/ Kinesiology (RANK) Needs Assessment

Faculty Research Mentor:  Jill Joyce, Nutritional Sciences


Objective: Military officers report obtaining nutrition information most often from popular media and least often from doctors or dietitians. The majority of officers state the military places too little emphasis on nutrition and there needs to be greater focus on changing Soldiers’ nutrition. They suggest increasing opportunities for nutrition education for military personnel. Collaborations between university departments and ROTC programs present as an ideal opportunity. Thus, the purpose of the RANK needs assessment was to determine interest, perceived importance, desired components, and foreseen challenges to a nutrition and physical training education program for university ROTC programs by cadets (students) and cadre (instructors). Methods: Two focus groups were conducted in November 2020 with cadets (n=5) and cadre (n=5) in OSU ROTC programs. Questions covered demographics, level of interest, perceived importance, class logistics, interest in additional services, and career impact. Thematic analysis was performed using video recordings and detailed notes. Results: Out of 5 (highest interest), cadets scored interest as 4.8 and importance as 4.2. Cadre scored interest and importance as 5. Cadets and cadre were consistent in responses regarding class logistics. They recommended classes be offered in person, livestreamed, and recorded to maximize reach and include PowerPoint slides, but remain interactive. They reported no need for incentives. A health challenge aspect was desirable. Class length and frequency was suggested at one hour every week of the semester. Cadets foresaw several major benefits, while cadre provided a long list of benefits for cadets’ future careers. Conclusions: University departments collaborating with their respective ROTC programs to provide nutrition/ physical training classes is of high interest and importance to cadets and cadre with countless significant benefits to the careers of these future military leaders.


E-12       Sadie Freudenberger

Research Collaborators:  Bryant H Keirns, Christina M Sciarrillo, Kara L Poindexter, Madison D Dixon, Sam M Hart

Research Presentation Title: Body Composition Measures Associated with Postprandial Triglyceride Concentrations

Faculty Research Mentor:  Sam Emerson, Nutritional Sciences


Background: A large increase in triglyceride concentrations following a high-fat meal (i.e., postprandial lipemia) is an independent cardiovascular disease risk factor. However, little is known regarding individual factors that are associated with or determine postprandial triglycerides. We aimed to identify body composition measures that are associated with postprandial triglyceride concentrations following a high-fat meal. Methods: We conducted a secondary analysis of data from 5 previously conducted studies in our laboratory, each utilizing identical methods. A blood sample was collected at baseline and 4 hours after a high-fat shake (73% fat; 9kcal/kg body mass) to determine fasting and postprandial triglycerides. In addition to body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference (WC), body composition variables – relative body fat (BF%), relative muscle mass (MM%), and visceral adipose tissue (VAT) – were measured via bioelectrical impedance analysis (Seca mBCA 514). Data were analyzed in SPSS using correlation and backward elimination regression. Results: Across 5 studies, complete data from 156 participants (age: 44.9 ± 21.0 years; sex: 83F/73M; BMI: 27.3 ± 5.5 kg/m2; fasting glucose: 98.6 ± 7.8 mg/dL; fasting triglycerides: 94.6 ± 45.3 mg/dL; fasting total cholesterol: 170.8 ± 34.5 mg/dL) were compiled for this secondary analysis. Postprandial triglycerides were correlated with age (r = 0.24, p = 0.003) but no difference between sexes was observed (p = 0.06). Significantly associated with 4-hr triglycerides were BMI (r = 0.29, p < 0.0001), WC (r = 0.33, p < 0.0001), BF% (r = 0.23, p = 0.004), MM% (r = 0.23, p = 0.004), and VAT (r = 0.35, p < 0.0001). In a backward elimination regression (R2 = 0.15), the variables most predictive of 4-hr triglycerides were MM% (β = 0.21, p = 0.009), VAT (β = 0.25, p = 0.004), and BF% (β = 0.16, p = 0.064). Conclusions: In a secondary analysis of 156 participants across 5 studies, we identified MM%, VAT, and BF% as being the most predictive of 4-hr triglycerides. Although the strength of the relationship may be weak to moderate, body composition appears to influence postprandial triglyceride concentrations. Further research could determine preventative measures regarding body composition to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease associated with postprandial triglyceride concentrations.


E-13       Caroline Geist

Research Collaborators:  Dr. Deana Hildebrand

Research Presentation Title:  Nutrition Knowledge and Misinformation Among College Students

Faculty Research Mentor:  Sam Emerson, Nutritional Sciences


Objective: Many people have nearly universal access to nutrition information due to the Internet, yet online sources have a wide range of scientific and journalistic integrity that is difficult to predict. This affects the understanding and attitudes of the public regarding nutrition information. Given the academic and research-focused setting of universities, they are points of interest regarding the extent of this effect. The purpose of this study was to determine the nutrition knowledge and misinformation among Oklahoma State University students, relative to their preferred sources of nutritional information. Methods: A survey questionnaire was designed to evaluate the nutrition knowledge, attitudes, and perceptions of college students. It was composed of multiple-choice questions targeting popular sources of nutrition information and what factors participants considered to belong in either a healthy or unhealthy dietary pattern. The survey was released via Qualtrics, and five thousand OSU undergraduate students were randomly selected and contacted via email for participation. Results: At the conclusion of the study, 316 responses were recorded. When asked which factors characterize a healthy pattern of eating, prioritizing fruits and vegetables was the most common response (97%), followed by eating fish regularly (65%), and drinking only water (60%). When asked which factors characterize a non-healthy pattern of eating, eating sweets was the top response (83%), followed by eating snacks like chips (78%) and juice cleanses (68%). When selecting sources of nutrition information, word of mouth/friends and family was the most common (56%), followed by social media (45%) and health websites like Healthline and MayoClinic (42%). Summary: The data collected suggests that most Oklahoma State University students rely primarily on informal sources of nutrition information (i.e. word of mouth, social media). However, our data also suggests that most students understand key principles of a healthy dietary pattern like prioritizing fruits and vegetables and drinking only water, and avoiding foods and snacks that are overly sugary, calorically dense, and of little nutritional benefit. Taken together, these findings potentially suggest that despite students’ overreliance on untrustworthy sources, the nutrition field has adequately popularized fundamental tenets of healthy eating.


