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!
The City of Flagstaff Sustainability Section held their first Youth Climate Summit at the Arboretum of Flagstaff and the adjacent Merriam-Powell Research Station on Monday, April 30th. Sam Salgado, Climate Aide, professionally completed what past-STEM VISTA member Larrea Cottingham had initiated and ran the event with Sustainability Specialist Jenny Niemann and with support from the City's Water Conservation Program.
Eight student groups from schools and after-school clubs have worked for months on their entries to the Youth Climate Challenge and five of the groups were able to present their work to judges Councilman Jim McCarthy and City Water Specialist Tamara Lawless. The projects included:
After the impressive and professional presentations, the students walked back to the Arboretum for lunch and listened to a guest presentation by Grand Canyon Trust's Uplift Coordinator Eva Malis, sharing how youth do have power and celebrating the efforts they have already made.
After lunch, the students rotated between two workshops - Gardening with Native Plants, and Climate Action Planning. Each team received a certificate at the end of the event. Many thanks to the Arboretum for hosting the event and to the Dr. Kristin Haskins, Coreen Walsh, and other Arboretum staff for assisting with the workshops!
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 Lara Hernandez, Math and Science Educator, St. Francis de Asis School
Congratulations to San Francisco de Asís Catholic School 6th grade student Robert Zavala. Robert earned a 3rd place Bronze medal at the Arizona State Science and Engineering Fair. Robert qualified to compete at the state level by winning first place at his school competition with his project “How much Pure Aluminum is in the Average Soda Can?” Robert constructed a homemade foundry and reached temperatures of over 1200 degrees F to melt 30 aluminum cans. He separated the pure aluminum from the “dross” or non-aluminum material and determined how much aluminum is in the average soda can.
At the State Fair Robert competed in the 5th and 6th grade Engineering category with 47 other students from across Arizona. Robert was interviewed by four judges during a three and a half hour exhibition at the Phoenix Convention Center to earn his bronze medal.
In total, over 900 students and 700 projects were registered for the state fair. Only
students who place first at their school fair may compete at the Arizona State Science and Engineering Fair. Congratulations to Robert!
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.
My name is Brian Travers and I am the STEM Education VISTA at Killip Elementary School. Killip is known for its STEM programming and I will have the opportunity to support the school, its faculty, and students throughout my year of service by building STEM based curriculum.
I am originally from Providence, Rhode Island, and spent much of my childhood in the greater New England area enjoying outdoor sports and activities such as camping, skiing, ice skating and even picking fresh blueberries! However, ice hockey is my true passion and I hope to find time to engage Flagstaff youth in the joys of the sport.
For most of the last 14 years I have worked as an accountant for a variety of big firms. I also worked at the Children’s Hospital in Boston for a year. This work really inspired me and I co-authored an article published in the Journal of Epilepsy.
Coming from a family of teachers, I realized I wanted to change my path in life and engage in humanitarian based pursuits. After examining options, I found the perfect fit with AmeriCorps VISTA, and packed my bags and moved from my most recent home in Florida to become part of the Flagstaff community. After my VISTA term I hope to return to graduate school and further expand my contributions to the community.
Guest Blog Post by Erin O'Keefe, STEM VISTA Open Space Aide, City of Flagstaff - Originally published in the City of Flagstaff Open Space Newsletter
On Saturday, March 10th, 2018, Open Space staff completed the first session of the 2018 Indigenous Youth STEM Academy. This year, we are partnering primarily with the Kinlani Bordertown Dormitory which consists of 9th-12th grade Native American students from various tribes. We had 9 students participate in our first session. The STEM focus area of this session was astronomy and included a site visit to Lowell Observatory. Our program began with a hike from Kinlani Dorm to Lowell Observatory via Observatory Mesa trail system. This gave us an opportunity to explain the significance of the relationships between Flagstaff Open Space and our neighboring properties.
Participants were given a private one hour tour of the Lowell campus followed by a 30 minute guest presentation from astronomer and researcher, Dr. Deidre Hunter, who is also co-founder of the Navajo-Hopi Astronomy Outreach Program. This program connects astronomers from Lowell to schools on the Hopi and Navajo reservations to partner in culturally-relevant astronomy-based curriculum. Dr. Hunter tailored her presentation to our specific group with a focus on the importance of minorities in STEM. She discussed her educational background and career path, gave information on her research, and described the Navajo-Hopi Outreach Program and how the program came about. The program session concluded with lunch provided for the students, transportation from Lowell back to the dorm provided by the Boys and Girls Club, and a gift card drawing for all participants. Students filled out questionnaires that aimed to gauge their interest in STEM careers, their interest in college, their favorite and least favorite parts of the program session, and why they think it is important for Native Americans to be in STEM careers fields.
Our next session will be a two part session taking place on March 26th and 31st with a STEM focus of Art and Graphic Design. Our guest presenter, Corey Begay, is a local Navajo STEM professional and artist who is the Lead Artist and Graphic Designer at the multicultural publishing company, Salinas Bookshelf, Inc. He will present to students on Monday night at Kinlani Dorm about his career path in STEM followed by a hands-on art activity. Part two of this session will take place on Saturday, March 31st which will consist of a visit to Picture Canyon Natural and Cultural Preserve. The students will be taken on an interpretive tour of the Preserve where we will focus on the importance of our interpretive signs to show the possibilities of turning interests in art and graphic design into a professional career. Corey Begay will be present during this tour to share his knowledge and experience about turning a passion for art into a career.
Thank you to Marcus Yazzie, Recreation Coordinator, and Vicki Anderson, STEM VISTA at Kinlani Bordertown Dormitory, for their assistance with this event! If you would like to sign up for the Flagstaff Open Space Newsletter, click here!