Aubrey Funke, the Assistant Director of the Imaging and Histology Core Facility (IHCF), welcomed the iCREATE students to the IHCF to learn how to use an extremely powerful (and extremely expensive) microscope! The Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) can magnify 1,000,000 times - which is 1,000 better than a light microscope, which is already 1,000 time better than our eyes!
The Imaging and Histology Core Facility provides imaging services to faculty, undergraduate and graduate students, along with industry partners. They provide services in light microscopy, electron microscopy, and histology (microscopy of tissues).
Graduate Student Alyssa Talbert creates scaffolds for wound healing with elastin, collagen and water in her graduate work. But here, she is illustrating how to collect and stain cheek samples for the students to view under the light microscope.
Alyssa and Aubrey then take the students to compare the digital light microscope images with the detail they can see with the SEM. Because electrons have a very small wavelength, much smaller than the wavelength of light, the resolution using the SEM is much greater than that of light microscopes.
Aubrey and Alyssa shared a variety of SEM images with the students, from insects (see past Ugly Bug Contest winners below), to fungi, Alyssa's scaffolds, and much more!
The students spent approximately 8 hours at the IHCF learning how to use the SEM. They took copious notes they then followed explicitly, with Aubrey observing them, and they were able to run the SEM themselves on their last day of the training!
Thank you to both Alyssa and Aubrey for all the time and patient effort they put into instructing the students on the SEM. We weren't surprised to learn that Aubrey won the "Outstanding Staff Member" for NAU's Biology Department at their award ceremony on Wednesday, May 2nd. Congratulations to Aubrey!
Colleen Hopkins, Telehealth Coordinator for North Country Health Care (NCHC) shared an interactive lesson on NCHC’s Telehealth program with the iCREATE class on March 15, 2018.
NCHC reaches across all of Northern Arizona, stretching 500 miles from Nevada to New Mexico, and has 23 Access Points for care across this vast region. The mission of NCHC is to provide accessible, affordable, comprehensive, quality primary healthcare in an atmosphere of respect, dignity, and cultural sensitivity. The health and well-being of patients and community alike are promoted through direct services, training/education, outreach, and advocacy.
The NCHC Telehealth program uses video conferencing technology to link providers and their patients, as well as educators and health care consumers, to a comprehensive continuum of care. Using this technology, they can reduce the isolation of providers and their patients within rural communities. They can also save a lot of time. For example, a patient can get immediate information and help for behavioral health, diabetes, nutrition advice and more, without a practitioner needing to make a 6-hour drive.
The students watched a video about Project ECHO (Extensions for Community Healthcare Outcomes) by Dr. Sanjeev Arora from the University of New Mexico. He shared this collaborative model of medical education and care management that empowers clinicians everywhere to provide better care to more people, right where they live. The students then practiced using the system to watch their own heart rate on the monitor (photo above) that a remote doctor or nurse would be able to observe and hear real-time. They also used another monitor to see their ear drum (photo below).
Colleen ended the field trip with a tour of the NCHC facilities. Students got to see many areas in the clinic and see the dedication of the entire community working at North Country Health Care. Thank you, Colleen!
Dr. Bret Pasch, Assistant Professor in the biology department at NAU, is partnering with one of Jillian Worssam’s 8th grade science classes at Sinagua Middle School through the “Scientists in the Classroom” program founded by Jillian.
Bret specializes in recording and analyzing mouse vocalizations and has brought his digital sound recorder into Jillian’s classroom so the students can learn first-hand about singing mice. These grasshopper mice have a relatively loud voice so other mice can hear them over the vast distances in the desert where they live.
Bret shared audio recordings of the mice, and then slowed them down so the sound was more apparent to those of us with ears that don’t hear at high frequencies any more! He also showed the students how they can measure both the frequency and duration of the sounds on the sonogram.
The students are making hypotheses about whether the male or the female mice will vocalize more frequently, and which will have a higher pitch, higher amplitude (loudness), and longer duration of the sounds. Bret will leave the mice (male on one side of the room and female on the other) for the next few months along with the digital recorders so students can capture their vocalizations. The mice are nocturnal and vocalize more at night, so the students will be able to access their sounds when they return to school each day.
