Updated: Feb 21, 2020
By Lyndsey Peace, Editor-in-Chief
The Texas Academy of Science is hosting its annual meeting on Feb. 28 through Feb. 29 in Nacogdoches. Dr. Wendi Wolfram, associate professor of biology and the grassland initiative program director, will be taking a group of Hardin-Simmons University students to the meeting where five of those students will give presentations.
The TAS meeting encourages students of varying education levels to explore and learn more about academic research in a different environment than what they have been previously accustomed.
“The Texas Academy of Science is a venue for undergraduates, graduates and even high school students to present independent research that they are working on,” Dr. Wolfram said.
The HSU students who are presenting this year are Samuel Thompson, Frank Velasco, Kayli Pendley, Megan Moore and Dejah Braxton.
Thompson is presenting “Effects of Magnesium Sulfate (Epsom Salt) on Tomato Plant (Solanum lycopersicum) Growth,” Velasco is presenting “Effects of Reintroduction of Native Grasses on Native Bird Populations in West Texas,” Pendley is presenting “Analysis of West Texas Owl Species and Their Feeding Habits in both Runnels and Jones Counties,” Moore is presenting “Impact of Water Developments and Wildlife on Water Quality and Livestock” and Braxton is presenting “Chemosensory Signaling: Behavioral Interactions on Interspecific Competition Between the Gray Fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) and the Red Fox (Vulpes Vulpes).”
Dr. Wolfram helps facilitate and guide the students, but their research is planned and conducted individually, and the students have the freedom to research what interests them.
“It’s all independent research by these students and it is all voluntary. I try to encourage my advisees because of the fields that they are going into, like pre-vet and wildlife biology, to participate in research. So [the TAS meeting] is an opportunity to develop research on their own and carry it out,” Dr. Wolfram said.
Moore, a junior biology major, is co-leader of a project that analyzes water quality and livestock. Michaela Gephart began the project and Moore started helping about a year and a half ago. Gephart graduated in December, so this semester Moore has been preparing to present the project individually at the TAS meeting.
Moore and Gephart’s project is about the effects of water quality through contamination from different water developments and the effects on livestock and wildlife. There are two locations near Lawn where Moore and Gephart have been testing water samples. Their goal is to test if there are any pesticides or chemicals that the livestock could be ingesting.
“Once we do see what chemicals are in the water and we test the animals’ DNA to see the correlation, then it can lead to us figuring out whether or not the water is harming the livestock and if steps need to be taken to improve the water quality,” Moore said.
Moore believes the TAS meeting is beneficial for students because it helps provide experience presenting research. “[The TAS meeting] has helped me be more comfortable talking to people and having better composure when I am presenting or when I’m talking about something that I think is important,” Moore said.