Research Tracks

A publication of the Office of the Vice Provost for Research at Baylor University

November 14, 2014
by Baylor OVPR
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Upcoming event: Dr. Thure E. Cerling to present lecture on the environmental context of human evolution in East Africa

WHAT
Thure CerlingBaylor’s Geology Department, the College of Arts & Sciences and the Office of the Provost present a special lecture by Dr. Thure E. Cerling, a distinguished professor of biology and a distinguished professor of geology and geophysics at the University of Utah.

A member of the National Academy of Science, Cerling’s work primarily concerns the use of isotopes to study biological and geological processes occurring near the Earth’s surface. These studies include cosmic-ray produced isotopes to study geomorphology, the chemistry of lakes and lake sediments, stable isotope studies of diet and of soils, isotope forensics and studies of early hominin environments in Africa. He served for nine years on the U.S. Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board.

WHEN
Friday, Nov. 21
3:00 p.m.

WHERE
Baylor Sciences Building, room E.231

The event is free and open to the public.

July 30, 2014
by Baylor OVPR
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Baylor research in the news: Dinosaurs may have fallen victim to historically bad timing

Dinosaurs might have escaped extinction if the massive, prehistoric astroid strike that killed them had occurred at an earlier or later point in time, according to new research by a Baylor geologist working with an international team of scientists.

Dr. Daniel Peppe, an assistant professor of geology in Baylor’s College of Arts & Scientists, was part of a team of experts from the United States, Canada and Great Britain who found that the six-mile-wide astroid that wiped out the dinosaurs occurred at a time when the huge creatures were already facing disruptions in their food chain due to sea level changes, volcanic activity and temperature variations. These changes in the period leading up to the astroid strike left dinosaurs especially vulnerable to the tsunamis, earthquakes and other events caused by the astroid.

The study, published in the journal Biological Reviews, has been covered by a number of major news outlets.  Click the links below to read more about this research.

April 29, 2014
by Baylor OVPR
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URSA honors top student research from 2014 Scholars Week

The 2014 edition of Scholars Week was one of the largest ever, with 165 students presenting the results of their independent research and scholarly activities.  The event included two days of platform presentations and two days of poster sessions where students had the chance to present their research findings to their peers.  The OVPR thanks the Undergraduate Research and Scholarly Achievement (URSA) Steering Committee as well as students involved in Baylor Undergraduate Research in Science & Technology (BURST) for all their hard work.

This year, for the first time, the URSA Steering Committee and Baylor University Libraries presented awards for the most outstanding platform presentations.  Library staff attended each presentation and selected the most outstanding student research in four divisions: Arts and humanities, nursing, social science and STEM.

As in previous years, the top research posters in a number of departments were recognized by faculty with outstanding poster designations.  The anthropology, biology, environmental science, geology, physics and psychology & neuroscience departments, along with the Louise Herrington School of Nursing, recognized top posters presented by students mentored by their faculty.  These posters are currently on display in the walkway between the Moody and Jones libraries.  The exhibition will continue through commencement weekend, May 16 and 17.

Click “Continue Reading” to see a full list of outstanding platform presentations and posters from Scholars Week 2014.
Continue Reading →

February 20, 2014
by Baylor OVPR
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Baylor geologists discover evidence of early ape environments

Eighteen million years ago on the flanks of the Kisingiri Volcano (modern day Rusinga Island, Kenya) the early ape Proconsul (center) and the primate Dendropithecus (upper right) inhabited a warm and relatively wet, closed canopy tropical seasonal forest.

Eighteen million years ago on the flanks of the Kisingiri Volcano (modern day Rusinga Island, Kenya) the early ape Proconsul (center) and the primate Dendropithecus (upper right) inhabited a warm and relatively wet, closed canopy tropical seasonal forest (Illustration credit: Jason Brougham).

Geologists at Baylor, working with an international collaborative team of scientists, have uncovered for the first time direct evidence on Rusinga Island, Kenya, that ties Proconsul, an early ape, to a closed-canopy forest environment. While scientists had previously speculated, based on its skeletal anatomy, that Proconsul would be well suited to living in dense forests, the Baylor team’s discovery provides the first definitive confirmation of the environment in which the ape lived.  Results of their research were published this month in Nature Communications.

Lauren Michel, a doctoral student in geology and the study’s lead author, along with a team of collaborators found fossil remains of an individual of Proconsul in a fossil forest system that included tree stump casts, calcified roots and fossil leaves. Based on the tree stump casts found near the remains, Michel and her collaborators were able to conclude that the ape inhabited a dense, closed canopy forest.

