MACUB (2021) Conference

Student Presentations

Environmental Biology and Ecology (EBE-2).

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Dr. Emily Herstoff

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Dr. Kestrel Perez

Zoom Meeting

Time: 10/30/21, 11:05AM -

Meeting ID: 762 497 8469


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7-1. Pace University.

The Developmental Plan of Inflorescence Circumnutation in Arabidopsis thaliana. (Perez, Sofia & Brenner, Eric).

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Abstract: Circumnutation is the swiveling movement of plant appendages that is most pronounced in growing organs. Roots use circumnutation to burrow into the soil like a corkscrew into a cork whereas trellising vine shoots circumnutate in order to find structural support. Currently, it is not known why shoots of non-twining plants circumnutate. One theory suggests that cyclical variation in the volume of pressure (potential) between the convex and concave areas of the bending zone in the stem is what causes circumnutation. These differences in water content are related to turgor and concentration of ions (Niinuma, K et al, 2005). Darwin produced the first seminal work on circumnutation in The Power of Movement of Plants (Darwin, Charles. 1880.) where he proposed the existence of an internal oscillator as the source of circumnutation. His work foretold the discovery of actual molecular oscillators involved in plant circadian rhythms (McClung, C Robertson. “The Plant Circadian Oscillator.” Biologyvol. 8,1 14. 12 Mar. 2019). As a first step towards understanding why circumnutation occurs in non-twining plant shoots a developmental profile of circumnutation is being analyzed in Arabidopsis thaliana inflorescences. The time-lapse movement capture program Plant Tracer ( is being used to quantify the amplitude of nutation throughout the duration of inflorescent stem growth. Preliminary results indicate that there is a dramatic fold increase in circumnutation amplitude as the inflorescence elongates from the time emergence up to 5 cm in length. The purpose behind this dramatic increase in circumnutation amplitude is unknown.

7-2. New Jersey City University

Zooplankton Biodiversity and Decapod Larvae Density in the Lower Hackensack River. (Nguyen, Huy & Fitzgerald, Allison)

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Abstract: The lower Hackensack River estuary is a rich ecosystem, with a variety of microorganisms and filter-feeding invertebrates as well as fish and crustaceans. Some of these microorganisms will be zooplankton such as copepods, immature invertebrates and chordates, eggs, larvae, and juveniles of adult nekton, which are carried through the water. There is a lack of published research on the zooplankton of the lower Hackensack River, which would add to the existing literature on the Meadowlands ecosystem, including birds and fishes. The goal of this study is to determine the biodiversity of crustaceans in the zooplankton across a salinity gradient Hackensack River with special attention dedicated to crab (decapod) zoeae and megalopae. It was hypothesized that zooplankton biodiversity would increase as salinity increases towards the mouth of the river. Zooplankton samples were collected over an 8-week period at three locations along a salinity gradient. Samples were towed from a boat using a 150-micron net on an outgoing tide. Results indicate that estuarine crab larvae might be most comfortable with waters in a mid-saline range, which could be explained by the falling tide on both dates pushing more saltwater species out of the river. Zooplankton biodiversity measurements changed from the first sampling date to the third, with the emergence of new freshwater species and an overall increase in freshwater species abundance as summer went on; possible explanations for the difference may be due to an influx of lower salinity water from upriver. This research has established the presence of several species of crabs within the estuary, which provide a vital link in the food chain.

7-3. Westchester Community College.

The Effect of Urbanization on Avian Diversity at Purchase College, SUNY. (Goddard, Rayna; Lemus, Jenifer; Connal, Nicole; Salazar, Kevin; Riccardi, Krystal & Jackson, Allyson).

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Abstract: Urbanization is an ever growing problem as the conversion of natural habitats into urban areas. A negative impact includes loss of biodiversity. We want to determine how urbanization and the human disturbances affect native bird diversity on Purchase College campus (Westchester County, NY). We used trail cameras on 10 areas on Purchase campus. This allowed us to be able to see disturbances such as human activities and motorized (cars/trucks/lawn maintenance) from early May to mid June 2021. These cameras were set up on developed land, grasslands, and forested areas on campus. For calculating avian diversity, we performed point counts in the 10 areas, in a 50 meter radius. The natural habitat data was collected by the use of ArcGIS, a software that allowed us to determine the percentage of land type in a 75 meter buffer for each location. The point count data allowed us to calculate Shannon diversity for native and non-native birds. Our results showed that there was more bird diversity in the natural areas on campus. Also, the data indicated that disturbances did not have any effect on bird diversity. Based on our data, avian diversity seemed to be more affected by habitats, rather than disturbances. This shows that to conserve birds, we should focus on protecting natural habitats.

7-4. Westchester Community College.

Connection between native plants, soil health, and soil biodiversity. (Collier, Mac & Eiden, Margaret).

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To gather data on how native plant species interact with the ecosystem, four weeks were spent observing Penstemon digitalis plants in three different trial beds on the Westchester Community College campus. Of particular interest was the relationship between native plants and pollinators, and the relationship between native plants and soil health and soil biodiversity.

