Student Research Topics

Faculty Interests for Student Research Projects

1. Sara Heggland's interests

  • Cellular mechanisms of heavy metal toxicology
  • Apoptosis (programmed cell death)
  • Molecular pathways of cadmium-induced cell death in bone and the relationship to bone disease, such as osteoporosis
  • Understanding the toxic action of cadmium in rainbow trout
  • Reproductive endocrinology and toxicology

Potential Projects

  • Studying cadmium-induced apoptosis in cultured human osteosarcoma cells (in collaboration with the VA Medical Center in Boise, ID).
  • Examining how cultured gill cells from hatchery and wild rainbow trout respond to cadmium exposure (in collaboration with Dr. Chris Walser in Biology)
  • Identification of genes involved in cadmium resistance and toxicity using DNA microarray analysis.
  • Screening the toxicity of newly synthesized cadmium-sequestering agents using cadmium-sensitive cell lines (in collaboration with Dr. Peter Craig in Chemistry).
  • Development of a cell culture system using fish gonadal cells to study heavy metal reproductive toxicity.
  • Exploring the role of the immune system in heavy metal toxicity in rainbow trout.

2. Don Mansfield's interests

  • Botany
  • Plant Physiology
  • Floristics of southwestern Idaho and southeastern Oregon
  • Biology, biogeography and evolution of rare plants
  • Adaptations of alpine and desert plants to environmental stress

Potential Projects

  • Determine the factors influencing germination of local, endemic plant species.
  • Investigate the factors influencing restricted distributions of one of the many endemic plant species in southwestern Idaho/eastern Oregon.
  • Map, using GIS, the distributions of sets of important or interesting taxa of southwestern Idaho/eastern Oregon.
  • Prepare a local vascular plant flora of a hydrologic, ecologic, or geologic region in southwestern Idaho, central Idaho, northern Nevada, or eastern Oregon.
  • Compare the morphologic or genetic variations among certain species in southwestern Idaho or southeastern Oregon. Difficult taxa include: peppergrasses (Lepidium), primroses (Primula cusickiana), cinquefoil (Potentilla), onions (Allium), and Astragalus purshii.
  • Describe and analyze the plant community structure in grazed and ungrazed high altitude wetlands of Steens Mountain or Owyhee uplands.
  • Investigate the role of ethylene in germination, dormancy, or senescence of native plant species.
  • Investigate habitat requirements or gas exchange/water use efficiency of native SW Idaho plants.

3. Chris Walser's interests

  • Ichthyology
  • Stream fish ecology
  • Limnology
  • Marine biology
  • Conservation biology
  • Applied ecology and environmental science

Potential projects

  • Age, growth, habitat use and seasonal movements of redband trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) in Jordan Creek (Owyhee River drainage)
  • Using GIS (Geographic Information System) technology to model the effects of land-use on stream fish community structure
  • The use of museum fish collections to assess water quality changes in the Boise River drainage
  • Ecomorphology of longnose dace (Rhinichthyes cataractae) and speckled dace (Rhinichthyes osculus)
  • Distribution and abundance of tui chub (Gila bicolor) in Indian Creek
  • Effect of temperature on the energetics of redband trout (O. mykiss) and speckled dace (R. osculus)

4. Eric Yensen's interests

  • Ecology. General interests in all aspects of population interactions, community, and ecosystem ecology. Specific interests in history of ecosystems in the Intermountain West, succession and nutrient cycling, species diversity, earth systems ecology.
  • Mammalogy. General interests in mammals. Special interests in ecology, taxonomy, and natural history of ground squirrels; taxonomy and ecology of Bolivian mammals.
  • Conservation biology. Endangered species recovery, fragmentation, tropical forests, climate change, restoration ecology. Local and tropical issues.

Potential projects

A seemingly infinite variety of projects are possible. These suggestions simply show a range of possibilities:

  • Can carbon addition control cheatgrass? (Ongoing, long-term study.)
  • Behavioral ecology of ground squirrels (field study or at Zoo Boise). A variety of conservation-oriented projects are available and may involve collaboration with wildlife agencies (e.g., US Forest Service, BLM, Idaho Department of Fish and Game).
  • Ecological history and consequences of the timber boom in the northwest. (Historical and ecological field work.)
  • Climate history of southwestern Idaho using tree rings.
  • Relationships between ants, gophers, and ground squirrels. What are the precise ecological roles of these soil-forming animals?
  • Ecological role of badger mounds. How would the ecosystem change without them?
  • Current distribution of earthworms in southwestern Idaho (not as simple as it seems!).