Bret fed the mice while eager students looked on. He fed them their natural diet of bark scorpions, which are one of most venomous scorpions in Arizona. These mice have a mutation in their pain receptors so they don’t feel the sting as much as another species of mice would. They also like Pinacate bugs that lift their hind ends and spray as a defense strategy. The mice have a behavior where they stick the bugs abdomens in the ground so they don’t get sprayed and then they eat the heads first!
Thank you to Bret for participating in the Scientists in the Classroom program and also for elucidating information on singing mice through a Science on Tap presentation to the community! Flagstaff really appreciates your scientific outreach to both our schools and our community!
Note: You can also see and hear the mice at Bonnie Stevens’ Brain Food story on Bret Pasch here!
As stated on their website: The Ancient DNA Lab provides support for researchers working with ancient, historical, forensic, or other sensitive (low DNA quantity/quality) genetic samples. Established by the School of Forestry’s Carol Chambers and Faith Walker in 2016, the Ancient DNA Lab is physically isolated from other genetics labs on campus and adheres to rigorous quality control measures to prevent contamination, both of which are internationally recognized standards for the early stages of ancient DNA handling and processing.
The Ancient DNA Lab is sterilized (left) and ready to use in 2018.
The 2017 iCREATE class (right) was able to go into the lab between cleanings.
Some of the projects the lab has been involved with include a 10,000 year old bat, research using both extant (living) bats and bat guano, the 8,500 year old bison (below), and work with extant wombats in Australia.
Undergraduate Research Assistant Sam Hershauer presented some basic information on how DNA is extracted, amplified and analyzed in the aDNA Lab. Sam is working on collaborative research project on DNA from organisms in Alaskan lake sediments going back thousands of years. This collaborative project is with the Arctic Lakes Project headed by Dr's. Nick McKay and Darrell Kaufman in the School of Earth Sciences and Sustainability.
Thank you to Faith, Colin and Sam for sharing your hidden treasure with the iCREATE students!
Guest Blog Post by Tad Theimer, NAU Professor of Biology
Flagstaff is a city of science. We are literally surrounded by science. Up on Mars Hill there lies Lowell Observatory, to the north the Museum of Northern Arizona, the offices of the USGS, to the east and west the laboratories of GORE, to the south Northern Arizona University, the Rocky Mountain Research Station, TGen, the Naval Observatory, to mention but a few.
So I stand here as a scientist in a city of scientists. How many of you out there are scientists? How many the family or friends of a scientist?
It’s been said that you know you are a scientist when you wake up on a Saturday morning and think, “I could walk the dog, I could read the paper, I could go for a run, but what I really want to do is analyze that new data set, or sneak off to the lab for one more quick experiment.” And all your friends and families of scientists have seen that, you’ve seen them sneak out the door late at night or early in the morning. So we here all know that inside the breast of every scientist beats a heart as passionate, as driven, as that of any artist, musician or poet. Scientists do what they do because they can’t help themselves. They are driven by an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, by an insatiable hunger to understand the world. That relentlessness, that dogged curiosity, is something folks who haven’t been around scientists may not realize, and as a result they may underestimate the power that stands here today. Because that same passion, that same resolution, that scientists bring to doing science, scientists will also bring to defending science. And that is why we stood here last year, and why we stand here today and why we will be here next year, and the year after that, and the year after that!
So we here in Flagstaff understand what science is, why it is important, and that we must help others understand the important role science plays in our lives. The speakers who went before me articulated that very well. But there is another point about science that we have to make folks understand. Scientists follow data to whatever truth they may lead, regardless of the implications that truth may have. And so scientists sometimes discover inconvenient truths, truths that make us have to question the way behave toward this earth, toward each other. Truths that are inconvenient because they come with costs. The cost of making sacrifices today so that our children and grandchildren can have a decent world to live in tomorrow. This is an important role scientists play, and
I have been trying to think of a simple analogy to help folks understand that important role of science, so let me try this out on you:
Let’s imagine that my inconvenient truth is that I only have $10 in my bank account. But because of this magical piece of plastic called a credit card, I can buy a car, I can buy fancy food and delicious drinks. And some of my friends will support me in ignoring my inconvenient truth because they like to ride in my car and drink my drinks and eat my food. But one or two of my friends will take me aside and say “Tad, what are you doing? You’re acting crazy! You only have ten bucks! If you keep this up you’re heading for financial ruin!” Now we all know which one of those friends is the most valuable. It’s the one with the courage to stand up and tell me the truth even though I didn’t want to hear it. And that’s what scientists do! They are the friends who stand up and tell us the truth even when we don’t want to hear it!!
