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.
Blog Post by Chelsea Silva, Executive Director, Friends of the Rio de Flag; STEM VISTA Member for Friends of the Rio and City of Flagstaff Sustainability
A Ribbon of Life for Flagstaff Students, Residents, and Visitors
Walking from City Hall north you will find yourself on the Flagstaff Urban Trail System (FUTS), seemingly headed towards the San Francisco Peaks. As you pass the Public Library, you’ll notice Wheeler Park to your right and a grassy, depression with a footbridge crossing to your right, the Rio de Flag.
An ephemeral stream, you will not see water in this grassy channel unless a monsoon hits in the summer or snow melts and flows downstream in the winter.
Keep wandering half a mile up the FUTS along the Rio de Flag and you will quickly arrive at Frances Short Pond. Filled naturally and sometimes supported with additional reclaimed water, the “duck pond” is one of the most visited sites along the Rio due to the recreation and wildlife viewing opportunities it provides.
The pond and the Rio flowing downstream from it provide a unique setting for Flagstaff students to learn about their environment. The Rio also gives students a chance to give back to their river through restoration and citizen science.
It is my goal as an AmeriCorps STEM VISTA member to connect Flagstaff students with the Rio de Flag. That is why I started the Adopt-the-Rio de Flag Stewardship program in my first VISTA term in 2016-2017. This program allowed me to connect with local teachers to share resources and provide introductory lessons on the Rio de Flag.
In fall 2017, freshman and sophomore biology students at Flagstaff High School began participation in the program. First, the students engaged in a classroom Introduction to the Rio, exploring different aspects of the Rio in small groups.
The following month, students collected data on the Rio de Flag, which was done in partnership with the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality’s citizen science program called Arizona Water Watch. All of the photos in this blog post are courteous of these students who worked hard to document their surroundings as part of the data collection protocol.
During the remainder of my position, I hope to expand these place-based learning opportunities to other Flagstaff students. To achieve this goal, I will host a teacher workshop in the spring that focuses on stewardship, citizen science, and the Rio de Flag. This will give teachers the tools they need to connect their students to the Rio de Flag as stewards of their local river.
In order for the Adopt-the-Rio program to continue into the future, I also conduct grant writing and partnership building as part of my AmeriCorps STEM VISTA position. These tasks require a watershed-wide focus and long-term visioning with guidance and support from local government, residents, businesses and nonprofits.
The Rio de Flag is Flagstaff’s river, and it is our collective duty to protect it for future generations. My AmeriCorps STEM VISTA position gives students the chance to take the lead in protecting and restoring the Rio through citizen science and stewardship.
If you’re unfamiliar with the Rio de Flag, we welcome you to watch our new short film, “Ribbon of Life.” Produced by one of our volunteers, Brittain Davis, this film is about those who visit and love the Rio de Flag.
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!
NAU Seniors Kara McAlister, Isabella McCormick, Abby Rulison, Danna Durney, and Darlene Escobedo, organized a career fair for the students in the Kinlani Bordertown Dormitory for their Social Work 423 Course taught by Dr. Anne Medill. They raised funds for pizza for the Flagstaff High School students who live at the dorm.
The five students worked together to invite different professionals to the Career Fair. A partial list includes: Rick Wright from the City of Flagstaff Wastewater Treatment; Jennifer Dunivn from Empire Beauty School; Jessica Garard and Matt Brydenthal from Re/Max Peak Properties; Efeleina Yazzie from Coconino County Adult Probation; Owner and Personal trainer Jesse Coddington from New Roots; Doug Hatch from Hatch Plumbing; Highland Fire Department firefighters Casey Wood, Chris Thomas and Earl Callendar; Mark Cox from the Boys and Girls Club; Hannah Ris, Matt Dyer, Norria Brice, Regina Eddie and Sophia Maceira from NAU Nursing; Danny Gutierrez and Howard Coldwell from the US Forest Service; Marina Xoc Vasquez from Applied Indigenous Studies; and Sonny Lomadofkie, a Native Initiatives Mentor. Thank you all!
Dr. Medill has student groups from both sections of this class form teams to create a meaningful project in the community. Thank you, Dr. Medill and students. And thank you to all the community members that gave their time and energy to this wonderful event! Also, thanks to STEM VISTA Member Vicki Anderson for her support of this project!
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!