Proconsul is the earliest ape we’ve been able to definitively place in a specific environment,” she says. “This is significant because it helps us get a clearer picture of these animals and their place in the ape/monkey/human family tree.”

Other Baylor co-authors on the paper include Dr. Daniel Peppe, assistant professor of geology, Dr. Steven Driese, professor of geology, and William Horner, a 2012 graduate of Baylor’s geology department. Horner, now in graduate school at Colorado State University, traveled to Kenya as an undergraduate to assist with the Proconsul research, which formed the basis of his senior thesis project.

Read more about the Baylor team’s discovery:

Remnants of an ancient forest provide ecological context for Early Miocene fossil apes
Nature Communications

Discovery by Baylor University Researchers Sheds New Light on the Habitat of Early Apes
Baylor Media Communications release

February 12, 2014
by Baylor OVPR
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Turning over an old leaf: Baylor geologist finds climate clues in fossilized plants

Thanks to modern record-keeping, finding out what the weather was like at any time in the recent past is a fairly simple proposition. Gathering data on the earth’s climate from millions of years ago, however, is another matter. Since there is no way to directly measure ancient climatic conditions, researchers make inferences about ancient environments based on currently available evidence, such as fossils.

Dr. Daniel Peppe collects fossil samples in the field.

Dr. Daniel Peppe collects fossil samples in the field.

Research by Dr. Daniel Peppe, an assistant professor of geology in Baylor’s College of Arts & Sciences, has revealed a new set of tools for reconstructing ancient ecosystems using fossilized fern leaves. The study, published this month in the American Journal of Botany, suggests that fern fossils can reveal environmental data from earlier periods compared to existing methods, which rely on plant groups with a shorter fossil record.

“We know that we can use the size and shape of leaves to reconstruct climate and ecology,” Peppe says, “but that analysis is mostly focused on angiosperms — flowering plants like modern trees. The fossil record for angiosperms goes back about 150 million years, but there is a much longer fossil record for other types of plants, particularly ferns.”

To tap into that longer fossil record, Peppe and an international team of collaborators studied 179 modern fern species, seeking a connection between the plants’ features and the environments in which they grow. Their analysis revealed a relationship between ferns’ biomechanical features — the ratio of stem thickness to leaf mass — and the life span of the plant’s leaves.

A fossil of the fern species Onoclea sensibilis collected from the Fort Union Formation in the Williston Basin in North Dakota. The fossil is Paleocene in age and around 65 million years old (photos courtesy of Dr. Peppe).

A fossil of the fern species Onoclea sensibilis collected from the Fort Union Formation in the Williston Basin in North Dakota. The fossil is Paleocene in age and around 65 million years old (photos courtesy of Dr. Peppe).

Peppe says that understanding the growth pattern of a plant and the life span of its leaves reveals information about the type of environment the plant lived in.

“A slow-growing plant would indicate an environment where the plants are not often disturbed, so they are able to put more resources into growing larger leaves that live longer,” he says. “Faster-growing leaves with shorter life spans would suggest the plant is in an area where it would be frequently disturbed by flooding or other disturbances.”

The researchers also found that ferns differ from flowering plants in the relationship between stem width and leaf mass, which Peppe says may be related to differing evolutionary histories or differences in the way the plants use their stems for support and to carry water and nutrients to and from the leaves.

Peppe’s work was supported in part by a grant from the Young Investigator Development Program in the Office of the Vice Provost for Research.  Click here to read the full paper in the American Journal of Botany.

January 22, 2014
by Baylor OVPR
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Upcoming event: CASPER seminar with Dr. Jay Pulliam

The Center for Astrophysics, Space Physics and Engineering Research (CASPER) presents a lecture by Dr. Jay Pulliam, the W.M. Keck Professor of Geophysics in Baylor’s College of Arts & Sciences.

“Seafloor Seismology: Research and Technology Needs for Studies of the Solid Earth”

Pulliam-FlyerABSTRACT
“Studies of Earth’s structure and tectonic processes are hampered by a dearth of instruments that can be deployed on the seafloor. Since more than 75% of the planet is covered by water, and important structures, such as mid-ocean spreading centers and subduction zones reside in and beneath oceans, such limitations impede our understanding of the Earth as a whole.

“Fortunately, modern technology has resolved some previous shortcomings, such as a lack of stable clocks and batteries for long-term operation of autonomous seismic recorders, so a frontier of Earth science is about to open to prospectors. I will review the research needs that can only be satisfied by ‘campaign-style’ expeditions in the ocean basins or permanent seafloor observatories and show recent results obtained with autonomous ‘ocean bottom seismographs.'”