We are passing through dark days for science. Honesty, reliability, consistency, responsible conduct. These are the cornerstones of science. These are also the foundations of a civil society. Yet every day these ideas are mocked, denigrated, cast aside! We live in a time when integrity has been replaced with irresponsibility, where falsehoods hold the same credence as facts. It is no wonder that we sometimes feel dazed, in a world turned upside down.
These are dark days, but we have seen darker. When I am most in despair for this world, I am reminded of Galileo, that great scientist who dared to follow his data to an inconvenient truth, that radical idea that the earth was not the center of the universe, fixed and immovable, but instead moved around the sun in its orbit. Today that seems like a ridiculously harmless fact, that the earth goes around the sun, but at the time, it was a very inconvenient truth, for it flew in the face of religious dogma. So at the age of 70, Galileo was dragged from his home, thrown in prison and eventually brought before the Inquisition in Rome, forced to kneel and to recant his life’s work, to state that the Earth was immobile and did not move in its orbit. But the story is told that as Galileo walked out of that room, he whispered under his breath, “and yet, it moves!” And so might we say to those who deny climate change today, “and yet, it changes!”
You can ignore the truth for a while. You can walk away from the Paris climate accords, you can tell your administrators to strike out all references to human-caused climate change. You can confuse the electorate by saying climate change is still debated, that there is no consensus. You can ignore the National Academy of Sciences and 17 other scientific societies that have stated that human-caused climate change is real and needs to be addressed. You can ignore all that and build yourself a beautiful house of cards. But eventually that house of cards will fall. Scientists know this. Scientists understand the meaning of that old Buddhist saying: “There are three things in this world that cannot long be hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth”!
Make no mistake, the walls of ignorance are strong, especially when reinforced by girders of greed and self-interest. But history has shown us that that stone of ignorance will yield to the cold, hard steel of science-based fact. It is for us today to follow in the footsteps of all those scientists and believers in science that went before us, to pick up those hammers of steel and bring them down on that rock of ignorance, knowing all the while that those walls will not fall to one blow, or to a thousand, but the point is to keep on hammering, to keep those hammers ringing. So I say, make those hammers ring here in Flagstaff, but also make ring so that they can be heard down in the statehouse in Phoenix. Make those hammers ring here in Flagstaff, but also make them ring so that they echo in the halls of congress back in Washington. Make those hammers ring here in Flagstaff, but most importantly, make those hammers ring so that they rattle the very walls of the White House! Make those hammers ring!
Guest Blog Post by Nick Siskonen, AmeriCorps STEM VISTA, CAVIAT
Every student enrolled in our CAVIAT programs has the opportunity to participate in a Career and Technical Student Organization (CTSO). These organizations provide scholarships, competitions, leadership opportunities and so much more that enriches the life and learning of our students.
Some of our students are traveling to the Arizona state competition hosted by the CTSO, HOSA - Future Health Professionals. HOSA is an international organization focused on developing character and technical skill competencies for members, to uplift current and future people in the health professions.
Our students are there to compete in a variety of subject matters. Madison Stump, of the Medical Professions program, is competing in the Behavioral Health event. Cylie John, also in the Medical Professions program, is taking the Medical Law and Ethics test. Dakota Palmer, of the Veterinary Assistant program, is doing the Veterinary Science skills test. Zachary Ashland and Elizabeth Strones, from the Bioscience program, are both taking part in the Medical Innovation event, and their classmate Antonia Green is taking the Biomedical Laboratory Sciences test.