E-14       A.J. Gibson

Research Collaborators:  Aspen J. Gibson, Evan R. Hermann, Edralin A. Lucas, Stephen L. Clarke, Ahmed Bettaieb, Dingbo Lin, Winyoo Chowanadisai

Research Presentation Title:  Reduced dendritic length and branching complexity in ZIP12 knockout mice and a transgenic mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease

Faculty Research Mentor:  Winyoo Chowanadisai, Nutritional Sciences


Alzheimer's disease is characterized by neurodegeneration including reduced neurite length of neuronal cells within the brain and leads to less connectivity between neurons. The impact of Alzheimer's disease- associated neurodegeneration is a decline of overall brain function such as memory retrieval, processing, and formation. ZIP12 is a zinc transporter that is expressed in the nervous system and allows zinc influx into cells. Previous studies have shown that loss of ZIP12 function impairs brain development in vertebrates, including shorter neurite length. Other studies have shown that polymorphisms in ZIP12 can result in brain differences that are observable by MRI. Due to the high expression of ZIP12 within the brain and role in brain function, a loss of this zinc transporter may increase the risk for premature aging and neurodegenerative disorders. We hypothesize that branching density and total dendritic length will be reduced in ZIP12 knockout (KO) mice at 21 days and 20 months of age when compared to wildtype (WT) control mice of the same age. We also hypothesize that branching density and total dendritic length will be similarly reduced in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease when compared to WT control mice. Using brain sections with Golgi staining, neurons in the striatum of ZIP12 KO mice and an Alzheimer's disease transgenic mouse model (J20) were viewed by light (brightfield) microscopy and traced using Neuromantic software. Traced dendrites in neurons were analyzed by ImageJ/Fiji software for branching complexity using Sholl analysis and for total dendritic length. Our data demonstrates that ZIP12 KO mice at both 21 days and 20 months old mice have dendrites with reduced intersections at approximately 40-60 microns from the center of the neurons. In addition, ZIP12 KO mice have shorter total dendritic length at 20 months. Mice with Alzheimer’s disease transgene have reduced intersections and reduced dendritic length. ZIP12 KO mice and mice with Alzheimer's disease transgene both have differences in neuronal morphology that are comparable to each other. Therefore, our data suggest that loss of ZIP12 in ZIP12 KO mice have impaired neuronal microstructure which may lead to accelerated brain aging or increased susceptibility to neurodegeneration.


E-15       Bethany Hatter

Research Collaborators:  Bethany H. Hatter, Pelumi Adedigba, Sanmi E. Alake, Islam Proapa, Leo Pérez, Avery B. Snethen, John A. Ice, Edralin A. Lucas, Brenda J. Smith

Research Presentation Title:  Role of Short Chain Fatty Acids in Mediating the Osteoprotective Effects of Tart Cherry and Fructooligosaccharides in C57BL/6 Female Mice

Faculty Research Mentor:  Edralin Lucas, Nutritional Sciences


Objectives: Dietary supplementation with tart cherry (TC) protects against age-related bone loss and fructooligosaccharides (FOS) are considered one of the fruit’s bioactive components.  This study compared the osteoprotective effects of TC and FOS, and determined whether this response is mediated via gut-derived short chain fatty acids (SCFAs). Methods: 8-wk-old female C57BL/6 mice (n=112) were assigned to 6 groups in 3x2 factorial with diet (control-AIN93M, Con+10% TC, or Con+10% FOS) and antibiotics (+/-Abx) as factors. After 10 weeks of treatment, whole body dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry scans were performed assessing bone mineral density (BMD) and content (BMC). Femur (distal metaphysis & mid-diaphysis) and lumbar vertebrae were scanned using micro-computed x-ray tomography. Fecal SCFAs were assessed using gas chromatography. Data were analyzed using a 2-way ANOVA with α=0.05. Results:  FOS increased whole body BMD (p<0.01) and BMC (p<0.001) compared to Con and TC groups, regardless of Abx. In mice fed Con diet, Abx treatment decreased (p<0.05) BMD, a response not observed in TC- and FOS-fed mice. Femoral and vertebral trabecular bone volume (BV/TV) was increased (p<0.05) with TC and FOS, but the response was greater with FOS (p<0.01). A main effect of Abx on trabecular bone (i.e., increasing BV/TV) occurred at both skeletal sites. FOS+Abx significantly increased femoral BV/TV, a similar trend occurred with TC+Abx (p=0.06) but not Con. FOS increased femoral cortical area compared to TC, while cortical thickness was unaltered by diet. Abx decreased cortical thickness (p<0.05) and area (p<0.01) regardless of diet.  Fecal propionate and n-butyrate were the only SCFAs increased (p<0.0001) with FOS compared to Con and TC groups. As anticipated, Abx+ reduced all SCFAs compared to Abx-. The addition of Abx to FOS and TC diets reduced (p<0.01) acetate, propionate, and n-butyrate, but no change occurred with Con diet. Conclusion: Although TC positively affected trabecular bone, FOS produced a greater trabecular and cortical bone response. Fecal analyses suggest that SCFAs do not mediate the osteoprotective effects, but confirmation is warranted based on alterations in circulating SCFAs.


E-16       Kate Kouplen

Research Collaborators:  Evan Hermann, McKale Montgomery

Research Presentation Title:  Enzymatic Assessment of Cells with Distinct TP53 Mutation Types

Faculty Research Mentor:  McKale Montgomery, Nutritional Sciences


The p53 transcription factor, encoded by the human gene TP53, is the most commonly mutated gene in human cancers. Once the TP53 gene is mutated, p53 proteins not only lose their tumor suppression abilities but can also contribute to tumor growth. One-way mutant p53 can do this is by increasing iron uptake and availability by altering the regulation of iron-sulfur (Fe-S) cluster containing proteins. Understanding such alterations are important because Fe-S cluster proteins play a role in both energy metabolism and DNA repair enzymes, which can suppress the progression and expansion of cancerous tumors. This study’s main focus was to examine how TP53 mutation status influences Fe-S cluster protein regulation, and subsequently iron homeostasis in tumor cells.  First, we assessed the activity of the Fe-S containing enzymes cytosolic and mitochondrial aconitase in cell lines expressing a variety of TP53 mutations. Specifically, we used human cancer cell lines that express the six most commonly observed TP53 mutations, representing nearly 25% of all TP53 mutations in human cancers. We found that while aconitase activity decreased as expected following the chelation of iron in cells expressing wild type TP53, the influence of iron chelation on aconitase activity in cells expressing mutant TP53 varied depending on mutation type. This data strongly suggests that TP53 mutations significantly influence how the activity of Fe-S cluster enzymes is regulated. Thus, our ongoing studies are focused on investigating the mechanisms by which TP53 mutation status influences the regulation of genes involved with Fe-S cluster biogenesis and consequently, Fe-S cluster containing protein activity. This research is important because it will help determine how homeostatic control of iron metabolism is maintained in cancer cells expressing distinct TP53 mutations. Such findings are important because understanding how the status of the TP53 mutation influences cancer cell iron metabolism could help further facilitate the development of metabolic interventions and iron-targeted chemotherapy strategies.


