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President's Science Symposium to Spotlight Student Research Oct. 15

Story posted October 06, 2010

Bowdoin student researchers (left to right) Andrew Bell '11, Henry Berghoff '11, Holly Jacobson '11, Ben Towne '12, Catherine Johnston '12, and Cory Elowe '11.

Research conducted by Bowdoin science students this past summer under the mentorship of faculty will be in the spotlight Friday, October 15, 2010, at the annual President's Science Symposium. All events are open to the Bowdoin community.

Four students will give talks about their research from 1:35 p.m. to 2:45 p.m. in Kresge Auditorium, Visual Arts Center.

The project descriptions that follow are condensed from abstracts provided by the students.

Andrew Cardamone '11 will discuss his project, "Phosphate Source Sink Dynamics in Androscoggin River Sediments." Cardamone's research, conducted with Associate Professor of Chemistry and Environmental Studies Dharni Vasudevan, sought to determine whether residual inorganic phosphate in the river sediment (caused by mill waste and agricultural runoff) will reenter the water column and adversely affect the ecosystem.

Holly Jacobson '11 will speak about her project, "Ecological and Economic Recovery of the Kennebec and Androscoggin Rivers, Estuary, and Nearshore Marine Environment." Jacobson worked with several fellow students and faculty mentors John Lichter, associate professor of biology and environmental studies, and Guillermo Herrera, associate professor of economics. The project entailed surveying populations of the Lower Kennebec and Merrymeeting Bay to determine the current state of the ecosystem, which has been rebounding in recent years. Further improvement to the ecosystem is being pursued through local environmental awareness and continued investigation. Other students involved in the project were Andrew Bell '11, Benjamin Towne '12, Catherine Johnston '12, Cory Elowe '11, Henry Berghoff '11, and Paul Hinman '11.

Ben Messerly '11 will discuss his project, "Shaking Surfaces: Investigating Crystalline Solids with Focused Ultrasound." Messerly worked with faculty mentor Madeleine Msall, associate professor of physics. His research focused on acoustic waves (waves governed by elastic bonds between atoms) on crystal surfaces, using high-frequency pulses to measure wave speeds.

Rohit Sangal '11 will speak about his project, "Investigation of the Differential Expression of Sema-2a Due to Deafferentation in the Cricket, Gryllus bimaculatus." Sangal worked with Associate Professor of Biology and Neuroscience Hadley Wilson Horch. Because it is rare for an organism to regain central nervous system function following injury, the field cricket—which does reestablish neuronal function—is studied with the theory that understanding regeneration in the cricket may be applied to treating other species.

Following these talks, poster presentations by all student researchers in the sciences will be held from 3 p.m. to 4:15 p.m. in Sargent Gymnasium. More than 50 projects will be on display, and students will be on hand to discuss their research.

The symposium will kick off earlier in the day with a keynote address at Common Hour by guest speaker Katy Payne, naturalist and founder of the Elephant Listening Project (ELP). Payne's talk, which will be given at 12:30 p.m. in Kresge Auditorium, Visual Arts Center, is titled "Eavesdropping on Elephants and Other Large Animals with Surprising Consequences."

Payne began her career studying humpback whale song. She began focusing on elephants in the 1980s when she observed that two Asian elephants in a zoo were communicating through a low-frequency rumbling that falls below the range of human hearing. Further research on elephants in Africa revealed that the elephants communicate long-distance using low-frequency calls to coordinate social behavior.

Payne and her colleagues founded ELP in 1999 at the Bioacoustics Research Program based at Cornell University's Laboratory of Ornithology. Their acoustic research endeavored to aid in the conservation of Central African forest elephants by identifying how their calls are an indication of the animals' size and health.

Now retired, Payne is writing a book about African forest elephants. She is also the author of Silent Thunder: In the Presence of Elephants (1998) and Elephants Calling (1992), a children's book. In 2004 she won the WINGS WorldQuest Women of Discovery Earth Award for her contributions to science.

The President's Science Symposium is made possible with the support of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Office of the Dean for Academic Affairs.

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