To qualify for this week's state competition, students took an online test which covered a wide variety of topics from their program's curriculum. Only top scoring students are allowed to attend the state competition and earn the chance to move on to the international competition at the International Leadership Conference, which takes place at the end of June.
The state competition this year is taking place in Tucson, from April 2nd through April 4th. Let's cheer them all on to victory!
And not to be left out of the fun, this week our Fashion Design and Merchandising program is headed off to Los Angeles! They're going to visit the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising and the LA fashion district. They've been fundraising for this trip all year, and all the hard work has finally paid off.
Eleven high school students in the CAVIAT iCREATE bioscience class publicly presented their unique solutions to the authentic problem of tracking and reporting influenza-like illnesses in Coconino County. The presentations were held on March 7th at NAU's Center for Science Teaching and Learning. The students are in the second semester of this college-level course that earns credits from both Coconino Community College plus from Coconino High School or Flagstaff High School. The class meets after school for 2.5 hours each day from Monday to Thursday to learn the CTE (career and technical education) bioscience standards through an epidemiologic lens and with rich community involvement. Community partners include Coconino County Public Health Services District, North Country HealthCare, Northern Arizona Area Health Education Center, Northern Arizona Healthcare and TGen North. The students also gained assistance from Corryn Smith in using GIS technology for their reports.
Instructors Dr. Aaron Tabor and Robert (Bobby) Woodruff co-teach the class at NAU. Both have extensive experience in research and education. They also include additional community partners for in-class presentations and field trips. Students have toured the Science and Health Building at NAU, the Center for Ecosystem Science and Society (ECOSS) laboratories, the Clinical and Pathology Laboratory at Flagstaff Medical Center, and more!
The students study disease-causing agents as then use the tools necessary to determine what microbes cause the illnesses. The class includes biosafety skills, microbiology techniques, DNA extraction, separation and analysis. Students take an end-of-year test to demonstrate their knowledge and skills.
Congratulations to all the students! And thank you to the community members that attended their presentations! NAU Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Dan Kain (Left), FUSD Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Mary K Walton (Center), and FUSD Superintendent Mike Penca (Right), all came to hear the student presentations and ask them questions about their unique solutions to this authentic community problem.
The 12 CAVIAT students in the iCREATE high school bioscience class at NAU are learning some basic Geographic Information Systems (GIS) skills to help track patient health for their epidemiology projects. Corryn Smith patiently teaches the students the basics of GIS. Corryn has presented to the class twice this fall, and will certainly be helping them again as they prepare their group projects.
Corryn is an Instructor for the Geography, Planning, and Recreation department at NAU. She received her MS in Applied Geospatial Sciences with a Planning and Recreation Emphasis in May 2017. Her Master's thesis research looked at using geospatial technologies to locate travel networks (Forest Service roads and trails) in Flagstaff. Her interests include: geospatial technologies and recreation, geospatial technologies and sustainable land management, GIS in education, and Python Programming for Women and Minorities.
Thank you Corryn for your friendly and professional help!
Dr. Darlene Lee, an anatomical and clinical pathologist with Northern Arizona Healthcare, led a tour of Clinical and Pathology Laboratory at Flagstaff Medical Center to the high school iCREATE students. The iCREATE class is unique in the pronounced role of community members to the success of the class. Dr. Lee gave a tour last year, highlighted here, and it was one of the most memorable tours for the class. She made this one even more hands-on with additional partners from FMC.
Garn Bailey, Pathology Assistant, once again thoroughly engaged the students with a variety of human organs that he prepares for the pathologist to more critically analyze as needed. He dissected a gall bladder to show the gall stones, as well as a kidney that showed a cancerous area. He also went through the entire process of preparing thin sections from larger tissues and organs for analysis.
The surgeons in the hospital rely on the Clinical and Pathology Laboratory to rapidly prepare and assess samples while some patients are in surgery; to make sure they have removed all cancerous cells, or to determine the specific pathogen. When that occurs, tissues are quickly put on ice and are then sliced thinly in a cryostat, which keeps the tissues frozen. They are then rapidly stained and assessed by the pathologist. This entire process can occur in 20 minutes so the surgeon is able to receive the information during surgery to improve the patient's outcome.