E-17       Mackenzie Lynch

Research Collaborators:  Crystal Lee, Yoo Kim

Research Presentation Title:  Black ginseng ameliorates cellular senescence via p53-p21/p16 pathway in aged mice

Faculty Research Mentor:  Yoo Kim, Nutritional Sciences


Cellular senescence is an irreversible cell cycle arrest that can compromise tissue repair functions and contribute to the process of aging. Black ginseng (BG), a type of steam-processed ginseng, has drawn significant attention due to its bioactive compounds that have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects against aging. However, how BG influences the cellular senescence process has not yet been fully discovered. In this study, we examined the effects of BG on cellular senescence and regulation of age-related markers using in vitro and aged mouse model. To induce cellular senescence in vitro, we generated mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) and the cells were exposed to acute ionizing radiation (IR). Senescence was detected by senescence-associated beta-galactosidase (SA-β-gal) staining assay. We found that MEFs treated with BG had expressed less senescence-associated β-galactosidase (SA-β-gal)-positive stained cells. For the aged mouse study, the mice were randomly divided into three groups: young (3 months old) and old (21 months old) controls, and black ginseng (BG)- treated old mice for 4 weeks. We administrated vehicle (water) or BG extract (300 mg/kg) dissolved in water via oral gavage injection. At the end of dietary intervention, we analyzed the expression of aging-associated genes using the RT2 Profiler PCR array to determine what pathway BG supplementation effects on aging. The aged mice supplemented with BG showed altered hepatic gene expression profiles compared to control mice. BG supplementation downregulated age-related inflammatory genes, especially the complement system, and suppressed its downstream marker, β-catenin. We also observed less activation of canonical senescence pathways, p53-dependent p21 and p16 in multiple metabolic organs such as liver, skeletal muscle, and white adipose tissue. Taken together, these results suggest that BG has a potential to be a senolytic - a drug or small molecule to prevent, reduce or reverse age-associated diseases - due to its ability to reduce cellular senescence via regulation of canonical senescence pathways.


E-18       Kristen McClanahan

Research Collaborators:  Ashlea Braun

Research Presentation Title:  Qualitative Assessment of the Fire Station Food Environment Using Photovoice

Faculty Research Mentor:  Jill Joyce, Nutritional Sciences


Objective: Cardiovascular events are the leading cause of death for on-duty firefighters. Studies evaluating modifiable risk factors to mitigate this dismal outcome are nascent. Limited qualitative data suggest fire station food environments are “toxic” and demand attention. Further defining both objective evaluations of the food environment and associated perceptions among firefighters are essential to development interventions. The objective of this study was to define the fire station food environment using a novel approach. Methods: This cross-sectional study employed Photovoice to document food environment healthfulness of four fire stations within a rural Midwest career fire department. Photos of the fire station food environment were taken in the ‘voice’ of firefighters and researchers. Details surrounding timing, fire station, shift, food location, and voice were captured for each photo. Photos were coded deductively based on criteria selected a priori, including presence of Healthy Eating Index 2015 (HEI) components for dietary quality (DQ) and behavioral economics techniques (BET) supporting foods in photos. NVivo qualitative analysis software was used. Descriptive statistics summarized frequency of codes and photo details. Chi-square was used to compare frequency of codes across photo details. Results: Analysis included 40 images. Based on preliminary results, there were 273 total coded references. Moderation HEI components and BET promoting them were the most frequent codes: low DQ food is normal (10.3% of coded references), added sugar (9.9%), low DQ food is convenient (9.2%), low DQ foods are attractive (8.8%), saturated fat (8.4%), and sodium (8.4%). Adequacy HEI components and BET promoting them were less frequently coded: total fruit (1.5%), whole fruit (1.5%), whole grains (1.8%), and dark greens and legumes (2.2%). Conclusions: Results confirm existing data that fire station food environments support low DQ food choices. The most common coded references were low DQ food is normal, attractive, and convenient, as well as presence of added sugar, saturated fat, and sodium. The least common coded references included presence of fruits, whole grains, and dark greens and legumes and their promotion. This indicates an unhealthy, obesogenic food environment.


E-19       Ella Moffet

Research Collaborators:  Ashlea Braun

Research Presentation Title:  Examination of Ultra-Processed Food Consumption in Oklahoma

Faculty Research Mentor:  Ashlea Braun, Nutritional Sciences


Dietary patterns are significant contributors to health-related outcomes (e.g., cancer mortality), many of which are sub-optimal in Oklahoma. Data indicate ultra-processed food (UPF) consumption may worsen these outcomes. The NOVA Food Classification System was created to operationalize foods based on type and extent of processing, with four categories: Category 1 (unprocessed/minimally processed) (e.g., fresh fruits/vegetables (FV)); Category 2 (processed culinary ingredients) (e.g., butter); Category 3 (processed foods) (e.g., canned FV); and Category 4 (UPF) (e.g., packaged snacks). The purpose of this study was to examine UPF consumption in Oklahoma adults. A subset of data from a secondary data analysis was leveraged, including dietary data via 24-hour recalls conducted by Oklahoma Cooperative Extension. Each food reportedly consumed was assigned a NOVA Category; descriptive statistics were computed. Results indicate in this subset of Oklahoma adults (n=30), percent of calories consumed from each category was as follows: Category 1, 24%; Category 2, 0.2%; Category 3, 9.8%; and Category 4, 66%. Percent of calories from Category 1 and Category 4 foods ranged from 0%-75% and 11%-100%, respectively. The most commonly consumed Category 1 foods were fruits and/or fruit juices, while the most commonly consumed Category 4 foods were sugar-sweetened beverages; fast-food or reconstituted meat/poultry/fish products (e.g., sausage); and industrial grain products (e.g., breads). Contrasted with nationally representative data, Oklahoma adults consumed a smaller percentage of calories from Category 1 (24% versus 27.4%) and a larger percentage from Category 4 (66% versus 57%). Results indicate UPF in Oklahoma exceeds the national average and warrants further examination.