Guest Blog Post by Vicki Anderson, VISTA Member, STEM Educator and Curriculum Developer at Flagstaff Bordertown Dormitory
Kinlani Flagstaff Bordertown Dormitory has a Robotics/AISES (American Indian Science and Engineering Society)/STEM Club with 15 members so far! They are making robots with our Lego Robotics Coach-Mentor Larry Marek. They began using the NAU Cline Library MakerLab on September 14th with Bryan Johnson, the Tech Services Coordinator. Club members will learn TinkerCAD to use NAU’s 3D printer for their Engineering STEM Challenges prototypes.
On September 9th, nine high school students participated in an Indigenous Youth STEM Academy with the Flagstaff Open Space Program. This program aims to connect Indigenous youth with cultural and natural resources at Picture Canyon Natural and Cultural Preserve. The Preserve provides a unique opportunity for learning about the connection between culture, community, and stewardship as it is home to Northern Sinagua petroglyphs and habitation sites, and represents a place of cultural importance for many surrounding tribal communities. Each session encompasses a full day of activities, including an interpretive tour of the Preserve, a lunch panel discussion with local STEM professionals and students, and a hands-on service-learning project. This program is organized by STEM VISTA Member Erin O'Keefe.
STEM Engineering Challenges competitions are also open to all students biweekly. All STEM activities are coordinated by AmeriCorps VISTA educator Vicki Anderson, and our motivated FBD staff. As you can see, we are “steaming” ahead in our STEM Education projects!
The students attended the Flagstaff Festival of Science “Engineering Solutions” kick off with keynote speaker Kyle Maynard on September 22nd at NAU’s Ardrey Auditorium. He was born without a complete set of arms and legs. With engineering solutions from Kahtoola, a Flagstaff company, and serious determination, he has climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa and Mt. Aconcagua in South America.
Get out for some of the 100 free events at the 28th Annual Flagstaff Festival of Science and you will see the Kinlani STEM students!
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.
Dr. Darlene Lee, an anatomical and clinical pathologist at Flagstaff Medical Center, led thirteen high school students in the iCREATE bioscience class on a fascinating tour of the Clinical and Pathology Laboratory at FMC on Monday, November 14th. Pathology is the study of disease, and a pathologist is a medical doctor (MD) who specializes in studying disease, including the source, extent, and cause of the disease in a patient. The students got to see many aspects of what this career entails.
The students began the tour by seeing some of the high-tech diagnostic tools available to test patient samples. These included urinalysis, PCR, flow cytometry and light microscopy. Jane Talisman, one of the laboratory lead technicians, even did a rapid test from Cate’s mucosal sample to determine if she had MRSA. Read to the end of the post to find out the result!
The students then watched Garn Bailey, the Pathologists’ Assistant, as he prepared to dissect an excised gall bladder. The students were able to touch the gall bladder to see what it felt like. The dissected gall bladder had several gallstones in it that were too large to exit the gall bladder on their own.
A frozen tissue sample from a patient came in, and the tour immediately switched over to observing the pathology team process this sample for the surgeon and patient waiting for it in the operating room. The pathology team can receive and process a sample, and return a diagnosis to a surgeon, within 20 minutes. This intraoperative pathology consultation helps guide the surgeon through the remainder of the procedure, so the patient has a better outcome.
Garn put the sample on the cryostat, a machine that keeps the sample frozen while shaving off very thin slices for placing on microscope slides. Audrey McMillon, a histotechnologist, then stained the samples with a specific stain to highlight what the surgeon needed to view. Histology is the study of the microscopic structure of tissues.
There are four pathologists at FMC and one at Verde Medical Center. In order to become a pathologist, you need a four-year college degree, then a four-year medical school degree, and then you need to complete your pathology residency for another four years! If you want to do a subspecialty fellowship, that takes another 1-2 years.
After the students completed the tour, Dr. Lee shared a presentation with three different case studies for the students to discuss. Just as Garn had previously, Dr. Lee reaffirmed that in order to recognize an abnormal pathology you need to know what the normal anatomy and histology looks like. During the cases, Dr. Lee asked the students what they thought, and what tests they would run to try and solve the case.
At the end of the presentation, Cate got the results from her diagnostic test. We were all thrilled she did not have Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, commonly known as MRSA!
Note the sign above the door in the photo above. This important message reflects the commitment of the pathology team: Patients are our Purpose.
STEM City and the iCREATE collaborative thank Dr. Lee and the entire team in the Clinical and Pathology Lab for being such willing presenters, and for providing important and engaging information to the students. Thank you!
Flagstaff STEM Coordinator