Oklahoma scientists attend national biology conference

NEW ORLEANS – Scientists from across the state gathered in New Orleans for a national biology conference, presenting their research to people from around the world.

“Not only are they the future, but actually the students are the now, too. Some of the students are doing outstanding work, and we want to make sure they have the opportunity to do it,” said Rick Blob, program officer for the conference.

The conference held last week included research from nearly 2,000 students and professors, with topics ranging from the way animals react to changes on the earth to detailed work on how certain chemicals affect a lobster’s heart.

“It is important for students to go to meetings like this one because the topics are so diverse,” said Rosemary Knapp, director of graduate studies at the University of Oklahoma.

“Students can easily learn about things they had never thought about before.”

Graduate students made the majority of presentations, with several offered by Oklahoma students.

“It is very exciting to just present research that nobody has heard about yet,” said Ashley Love, a doctoral candidate at Oklahoma State University.

Love’s research centered on whether a sick bird could affect the reproduction of another, which she said is vital to the poultry industry.

“I have met a lot of famous scientists that I usually just read about, so that has been incredibly helpful,” Love said.

After conducting research in Greece and Turkey during the summer through a grant from the National Science Foundation, John Barthell, provost for the University of Central Oklahoma, presented on the topic and helped students from the trip with their first poster presentations.

“It is important that we do this work and that we train students to get involved in this work, so they themselves can go forward in careers in science technology engineering and mathematics (STEM), so that society can continue to benefit,” Barthell said.

OSU, with students from Stillwater and the Center for Health Sciences in Tulsa, took the most Oklahoma students to the conference.

“Research does not know state boundaries,” said Paul Gignac, a professor at the Center for Health Sciences.

“You get access to an international consortium of researchers here,” he said.

Looking into how large mammals, such as deer, deal with drying and warming climates, Haley O’Brien, assistant professor from the OSU Center for Health Sciences, presented her findings from years of doctoral research.

“We know as our globe gets warmer and drier across the next hundred years, we have a biodiversity crisis that we need to understand how these animals will respond,” O’Brien said.

She said overlooking the changes could affect meat prices and the stability of large mammals.

CAPTION:  John Barthell, left, talks with John Hranitz, a professor at Bloomberg University in Pennsylvania. [Photo by Eriech Tapia, for The Oklahoman]

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