The students then looked at blood samples with Dr. Lee. They were able to identify components of blood including white blood cells (leukocytes), red blood cells (erythrocytes), and platelets (thrombocytes). Platelets are tiny blood cells that help your body form clots to stop bleeding. She also showed them the image of the cancerous kidney tissue from the kidney Garn had shown them earlier.
Students observed the hospital's blood supply with Jordan Ippolito, a Medical Lab Scientist at FMC. She told the students that the shelf life of platelets is only 5 days, while frozen plasma is good for a year. Red blood cells are only functionally sound for 40 days because their ability to carry oxygen (their primary role) is impaired after that. The importance of donating blood cannot be overstated!
Two students volunteered to have their blood drawn so they could determine what blood type they are. Phlebotomist Troy Schafer cracked jokes with the students to put them at ease.
Jordan then had the remaining students look at blood sample directly through the microscope so they could put their earlier practice to use.
The final activity was to discuss what having blood types A,B, AB, or O really means, and then to complete the analysis of the blood types using the antigens that can cause blood to clot, depending on what the blood type is.
Thank you again for the fascinating and educational tour of the Clinical and Pathology Laboratory at FMC! Special thanks to Dr. Darlene Lee, Garn Bailey, Jordan Ippolito and Troy Schafer! You are living up to your mission and goal; you definitely wowed us!
Melissa (Lissy) Enright, a graduate student in ECOSS at NAU, shared her research on the hydraulics (water movement) of giant redwood trees with the high school students in the iCREATE class at NAU.
Lissy shared some of her background with the students including working on an oceanographic vessel with the Sea Education Association, working for the National Park Service in Hawaii, and for American Conservation Experience as an AmeriCorps Member in both Flagstaff and Alaska! She also worked with Honko, an NGO (non-governmental organization) working in partnership with the coastal communities of Madagascar on mangrove conservation. She showed the students the website for the Student Conservation Association where you can search through their list of opportunities, including those for students under 18 years old!
Lissy's experience helped her to get a "real job" working with the US Forest Service in Alaska doing a Forest Inventory and Assessment. She also worked in Northern California where she now has her research area studying water stress at the top of Redwood trees.
Lissy illustrated how the stems of the tree branches can get embolisms (air bubbles) from high water stress. She climbs the trees using a jumar system and then brings the branches home to Flagstaff to study the hydraulic conductivity of the tree.
Lissy asked the students why the pine needles and branches might be ore water stressed at the top of the trees than down below. Even though the base of the redwood is in an often moist environment, the tops of the trees are more exposed to sun; but the primary reason is that water is pulled all the way up the xylem (water tubes) of the tree from the ground to 250-400 feet! So the top of the tree is more like a dry climate.
Lissy took the students into the laboratory where she measures the hydraulic conductivity of the branches. She had them assist her with several experimental procedures she uses to determine levels of water stress in the redwood trees.
She told us: We measure hydraulic conductivity on the hydraulic line, a system of tubes that connects a stem segment to an upstream reservoir of solution (water with a tiny bit of potassium chloride)suspended a meter above the sample, and a downstream balance. The water flowing through the sample is measured as it gets to the balance. We use this measurement to infer about the degree of embolism, or air bubbles blocking the flow of water, present in the xylem cells. If the conductivity is very low, for example, we presume that there are a lot of embolisms, and the tree the sample came from was subject to a lot of water stress.
In the image above, a student measures pressure for another experiment. Lissy explains: When a piece of a plant is clipped off, the water inside sucks back away from the cut surface. This is because there is tension in the water in plants. If the plant is more water stressed, the tension is greater. We can measure this in units of pressure with a pressure chamber. We first cut a sample, then insert it into the chamber with the cut end extending out of the hole in the top. When we turn up the pressure in the chamber, the water will be forced back to the cut surface. We measure the pressure at which the water reaches the surface, and know that that number is equal to the tension that existed in the water in the plant before we cut it. If it takes a lot of pressure, then the plant was very water stressed.
Thank you, Lissy, for the wonderful presentation and the engaging hands-on research in your lab!
Flagstaff STEM Coordinator