WHEN
Friday, Jan. 24
2:30 p.m.

WHERE
Baylor Research and Innovation Collaborative (BRIC)
Room 3160

MORE INFORMATION
Contact Sherri Honza at 254-710-1271 for more information.

May 16, 2013
by Baylor OVPR
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URSA ceremony honors contributions to undergraduate research

The OVPR and the Undergraduate Research and Scholarly Achievement (URSA) steering committee sponsored the first-ever URSA awards ceremony this month. Dr. Truell Hyde, vice provost for research, presented plaques and certificates honoring administrators, faculty and students who have contributed to the growth of undergraduate research at Baylor.

Continue Reading →

May 14, 2013
by Baylor OVPR
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University Research Committee announces recipients of FY 2014 small and mid-range grants

The OVPR and the University Research Committee are proud to announce the results of the 2014 URC Small and Mid-Range Grant Programs.  These grants are intended to expand Baylor faculty members’ research capacity by providing support for research or creative activities in any academic area.

Continue Reading →

May 3, 2013
by Baylor OVPR
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OVPR announces URSA Small Grant Program awards for FY 2014

The Office of the Vice Provost for Research and the Undergraduate Research & Scholarly Achievement Steering Committee are proud to announce the results of the FY 2014 URSA Small Grants program. URSA Small Grants provide funding to faculty mentors who support undergraduate students conducting independent research or scholarship in their field.

Undergraduate students Josh Flores, Gabrielle Leonard, Rachel Calhoun, and Chris Gerac field questions from the audience following their presentation at the 2013 Scholars Week event.

Students who participate in URSA-funded research have the opportunity to work alongside graduate students and faculty on research projects that expand knowledge and help to solve real-world problems. Through exposure to research, students develop skills in critical thinking, problem solving and data analysis that make them better prepared to pursue graduate, medical or professional education after college. URSA-funded students also have the chance to hone their communication and presentation skills by participating in URSA Scholars Week, an annual campus-wide celebration of undergraduate scholarship (click here to read more Research Tracks coverage from the 2013 Scholars Week).

Please join the OVPR in congratulating each of this year’s URSA Small Grant recipients!

FY 2014 Undergraduate Research & Scholarly Achievement Small Grants Program

Dr. Tamarah Adair
Senior Lecturer, Department of Biology
College of Arts & Sciences
Variation of the effect of blue light on different strains of Staphylococus aureus
Abstract (PDF)

Dr. Lori Baker
Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology
College of Arts & Sciences
Morphometric and Biogeochemical Skeletal Analysis of Deceased Undocumented Border Crossers
Abstract (PDF)

Dr. Donna Burnett
Assistant Professor, Department of Family & Consumer Sciences
College of Arts & Sciences
Why College Students Gain Weight: A Qualitative Investigation
Abstract (PDF)

Dr. Clay Butler
Senior Lecturer, English Department
College of Arts & Sciences
Managing Conflict Talk
Abstract (PDF)

Dr. Pat Danley
Assistant Professor, Biology Department
College of Arts & Sciences
The Genetic Basis of Conspecific Aggression in Lake Malawi Cichlid Fishes
Abstract (PDF)

Dr. Nathan Elkins
Assistant Professor, Department of Art, Art History
College of Arts & Sciences
Coinage and Power in the Reign of Nerva (AD 96-97)
Abstract (PDF)

Dr. Shelby Garner
Lecturer, Louise Herrington School of Nursing
Picture This! The Use of Photovoice to Illuminate Perceived Challenges and Rewards of Nursing Identified by Future Nurses in Bangaluru, India
Abstract (PDF)

Dr. Karol Hardin
Assistant Professor, Department of Modern Foreign Languges
College of Arts & Sciences
An Analysis of Spanish Language and Culture Education for Health Care Personnel
Abstract (PDF)

Dr. Bill Hockaday
Assistant Professor, Geology Department
College of Arts & Sciences
An Analysis of Sampling Techniques for Particulate Organic Matter and Implications for Understanding River Carbon Cycling
Abstract (PDF)

Dr. Bob Kane
Associate Professor, Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry
College of Arts & Sciences
Characterization of Islet Surface Modification Chemistry
Abstract (PDF)

Dr. Joaquin Lugo
Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology & Neuroscience
College of Arts & Sciences
Pharmacological Optimization of Learning and Memory
Abstract (PDF)

Dr. Kevin Pinney
Professor, Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry
College of Arts & Sciences
Structure Activity Relationship Studies Related to Small-Molecule Tubulin Binding Analogues
Abstract (PDF)