E-20       Molly Moore

Research Collaborators:  Jill Joyce

Research Presentation Title:  Mindfulness Surrounding Eating among Current Firefighters, Law Enforcement Officers, and Military Personnel and Its Relationship to Weight Status

Faculty Research Mentor:  Jill Joyce, Nutritional Sciences


Objective: Obesity among first responders and military personnel is a major concern for personal health and occupational performance, with 40% of law enforcement (LE) officers obese, 70-75% of firefighters overweight/ obese, and about 25% of the military personnel overweight/ obese. There is also high occurrence of anxiety, depression, substance abuse, emotional strain, sleep disturbances, and suicide among these groups. A point of connection is mindfulness surrounding eating, as it is related to obesity, such that as mindfulness during eating decreases, body mass index (BMI) increases from excess calorie intake. The purpose of this study was to determine level of mindfulness surrounding eating among current firefighters, LE officers, and military personnel and how it relates to weight status. Methods: This cross-sectional study employed an online survey shared via social media and email, including demographics, physical activity level, diet type and perceived healthfulness, BMI, and 20-item mindful eating questionnaire (MEQ). Descriptive statistics assessed level of mindfulness of the tactical groups. Correlation coefficients were calculated to determine relationships between MEQ scores and demographics, physical activity level, diet type and perceived healthfulness, and BMI. Results: Preliminary data from 120 surveys (85% fire, 2.5% LE, 12.5% military) indicate MEQ scores for all tactical groups ranged from 2.50-4.47 out of 5. Average MEQ score (± standard deviation) for all tactical groups was 3.13±0.46, with a score of 3 indicating mostly neutral/ lack mindfulness surrounding eating. MEQ scores were similar across tactical occupations (fire = 3.12±0.47, LE = 3.33±0.80, military = 3.17±0.70). Conclusions: Considering negative consequences of obesity among these groups for themselves, one another, and those they serve, investigating mindfulness surrounding eating indicates ambivalence and need for further research, including intervention, in this area.


E-21       Isabelle Posey

Research Collaborators:  Kristen McClanahan, Deana Hildebrand

Research Presentation Title:  Understanding University Students’ Awareness of Campus Food Security Resources

Faculty Research Mentor:  Deana Hildebrand, Nutritional Sciences


Background: Food insecurity is a prevalent issue in college campuses across the country.  The Hunger on Campus study found that 48% of college students face food insecurity.  Studies conducted in 2018 and 2020 found approximately 42% of Oklahoma State University- Stillwater students were food insecure. Sophomores, juniors, seniors, and minority students were at the highest risk, yet were not using campus or community food security resources. Objective: Identify factors contributing to food insecurity and limiting use food security resources. Study Design, Settings, Participants:  The qualitative study was conducted in October 2021 on the OSU Stillwater campus. Sophomores, juniors, and senior-level students were recruited using a randomized email list and through ethnically diverse campus organizations. The interview questions were developed based on findings of the previous studies by researchers and campus life administration familiar with the study. Six interviews were conducted either in-person or virtually. Participants were incentivized with a $10 University Dining gift card. Measurable Outcome/Analysis: Interviews were recorded and transcribed. Two researchers independently analyzed the data for each interview and identified themes across interviews, then met to discuss and resolve differences. The data and themes were reviewed by a third researcher to minimize bias.  For each overarching theme summary statements were written and quotes were extracted. Results: Factors contributing to food insecurity included tuition, living expenses and not wanting to ask for financial assistance.  The primary factor limiting student usage of resources was a lack of awareness and perceived stigma for needing food assistance. The recommended strategy for increasing awareness was to distribute information on campus via social media followed by A-Frames. Conclusion: Campus food security resources are underutilized due to students’ lack of awareness and perceived stigma. The findings can be used by student governments and campus life leaders in promoting food resources. The long-term implication is reduced prevalence of food insecurity at OSU Stillwater’s campus.


E-22       Avery Snethen

Research Collaborators:  Avery B. Snethen, Bethany H. Hatter, Pelumi A. Adedigba, Sanmi E. Alake, Islam Proapa, Leo Perez, John A. Ice, Edralin A. Lucas, Brenda J. Smith

Research Presentation Title:  Does the Presence of Segmented Filamentous Bacteria in the Gut Microbiome Alter the Skeletal Response to Prebiotics in C57BL/6 Female Mice?

Faculty Research Mentor:  Edralin Lucas, Nutritional Sciences


Objectives: Tart cherry and its fructooligosaccharides (FOS) are considered prebiotics with beneficial skeletal effects altering the gut-bone axis.  This study sought to understand how colonization of the gut microbiota with segmented filamentous bacteria (SFB) affects prebiotic responses. Methods: Our 2x3 factorial experiment included 8-wk-old female C57BL/6 mice (n=10 mice/group) from two vendors (Taconic [SFB+] or Charles Rivers [SFB-]) assigned to one of three diets (Control [Con; AIN-93M], Con+10 % Tart Cherry [TC] and Con+10 % FOS [FOS]) for 8 weeks. At treatment end, whole body dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (PIXImus) scans were performed assessing bone mineral content (BMC), density (BMD), and %fat. MicroCT analyses evaluated trabecular and cortical bone of excised femur specimens.  Data were analyzed using 2-way ANOVA with α=0.05. Results: There was a main effect of FOS diet increasing (p=0.0075) BMD compared to Con- and TC-fed mice. No effect of diet or SFB were observed on BMC. We observed an interaction between SFB and diet for %fat, with SFB+ showing higher (p<0.0001) %fat than SFB- mice. FOS increased (p<0.0001) trabecular bone volume (BV/TV) compared with TC and Con in SFB+ mice. This effect was diminished in SFB- mice, with FOS increasing BV/TV (p=0.0151) only when compared to Con. SFB+ mice had a higher trabecular number (TbN) and decreased trabecular spacing (TbSp) than SFB- mice.  FOS significantly increased TbN and trabecular thickness, and decreased TbSp. Cortical thickness was decreased (p=0.0128) in SFB- mice irrespective of diet. SFB+ mice fed the FOS diet exhibited an increase (p=0.0055) in cortical area compared with Con-fed counterparts while SFB- mice showed no significant differences. Conclusion: FOS treatment had a greater effect than TC treatment on bone and resulted in more notable improvements in bone microarchitecture in SFB+ mice. This study highlights the importance of targeting prebiotic interventions based on the colonization of the gut microbiota to optimize the efficacy of treatment.


