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!
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 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!
My name is Nick Siskonen and I've lived in Flagstaff for over ten years. I originally moved to Sedona with my family in 1998, when I was seven years old. To people from Sedona, Flagstaff is the 'big city' you go to for weekend trips and exciting events. As a kid, Flagstaff meant adventure.
Then in 2007 my family moved to Flagstaff so I could attend Northland Preparatory Academy, sending me on a new academic adventure. After graduating high school, I attended our own Northern Arizona University and focused on psychology and criminal justice.
Since then, I have worked as an assistant in a real estate office for two years, but decided to follow in my older sister's footsteps of completing a year of service in the AmeriCorps VISTA program. The Coconino Association for Vocations, Industry and Technology (CAVIAT), is the Joint Technical Education District for Coconino County. I am now the Americorps VISTA at CAVIAT in charge of recruitment and marketing. Once again Flagstaff offers itself as a new adventure and I couldn't be more excited to see where it takes me!
The dozen high school students in the iCREATE CTE Bioscience class toured two very different labs at NAU on Monday, April 24th. First, they ventured to the Geochronology Lab in the Science Lab Facility building where Lab Manager Katherine Whitacre described the process of amino acid racemization and how it is used to date small specimens including single microorganisms or bits of mollusk shells, egg shells, etc. Northern Arizona University has one of the few amino acid geochronology labs in the United States and has analyzed samples from all over the world for almost 20 years under the leadership of Lab Director and Regents Professor Darrell Kaufman. Below, graduate student Ethan Yackulic showed one of his sediment cores from Crater Lake in Colorado.
The lab has a large walk-in refrigerator with lake cores from all over the world, collected by NAU researchers and graduate students. The cores are kept cold so unwanted microorganisms don't grown on the surfaces. Ethan uses a Specim hyperspectral single core scanner designed for studying lake sediment core samples. By changing the range of wavelengths, he can detect locations of specific minerals or organic compounds, to help pinpoint where to collect his samples.
In the photos above: Katherine is dissolving mollusk shells with hydrochloric acid, an iCREATE student looks at shells under the microscope, and graduate student Kara Gibson uses a particle size analyzer on soil samples for her dissertation research.
Many of the research results from this lab focus on understanding paleoclimate change, which may then inform our understandings of, and models for, present climate change. You can learn more about this research here.
The next tour was to Nathan Nieto's lab in the Wettaw Biochemistry Building. Dr. Nieto has studied numerous animals in the past, but these days his lab is overwhelmed with ticks being mailed to him from all over the country. On an average day, the graduate students and undergraduate researchers in his lab will identify, grind, extract DNA and run real time PCR on 200-400 samples to determine whether the tick is host to pathogens such as Lyme disease and tick-borne relapsing fever. One week in May of 2016 he received over 2,000 ticks in the mail and it looks like he may exceed that this May. The tick study will identify what regions of the country have which species of ticks and what diseases they are carrying. This project will create a "heat map" of tick-borne diseases that can then be used by doctors and epidemiologists.
Photos above: Nate looks over where some of the many ticks are being mailed from, just a few of the mailboxes of ticks in his lab, and undergraduate Shienna Braga who is identifying the species of ticks at the microscope.
Photos above: Nate shows an iCREATE student the number of eggs one female tick laid, and graduate student Tanner Porter leads the lab tour for the students, including the refrigerator with thousands of samples from numerous animals including coyote tongues (possible reservoir for Rocky Mt. Spotted Fever), mice, squirrels, bats and more!
Nate's lab website explains what keeps him busy: "Our research focuses on the ecological maintenance and evolution of infectious diseases in wild animals and how this translates into transmission of disease to humans, domestic animals, and wildlife. We use a mixture of microbiology, molecular biology, phylogenetics and population ecology to investigate empirical infectious disease dynamics in wild animal populations.
Thank you Katherine, Nate, and generous students for sharing your time and knowledge with the iCREATE bioscience class!
Guest Blog Post by Larry Hendricks, PR and Publications Coordinator, Coconino Community College
CCC CAVIAT Students Focus on Health Professions
They’re taking college classes, but they’re still in high school. Not only that, but they’ve proved their mettle in problem solving in the health occupations, and they’re on their way to a statewide competition in April.
Twelve students in Coconino Community College’s Dual Enrollment/CAVIAT BIO 298 class took exams on Creative Problem Solving through Health Occupation Students of America (HOSA). This class is taught by CCC Science Faculty and Bridges to Baccalaureate Principal Investigator Dr. Aaron Tabor, NAU Graduate Students and CCC Instructors Christina Baze and Bobby Woodruff.
“Four of the students qualified to go to the state level,” Tabor said, adding that all of the students are equally intelligent and deserving of accolades. The team placed ninth overall.
The four students, all 10th graders, are Cate Cole and Ethan Perelstein from Flagstaff Arts and Leadership Academy; and Kaleb Herrelko and Jacqueline Slack from Coconino High School.
According to information from HOSA, its mission is to “promote career opportunities in the health care industry and to enhance the deliver of quality health care to all people.” The focus is on health science education and biomedical science programs to promote interest in pursuing careers in the health professions.
To prepare for the exams, Slack said that the team began by reading books on creative problem solving and by researching various health-related problems in the community. Cole added that the team tested one another with problems as well as timing the testing for solutions.
During testing, the team had 30 minutes to prepare and had 8 minutes to present their case in front of a panel to judge. They made the grade, and now they’re heading to Tucson for the statewide competition.
“I personally am excited to meet other students like us, who are science minded,” Perelstein said.
Herrelko added, “That could be fun.”
Slack said, “I’m very excited to compete.”
Cole said, “I’m really excited to see what we can come up with – real-world problems that affect millions across the globe.”
The team members are part of the iCREATE High School Bioscience program. The class offers six credit hours from CCC to apply to a college degree. The students meet five days a week at the Center for Teaching and Learning at Northern Arizona University for lectures and labs. The program is offered through the Coconino Association for Vocations, Industry and Technology.
“I love coming here and getting a taste of what college and medical school will offer,” Cole said.
Perelstein said, “For me, this class is challenging, it’s engaging, and that’s what I really love.”
Herrelko said, “I like the challenge and it requires more persistence.”
Slack said, “I’m excited that every day after school, I get to be around science-oriented, like-minded people.”
For Tabor, he said he thoroughly enjoys being the instructor for the class.
“Frankly, it’s the students,” he said. “I never in a thousand years anticipated teaching K-12 students at all, but this group of students is one of the best I’ve ever encountered.”
Tabor added that his job is to educate the students on the translational sciences and the epidemiology field, but he also is to assist them with their professional growth – creating curriculum vitaes, attending conferences, performing public speaking, seeking publication, and more.
As for the state competition in April, Tabor said the students can go to the national level in the event if they are rank high enough for it. So, the journey may not be over for one or several of them after the state competition.
And as for the future, all four team members have plans. Cole’s goal is to become a physician, an obstetrician. Perelstein is interested in mechanical engineering, particularly “biomimicry,” or solving problems through evolutionary processes. Herrelko is still exploring, but he knows he wants to be an engineer of some sort. Slack is dedicated to becoming a neurosurgeon.
“We challenge one another and work to put our best foot forward as a team,” Perelstein said.
The iCREATE HS Bioscience program is funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation. Community partners include CCC, CAVIAT, NAU, TGen North, North Country HealthCare, Coconino County Public Health Services District, and Flagstaff STEM City.