Faculty, Students Awarded NASA Grant

Pine Bluff, AR. Dr. Martin M. Matute, interim chair of the Department of Biology at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB), along with senior Biology major Quiana Childress and sophomore Biology major Yvonne Manning received an Arkansas Space Grant Consortium/ Stem Minority Award. The grant is funded by
the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Arkansas Space Grant Consortium. Each student received $2,500 for research that spans from the Fall 2009 semester to the Spring 2010 semester.

Childress will be working on Plant-Parasitic Nematodes of Phaseolus vulgaris– Beans while Manning works on Plant-Parasitic Nematodes of Solanum tuberosum– Potatoes. It will be the first time these nematodes are documented in this locale. Plant-parasitic nematodes are the number one biotic cause of crop loss in the world.

The objective of the grant is to use nematode food web structure to determine the conditions and changes in soil conditions in a fresh water ecosystem. Changes in nematode composition could be due to chemical, physical, anthropogenic, geologic and other factors. An investigation of benthic nematode composition, related to other environmental parameters, should be able to correlate specific nematode guilds to certain environmental characteristics.

The goal is to elucidate possible aquatic nematode guilds associated with specific environmental parameters. Long term studies of this nature could lead to the development of a specific biomonitoring environmental tool. Data collected from this study will be presented during the UAPB Annual Research Forum with future plans of presenting during the Arkansas Academy of Science Annual Meeting. Other avenues for disseminating the information will be including it into the Ecology and Invertebrate Zoology courses and also introducing the subject to high school students during the Biology Department outreach program.

NASA employs the world’s largest concentration of climate scientists. NASA’s mission to study Earth involves monitoring atmospheric conditions, global temperatures, land cover and vegetation, ice extent, ocean productivity, and a number of other planetary vital signs with a fleet of space-based sensors. This information is critical in understanding how Earth’s climate works and how it is responding to change. NASA shares its climate data and information with the public and policy leaders freely and in a timely manner. As part of the US Climate Change Science Program, NASA works with other agencies-including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the US Geological Survey, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy, to name a few. Using nematodes to elucidate benthic soil conditions and changes and possibly determining the causes of changes seem to fit into NASA’s environmental mission. The health of freshwater ecosystem is related to their productivity and certain changes in these systems could be related to temperature and other atmospheric conditions.

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