E-23       Julia Sylvester

Research Collaborators:  Bailee Arthur

Research Presentation Title:  A Nutrient Analysis of the Protein Content of The Blue Zones Kitchen Recipes

Faculty Research Mentor:  Allison Hepworth, Nutritional Sciences


Objective: The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that older adults consume a protein-rich diet to prevent muscle loss. There is also some evidence that consuming plant-based protein foods supports longevity. Using The Blue Zones Kitchen: 100 Recipes to Live to 100 (2019) as a case study of recipes promoted to support longevity, the objectives of this study were to 1) Describe the percentage of total energy (kcal; “calories”) from protein; and 2) Categorize protein food ingredients as plant-based or animal-based. I hypothesized recipes would be within the Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range (AMDR) for protein (10-35% of total calories), and that plant-based protein foods would be more common than animal-based. Methods: Ingredient lists were entered into the nutrition analysis software, Food Processor. Nutrient analysis reports were exported from Food Processor for analysis. To answer the research questions, the percentage of total calories from protein in each recipe was calculated and summarized using descriptive statistics. The frequency of the individual ingredients was calculated. Protein food ingredients were categorized based on the USDA What We Eat In America Food Categories. Results: Across all recipes in this preliminary analysis (n=35), the median percentage of total calories from protein was 7% (Range: 2-68; IQR: 5-14). There were 11 unique protein food ingredients and all but 1 were plant-based. Beans (chickpeas, fava beans, cranberry beans, kidney beans) were the most frequent protein food (9 uses). The next most frequent were: nuts (macadamia nuts, walnuts, pecans; 3 uses); seeds (chia seeds, sesame seeds; 2 uses); lentils (2 uses), soy products (tofu; 1 use); and seafood (tuna flakes; 1 use). Conclusion: Based on our preliminary results, the percentage of total calories from protein was only 7% compared to AMDR of 10-35%, which was inconsistent with my first hypothesis. The vast majority of protein foods were plant-based, which was consistent with my second hypothesis. The high number of plant-based protein foods in Blue Zones Kitchen recipes are supportive of evidence that suggests a diet rich in plant-based proteins supports longevity. However, the amount of protein in the recipes may be lower than recommended for preventing muscle loss.


E-24       Danielle Woods

Research Collaborators:  Deana Hildebrand

Research Presentation Title:  Household Food Security Within the Community of Choctaw, Oklahoma

Faculty Research Mentor:  Harriet Okronipa, Nutritional Sciences


Background: Household food insecurity is an important public health problem globally. In the state of Oklahoma, 14.7% of households experience some level of food insecurity. Within the city of Choctaw, Oklahoma, several formal and informal food assistance programs exist. However, the awareness and utilization of these food assistance programs are unknown. Objectives: This study estimated the prevalence of food insecurity within the city of Choctaw, Oklahoma, and explored the awareness and utilization of food assistance programs available in the community of Choctaw. Methods: We conducted an online survey of residents of Choctaw, Oklahoma between December 2021 and January 2022. Residents of Choctaw, Oklahoma aged 18 years or older (n=111) were recruited through online social media posts and flyers posted to public spaces in the city. We collected data on household food insecurity using the USDA 6-Item Household Food Security Survey, and data on awareness and utilization of food assistance programs using a survey questionnaire. Results: On average, participants were aged 43.4±14.4 years. 42% of participants were obese. The majority of participants were female (85%), White (92%), married or living with a partner (70%), and were employed full-time (67%). The prevalence of household food insecurity among our sample was 26.7% (12.9% low food secure, 13.9% very low food secure). The majority of participants (95%) reported awareness of at least one type of food assistance program offered to the community of Choctaw, including Community Food Pantries, Farmers to Families, School Lunch/Meal, SNAP/Food Stamps, WIC, and Meals on Wheels. Among participants who reported being aware of food assistance programs, only 51% utilize at least one type of resource; about 48% do not utilize any food assistance program. Among non-utilizers, reasons include having sufficient access to food hence no need (74%) and feeling like other people needed the food more (10.3%). Other less common reasons participants gave include embarrassment, fear that people might think less of them, and lack of knowledge of how the pantry works. Overall, awareness of food assistance programs did not differ between food secure and food insecure households (94% vs 96%, P=0.7176). However, food insecure households were more likely to utilize food assistance programs compared to households who were food secure (38.4% vs 81.5%, P=0.0002). That said, approximately 20% of food insecure households reported not utilizing any food assistance program. Conclusion: In the city of Choctaw, Oklahoma, one in 5 households experience some form of food insecurity. Food assistance programs do exist, and the majority of respondents are aware of them. Future studies should explore why these resources are not being utilized by some food insecure households to help inform strategies to minimize food insecurity.


E-25       Amanda Bolinger

Research Collaborators: 

Research Presentation Title:  Effect of HydraVes Water Treatment on Equine Skeletal Mitochondrial Function

Faculty Research Mentor:  Michael S. Davis, Physiological Sciences


HydraVes has developed a proprietary water treatment which alters the bond angle water molecules, and therefore changes its physical properties in such a way that is believed to improve cellular function. If effective, this treatment could have broad implications in human and animal performance sports and medical industries. We used ex-vivo assays to assess this water’s effect on mitochondrial function of equine skeletal muscle with the hypothesis that mitochondria incubated with HydraVes water would demonstrate improved function compared to standard water. Mitochondria were isolated from fresh triceps muscle biopsies obtained from four Thoroughbred horses. Each biopsy’s mitochondria were divided into two treatment groups in which media and substrates were prepared using either HydraVes water or ultrapurified laboratory water. High resolution respirometry was used to quantify non-phosphorylating respiration and respiration supported through Complex I, Complex II, and maximal phosphorylating respiration. ATP synthesis and production of Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) were concurrently measured using fluorometry. Two-way repeated measure ANOVA, with water treatment and fluorophore as independent variables, was used to analyze resulting data. P<0.1 was considered significant, taking into consideration the low statistical power of this pilot study. HydraVes structured water resulted in increased oxygen consumption during maximal phosphorylating respiration (p=0.0653) as well as Complex II based respiration (p=0.0285) compared to laboratory water. Oxygen consumption during maximal rate of ATP synthesis was improved by 25% with HydraVes water (p=0.0005). The HydraVes treated samples also demonstrated a decrease in ROS production rate during Complex II driven respiration (p=0.089). However, there was no significant difference in ROS during all other observed forms of respiration (p=0.200-0.345). Results showed HydraVes-produced water was associated with increased mitochondrial function. The treatment had the greatest effect on Complex-II (succinate dehydrogenase) and on ATP synthase. HydraVes water is intended for oral consumption, but this study is unable to determine if it can be successfully absorbed and utilized when not directly applied to the mitochondria in a saturating solution.


