Session C: 1:45PM – 3:15PM

Sciences. Session C – Oral Presentations, Dumke Conference, Alumni House

SESSION C (1:45-3:15PM)
Location: Dumke, Alumni House


Lithobates catesbeianus: A Study of Diet, Disease, and Water Chemistry in Washington County
Euan Andrew, Southern Utah University
Luke Alder, Southern Utah University

Faculty Mentor Carrie Jo Bucklin, Southern Utah University

SESSION C 1:45-2:00PM
Dumke, Alumni House

Lithobates catesbianus (American bullfrog) is a globally invasive amphibian species known to be detrimental to the ecosystems they invade that has been introduced into southern Utah. Up until now, the extent to which these frogs have affected the freshwater ecosystems they have invaded within Washington County, Utah has not been studied in-depth. We hypothesize that Lithobates catesbeianus is significantly impacting the local ecology of Washington County by outcompeting and preying upon native species and by acting as vectors of disease. In September and October of 2022, we captured 46 American bullfrogs at water bodies throughout the Virgin River basin in Washington County, UT. Currently, we are investigating their distribution through observation and capture methods and chemical testing of the aquatic habitats they inhabit. Subsequently, we will analyze their diet by means of dissection and stomach content analysis. Additionally, we will examine their roles as potential vectors of chytridiomycosis using skin swab samples amplified by polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Through collection of these data, we hope to better understand the impact of Lithobates catesbeianus on the indigenous species of southern Utah and what may be done to control this alien species.


Metabotropic Glutamate Receptor 5 Mediated Long Term Depotentiation
Connor Morgan, Brigham Young University
Michael Dew, Brigham Young University

Faculty Mentor Jeff Edwards, Brigham Young University

SESSION C 2:05-2:20PM
Dumke, Alumni House

Since its initial elucidation nearly 100 years ago, Alzheimer’s disease has been associated with sharp declines in cognitive abilities ranging from memory recall and formation to rational thought. While the exact mechanism behind Alzheimer-induced dementia remains an area of active research, there is clear evidence of its deleterious effects on synaptic health and plasticity (Alzheimer’s Association 2022). Synaptic plasticity refers to the ability of neurons to create or destroy synaptic connections. Creating and strengthening neural connections is mediated through the process of Long Term Potentiation (LTP) while weakening or breaking synaptic connections is thought to be mediated through the process of Long Term Depotentiation (LTD). Consequently, LTP has been associated with learning and LTD with forgetting. The exact mechanism for both processes remain unclear, but current data suggests that the metabotropic glutamate receptor 5 (mGluR5) plays an important role in the physiological basis of LTD and, by extension, forgetting (Gladding et al., 2009). This mechanism has been studied in male models but has yet to be characterized in female models; consequently, we intend to replicate recent studies with the modification of characterizing male and female models of mGluR5-induced LTD.


Characterization of CCRL2-V140M and its effect on CCL4, a known risk factor for Alzheimer’s Disease.
Colby Hendrix, Brigham Young University

Faculty Mentor Scott Weber, Brigham Young University

SESSION C 2:25-2:40PM
Dumke, Alumni House

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the leading cause of dementia and a top 10 cause of death in the United States. More than 6 million Americans currently suffer from AD. This complex degenerative condition is caused by both genetic and environmental risk factors. Neuroinflammation plays a critical role in the progression of AD and excessive neuroinflammation can be initiated by chemokine signaling within the brain. A genome-wide association study surveyed 59 AD-related proteins and their correlation with chemokines. One chemokine, chemokine ligand 4 (CCL4), was found at lower concentrations to correlation with the C-C chemokine receptor-like 2 variant V140M (CCRL2-V140M). Increased CCL4 levels are a risk factor for AD and CCRL2-V140M could provide insights into AD development protection. CCRL2 is a seven-transmembrane domain receptor from the atypical chemokine receptor family, receptors that modulate the inflammatory response by modifying chemokine availability. CCRL2’s only known binding partner is chemerin. We performed in-silico and in-vitro binding analyses of CCL4 and chemerin to CCRL2-WT and CCRL23-V140M and found no differences in binding affinity, suggesting a non-direct mode of action may distinguish the CCRL2 variant and WT. Further work is needed to explain the inverse association between CCRL2-V140M and CCL4.


Non-Native Plants and Caterpillar Immune Systems
Mason Hoffman, Utah Valley University

Faculty Mentor Michael Rotter, Utah Valley University

SESSION C 2:45-3:00PM
Dumke, Alumni House

The ability of non-native plants to successfully invade and dominate ecological communities is a central area of ecological study. Many important hypotheses such as the evolution of increased competitive ability and the novel weapons hypothesis suggest that the reason for non-native success is the ability of non-native plants to have reduced herbivore attack, allowing them a competitive advantage over native plants that are attacked by insect herbivores. The insects that “choose” the “winners and losers” of plant-plant interactions are also dealing with their own antagonistic relationships, particularly parasitoid predators. Many herbivores have been found to deal with these parasitoids by medicating themselves through their diets. We tested to see if this self-medication may help explain herbivore preference for native or non-native plant species by testing the immune responses and survivability of Trichoplusia ni fed on the native Mimulus guttatus and the non-native Nasturtium officinale. We also tested the plant consumption rates for caterpillars with and without parasitoid interaction when presented with Nasturtium officinale and Mimulus guttatus together. Immune responses of 5th star T. ni were elevated while feeding on N. officionale compared to those feeding on M. guttatus.  Further, we found that T. ni neonates were not able to survive on N. officionale while neonates survived on M. guttatus. Our results suggest that herbivores may alter plant-plant competition when they are faced with their own top-down pressures, while still having significant restraints on their ability to consume.


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Utah Conference on Undergraduate Research 2023 - Program Copyright © 2023 by Office of Undergraduate Research is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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