Native plants play an important role in the ecosystems in which they naturally occur. They coevolved alongside native insects and wildlife and can be critical sources of food and habitat for these species. Compared to non-native plants, native plants are adapted to the soil and climate conditions of the region, requiring less fertilizer than non-natives and being linked to potential mitigation of soil erosion and conservation of plant-microbe-soil interactions.

The trial bed located in Westchester Community College’s Native Plant Center would be expected to have more indicators of soil health than the two trial beds located elsewhere on campus because the Native Plant Center’s environment had the most plant diversity and the least disturbed soil.

To compare the indicators of soil health present in the three trial beds, several tests were performed in each trial bed. The presence of bacteria was measured through serial dilution of soil and plating onto an agar medium. The activity level of decomposers and detritivores in general, including bacteria, fungi, and certain animals was measured with a buried cotton test. The presence of insects and other arthropods was evaluated by using a Berlese-Tullgren funnel as well as setting pitfall insect traps, and comparing the number of organisms counted from each trial bed.

The results of these tests indicate that there is a greater amount of biotic soil factors in the Native Plant Center trial bed, compared to the other two trial beds on campus.

These results are currently preliminary, as future research could repeat these experiments to obtain a more representative sample size, and potentially obtain additional data on the correlation between soil health and the rate of plant growth. Further study of this topic is needed in order to build a greater understanding of how the use of native plant species could potentially improve soil health compared to non-native species. 

7-5. St. Francis College.


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Abstract: =The Hudson River originates in the Adirondack Mountains and flows down the eastern half of New York State and ends in the Upper New York Bay. The river is home to a variety of aquatic life. Throughout the year there are seasonal distributions of animals, that either cross the Hudson along their migration paths (birds) or use it as a conduit during an annual migration (fish). The Hudson River Almanac, hosted by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYDEC) is a project which documents noteworthy animal sightings along the Hudson throughout each year. We examined this almanac as a resource to uncover patterns of animal characteristics from August 2020 to January 2021. Migration routes, mating, and abundance were studied and then each trait was charted on a map of the Hudson Valley.

7-6. St. Francis College.

Evaluation of Enterococcus Levels in the East River in Relations to Public Health. (Mensah, Joshlyn; Kano, Briana; Gonzalez, Zenovia; Cardenas, Irma; Albro, David & Ellington, Jenna).

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Brooklyn Bridge Park is a waterfront recreational ground along the East River in New York City. Compounding human use and illegal spilling of industrial waste can cause harmful effects on the environment, aquatic species, and human health. Enterococci levels are measured to evaluate the quality of water, as it is an indication of fecal contamination. Found in feces of humans and other mammals, the presence of Enterococci in water can have harmful effects on human health. In joint effort with the NYC Citizen Water Quality Testing Program, Enterococci levels were measured over a 20 week period from Brooklyn Bridge Park (Pier 2, Pier 4 and Dumbo Cove). We hypothesize greater Enterococci levels at Pier 4 due to the greatest amount of human activity and debris observed. To test this hypothesis, water samples were collected from each pier and measured using the Enterolert IDEXX kit. All samples were placed in IDEXX quanti trays for enumeration and incubated at 41°C. The research revealed that Dumbo Cove had the highest amount of Enterococcus compared to the other two sites. The average Enterococci levels at Dumbo Cove were 304.4 colony forming units (cfu) per 100 mls of water, over 8 times the level deemed safe for recreational activities. Increased amount of Enterococcus levels at Dumbo Cove were presumably influenced by increased human and animal activity, extreme weather events, and a build up of debris. The sustained high levels of Enterococci may have potential public health implications with respect to antibiotic-resistant organisms that are present in the water.

7-7. Seton Hall University.

The Effect of Antifouling Biomaterials on Algal Growth and Biofilm Formation. (Saleh-Esa, Mariam; Patel, Rich & Chu, Tinchun).

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Abstract: An increase in algal blooms due to eutrophication promoted by urbanization has become a prevalent matter in water bodies across the country. Such harmful algal blooms have extensive detrimental effects on aquatic wildlife and public health. This study aims to evaluate how the synergistic effect of phthalocyanine dimethylformamide (PC-DMF) coating, when exposed to light, produces reactive oxygen species (ROS) to inhibit algal growth and biofilm formation. Fluorescent GloFish™ Zebrafish were acquired and placed in an ambient tank and another tank absent of natural light for photoactivation. Temperature and pH levels were recorded during each feeding to ensure stability. Fish behavior was also documented over the course of several weeks. PC-DMF was observed to have no detrimental effect on the fish. It was noted that healthy fish were vibrant in color while the ill fish lose their fluorescence. Glass slides containing the PC-DMF coating were submerged in the tank to evaluate its antifouling effects. For the fish tank that was isolated from natural light, lumen projectors were used to provide lighting to activate the PC-DMF. The results indicated that the slides coated with PC-DMF had significantly less algal growth (up to 85.54% inhibition) compared with the control slides. Samples from both tanks were also collected and analyzed by microscopy. Several species of algae were identified including Chlorella and Diatoms. Filamentous cyanobacteria Anabaena spp. was also detected. In conclusion, light-activated PC-DMF has the potential to inhibit algal growth and biofilm formation which could be used for a wide range of applications.