E-26       Jillian Gore

Research Collaborators:  Emily Nunan, Carson Wright

Research Presentation Title:  PGC1α Overexpression Protects against Cardio-Metabolic Disease and Skeletal Muscle Dysfunction in Type 2 Diabetic Mouse Model

Faculty Research Mentor:  Joshua Butcher, Physiological Sciences


Diabetes currently afflicts 34.2 million Americans, and approximately 1 in 3 are prediabetic (CDC, 2020). Type 2 diabetes (T2D) is a metabolic disorder characterized by hyperglycemia due to the combination of insulin resistance and insufficient insulin production. Unfortunately, the reoccurring hyperglycemia in association with long-term insulin malfunction has been tied to damage or failure of differing organs such as kidney, nerves, and vasculature (American Diabetes Association, 2007). Predispositions for T2D negatively affect an individual’s skeletal muscle mass as well. Skeletal muscle can be categorized into oxidative and glycolytic fibers; however, oxidative fibers are more insulin sensitive and resistant to fatigue. Overexpression of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma coactivator 1 alpha (PGC1α) is known to increase insulin-sensitive oxidative muscle fibers but what remains unknown is whether it is effective at preventing cardiometabolic disease and skeletal muscle dysfunction in a mouse model of T2D. Our hypothesis is that overexpression of PGC1α will improve muscle performance by preventing fatigability, will preserve glucose homeostasis, and protect against kidney function in a mouse model of T2D. The T2D mouse model utilized was the db/db mouse, which is well characterized as a model of Type 2 diabetes. Overexpression of PGC1 was obtained by crossing the MCK-PGC1alpha transgenic mice onto the db/db background. Adult mice were used for the duration of the experiments with a total of four mouse groups; a lean control, a lean PGC1α overexpression, an obese control, and an obese PGC1α overexpression mouse. Multiple variables were assessed including glucose homeostasis (plasma glucose, HbA1c, IGTT), muscle function (in vivo plantarflexion of gastrocnemius muscle), and fluid dynamics (via metabolic cages). Overexpression of PGC1α improves glucose homeostasis, decreases muscle fatigability, and conserves fluid dynamics in a T2D mouse model. Furthermore, the overexpression of PGC1α returns the blood glucose levels and renal function in the T2D models back to levels of the controls, restoring them to a normal physiological state.  Muscle rate of fatigue was significantly decreased in both the lean and obese mice, providing superior performance against fatigability. Altogether, this data suggests that targeting PGC1α is a possible intervention for T2D and potentially other metabolic diseases.

E-27       Gabby Barber

Research Collaborators: 

Research Presentation Title:  Using Soil Moisture Sensors to Improve Agricultural Water Management in Southwestern Oklahoma

Faculty Research Mentor:  Tyson Ochsner, Plant and Soil Sciences


Farmers face numerous challenges when making water management decisions, and there is a need for research that develops a more thorough understanding of these considerations. This is especially true in Oklahoma, which is frequently affected by droughts that impact crop production. We suggest that soil moisture sensors can help farmers alleviate stress related to water management by improving irrigation precision and efficiency. Soil moisture sensors can collect data more quickly, more thoroughly, and more efficiently than farmers can, themselves. Data from these sensors may have value for irrigation decisions, streamflow forecasts, deep drainage, weather events, and more. This project compiled local opinions on sensor technology and compared the performance and user interface of two commercially available sensors, CropX and Sentek Drill-n-Drop. We installed two CropX sensors and two Sentek sensors on cotton fields in southwest Oklahoma. We tracked soil water content and electrical conductivity data from the sensors throughout the 2021 growing season. During this time, we also interviewed farmers in the area to better understand their opinions and goals regarding water management and sensor use. We found that the sensors provide valuable and accurate data, but poor internet connection as well as sensor user interface could make sensor adoption difficult. Because Oklahoma has the fourth highest number of farms in the United States, it is a relevant and valuable model for research in more sustainable and efficient irrigation methods. Therefore, the results of this study can be used in a myriad of ways in Oklahoma and beyond.


E-28       Georgia Eastham

Research Collaborators:  Edralin Lucas

Research Presentation Title:  Evaluation of nutritionally active phytochemicals in selection for purple brancoat in bread wheat

Faculty Research Mentor:  Brett Carver, Plant and Soil Sciences; Edralin Lucas, Nutritional Sciences


Anthocyanins are plant compounds that cause the red and purple pigmentation in blueberries and raspberries. They can function as antioxidants which have been shown to have health benefits by protecting human cells from attack by free radicals and reducing inflammation. Hard Red Winter (HRW) and Hard White (HW) are the only market classes of wheat produced in Oklahoma differing in bran color; neither contain a significant amount of anthocyanins. This study is the focal point of a long-term germplasm introgression and development project with the goal of producing market-ready germplasm with enhanced nutritional value. Purple wheat might provide health benefits and generate additional value for the health foods marketplace. The genetic material in this study included 29 full sib experimental lines and their three parents. Grain was produced in three locations: Yuma, Arizona (2020), Stillwater (2021), and Lahoma, Oklahoma (2021). Wheat was milled into a whole-meal flour and extracted with acidified methanol for assays. Anthocyanin concentration, total phenolic content, and two radical scavenging assays were used. Compared to white phenotypes, purple genotypes had significantly higher anthocyanin concentrations (142 to 298%) in each environment and higher total phenolics (103.85 and 105%) in the 2021 environments. Additionally, delayed harvest appeared to be associated with decreased anthocyanin and phenolic concentrations in purple wheat, which could point to the importance of timely harvest to preserve pigments and nutritional functionality. Evaluation is ongoing with the expectation that one of the purple lines will be suitable for commercial production in the southern Plains states.


E-29       Alyssa Thelin

Research Collaborators:  Grace Flusche Ogden

Research Presentation Title:  Sweep Tillage Impact on Soil Aggregate Stability

Faculty Research Mentor:  Jason Warren, Plant and Soil Sciences


Since 2004, no-tillage cropping acres in Oklahoma have increased by 15%. No-tillage has many benefits, particularly to soil health, but one weakness prevails- this system heavily relies on herbicides to control weeds. Thus, this change in tillage practice has been a gateway for weeds that are difficult to control with herbicide. Sweep tillage is a form of conservation tillage that could effectively control these weeds while retaining benefits of no-tillage, such as soil aggregate stability. Sweep tillage is performed with a V-shaped blade that undercuts the top 7-10 cm of soil. Two studies were initiated near Stillwater, Oklahoma in 2020 and Wakita, Oklahoma in 2021 to investigate the effect of sweep tillage on soil health. The objective of the first study was to determine differences in soil aggregate stability between no-tillage, disk tillage, and sweep tillage. The objective of the second study was to assess soil aggregate stability after one, two, or three passes of sweep tillage in one season.  Soil samples were collected with a handheld probe and were taken from 0-5 and 5-15cm depths. The samples were put through aggregate stability tests and data was analyzed with SAS 9.4.  A linear relationship was found between organic matter content of the soil and its aggregate stability, however, this relationship was not statistically significant (R2 = 0.72). The distribution of stable aggregates across the tillage systems tested showed no-till had the most variance (~16-28%) and disk till had the least (~22%) with sweep tillage in between disk and no-till (~17.5-21%). The results of these studies indicate there was no significant correlation between the tillage treatments on percent stable aggregates. These studies suggest that one season of sweep tillage could offer the opportunity to effectively control weeds without repercussions on soil health. These experiments will be repeated in 2022 and further research will be conducted to evaluate multiple years of sweep tillage on aggregate stability.


E-30       Addison Darby

Research Collaborators:  Eric LoPresti

Research Presentation Title:  Viability of Self-Pollinated vs. Outcrossed Yellowstone Sand Verbena, Abronia ammophila

Faculty Research Mentor:  Eric LoPresti, Plant Biology, Ecology, and Evolution


Characterizing the variation, and the drivers of variation, in plant traits is a necessary step in understanding broad evolutionary patterns of changes in those traits. These traits form the basis for our delineation of species and are also important in the process of speciation. Many of the traits we use to classify angiosperms are floral (meristic) traits, which are important in determining the reproductive success of those species. Independent of pollinator-driven selection, other intrinsic factors can affect the variation in floral traits. Using a sister-taxa pair of California sand verbenas that differ in mating system and meristic variation, I am testing two existing hypotheses about the evolution of variation in these floral traits. Abronia umbellata umbellata is an obligate outcrossing sand verbena found on beaches south of San Francisco Bay which has very little variation in meristic traits. In contrast, its sister taxa, Abronia umbellata breviflora, found north of San Francisco Bay, is strongly selfing and has much variation in meristic traits. Using a A. umbellate breviflora grown in a greenhouse, I will be examining meristic variation across three generations of selfed plants in order to test the hypothesis that inbreeding depression drives this meristic instability. I will also be testing the hypothesis that plant age drives this variation by monitoring meristic variation over each individual’s lifespan. These two hypotheses have been proposed in the literature, but have not been rigorously tested, and this system represents an excellent system to ask these questions in.


E-31       Natalie Demarest

Research Collaborators:  Eric LoPresti, Sierra Jaeger

Research Presentation Title:  The Effect of Soil Color on Abronia Flower Coloration

Faculty Research Mentor:  Eric LoPresti, Plant Biology, Ecology, and Evolution


Soil characteristics have a significant impact on the production of flowers, which are a key indicator of plant fitness, as well as overall plant development. The texture of soil can restrict nutrient uptake by the root systems of plants, which leads to variances in plant growth and coloration. This effect of soil characteristics on plant development has been well researched, but the potential impact of soil color on floral pigmentation and plant development remains unknown. In this study, the influence of four soils of differing coloration on the floral pigmentation of Abronia fragrans was investigated. A. fragrans, a species of sand verbena in the Nyctaginaceae family, is white-flowered throughout most of its endemic range. However, a shift in floral color from white to pink occurs from northwest Texas to southwest Oklahoma, and the evolutionary/ecological factors that drive this transition have yet to be determined. A comprehensive map developed from iNaturalist community observation data uncovered a preliminary trend between soil and flower coloration within this zone. Flowers displaying richer pigmentation grew primarily in dark soil, whereas plants with less pigmented flowers grew most abundantly in lighter soil. In order to test this hypothesis, soil samples ranging from light tan to burnt orange were collected from four different growth sites, and seeds germinated from both white and pink A. fragrans populations were planted in each of the four soil colors. The number of leaves, plant diameter, and length of the longest leaf were recorded for each plant weekly throughout the growing period as indicators of plant development. Pigment extractions and spectrometry are currently being conducted on three inflorescences for each plant to test betalain pigment concentrations. Pigmentation data will be used to quantitatively characterize floral coloration for comparison between each of the four soil types. Correlations between pigment concentration and soil coloration are continuing to be observed and recorded following the conclusion of each analysis. The results of this study will either verify the influence of soil color on floral pigmentation or eliminate soil color as a potential causative agent of the A. fragrans pink color morph.


E-32       Rosa Gorham

Research Collaborators:  Eric LoPresti

Research Presentation Title:  Evolutionary causes of meristic petal number variation in Abronia

Faculty Research Mentor:  Eric LoPresti, Plant Biology, Ecology, and Evolution


Meristic floral variation exists across populations in many genera. Evolutionary transitions between states arise due to natural selection which acts on these variations. When describing the number of petals on a flower, many will list a fixed number which a specific genera or species features. The purpose of this study is to display how these assumptions are not always reliable. Observing floral trait variation and trait transitions across many species will provide insight into evolutionary processes. One genus that would be specifically useful in this research is the sand verbenas, genus Abronia. This group contains vast diversity in petal number across the genus, yet only one species in this genus has been analyzed for petal number variation. I am utilizing the community-science database, iNaturalist, to score petal numbers from 1000’s of photos of wild Abronia plant species across the genus. Through this method, I will be able to test hypotheses surrounding the evolutionary drivers of this floral variation. Preliminary data that I’ve gathered suggests that during two independent transitions to self-pollination, there has been an increase in variation of petal numbers. Throughout the rest of the semester, I will be completing my research on this genus, in addition to utilizing data already collected from the Lopresti lab, to test this along with other hypotheses about this interesting trait variation.


E-33       Reece Phillips

Research Collaborators:  Mark Fishbein, Jude Birkenholz

Research Presentation Title:  Characterizing sequence variation in nuclear ribosomal DNA within multiple species of Asclepias

Faculty Research Mentor:  Mark Fishbein, Plant Biology, Ecology, and Evolution


Concerted Evolution, the consequence of a process of gene homogenization over a period of time, is expected to leave little to no variation within a species ribosomal genes. However previous studies have shown levels of variation exceeding what is to be expected under concerted evolution, implying it is not reaching completion. Investigations concerning the presence of sequence variation across multiple species have been made; however, these compare variations in nuclear ribosomal DNA (nrDNA) across whole genera. Given this, it follows that research into the number of polymorphisms (variations) on an intraspecific level should be conducted to better understand how variation is occurring in differing amounts between individuals of the same species. Next generation sequencing data from multiple individuals per species across the genus Asclepias (milkweeds) were used to assemble nrDNA consensus sequences before SNP calling was performed. This process reveals the abundance of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) within the species consensus sequence when compared to other samples from the same species. Previous papers have shown incomplete concerted evolution has been found in many species of Asclepias and our current results show that within species the extent of variance varies greatly.


E-34       Madi Stessman

Research Collaborators:  Eric Lopresti

Research Presentation Title:  The effects of mating systems on floral organ variation in the family Polemoniaceae

Faculty Research Mentor:  Eric Lopresti, Plant Biology, Ecology, and Evolution


Variation in traits that affect the fitness of an organism is a prerequisite to evolution. Across species within macroevolutionary studies, the traits themselves may be easily noticed, but the ecological drivers behind these traits aren’t always as apparent. For instance, variation in floral traits in plants may affect reproductive success and may be a driving force in speciation. An example of this can be seen in plants within the family Polemoniaceae, which are characterized as having flowers with 5 petals; however, variations in petal number can be found in many of the species within the family. This variation is not well-understood, and it has been hypothesized that pollinator types may affect the rate of petal variation in some species. My research aims to test macroevolutionary hypotheses on petal number variation in relation to mating systems, and whether or not certain pollination strategies correlate with high rates of variation. The subject of this study is the plant family Polemoniaceae; this family is an ideal subject for this research because of its well-resolved phylogeny that includes over 170 workable species with a diverse, and well documented, assortment of pollinators and mating systems. Petal number statistics are extracted using research grade data from iNaturalist, a global, community driven database. This approach allows me to compare large numbers of specimens from populations all over the world. Though this research is still ongoing, I found a high rate of variance in species that do not require pollinators, suggesting that autogamous mating systems are more likely to facilitate a variation in floral traits. This research is the first broad macroevolutionary study of this phenomenon, with over 15,000 flowers having been counted thus far, and will hopefully lead to similar studies in other plant clades with the intent of broadening our understanding of floral variation across the plant kingdom.


E-35       Elizabeth Struble

Research Collaborators:  Benedicte Bachelot

Research Presentation Title:  Flaming Hot Fungi: The Effect of Warming on Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi

Faculty Research Mentor:  Benedicte Bachelot, Plant Biology, Ecology, and Evolution


Tropical forests are hotspots of biological diversity containing thousands of organisms. This biodiversity provides us with food, medicines, and ecosystem regulation of global climate and water supply. Despite their importance, tropical forests are threatened by global change and deforestation because of rising temperatures and decreasing precipitation. Climate change can potentially influence plant community composition directly and species interaction indirectly, but the extent of these effects on tropical forests remains uncertain. An important interaction between species of particular concern is the relationship between tropical plants and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) communities. In this mutualistic relationship, the fungi assist the plant with water and nutrient uptake as well as defense, in exchange for carbon from the plants. AMF has been shown to greatly influence plant community composition. Therefore, any alteration in the fungal communities could have a great effect on the composition of tropical plants. However, little is known about how AMF responds to climate change. We hypothesize that increased temperatures will result in a higher spore count because increased plant growth under warm temperatures might lead to higher allocation towards these mutualist fungi. To test this hypothesis, we used soil samples collected from an existing field experiment conducted in a tropical forest of Puerto Rico in which three 12m2 plots were heated to +4°C and compared to three ambient temperature plots. To extract mycorrhizal fungal spores, the soil was first dried in the oven at 70°C for 48 hours then run through a sieving system to extract the spores of different sizes. Then, residues from each sieve were examined under the microscope to count spores and identify them. We compared total spore counts between control and warmed plots using a student’s t-test. Spore composition across treatment and distance was analyzed using a multivariate test. Contrary to our expectations, warming plots hosted fewer spores than control plots. There was a significant difference in AMF composition between control and warmed plots. By altering AMF communities, warming could alter the future of tropical forests.


E-36       Sara Warren

Research Collaborators:  Eric LoPresti

Research Presentation Title:  The Effects of Temperature on Mucilage Stickiness

Faculty Research Mentor:  Eric LoPresti, Plant Biology, Ecology, and Evolution


The environment surrounding plants can influence and alter the phenotypes the plants exhibit and that therefore can affect the survivorship and success of the plant. A major part of plant success is how successful its seeds can be, what traits do these seeds possess that will allow them to survive?  Seed mucilage is a trait found across many species and families of plants with the mucilage expanding from the seed coat upon being wetted. A previous study found that there was a high binding strength from species from hotter areas. These results are relevant because the force required to remove a seed can make the difference between a seed being able to germinate and eventually produce seeds of its own and being harvested by ants and other insects. We sought to test how drying the seeds at different temperatures, both higher and lower than the norm, would affect the ability of the mucilage to bind to a flat surface like glass slides. This was done by allowing the seeds to dry at 11 different temperatures. The control seeds were allowed to dry over 24 hours at room temperature. For the other treatments we used a drying oven and a refrigerator to reach temperatures between 2 and 75 degrees C. Force meters were used to determine how much force was required to remove the individual seed from the slide. We found that as the drying temperatures increased the amount of force required to remove the seed from the slide decreased. This research can help to explain why seeds from hotter environments showed a higher binding strength in comparison to those from colder environments in the previous study.


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