Fall 2011 Seminars
Major in Biology

September 12, 2011

 Tony Eallonardo, Ph.D., Scientist at O'Brien & Gere

Title: Restoration of Solvay waste sites using threatened and endangered plant communities

Abstract:  Lime waste sites are areas that have received alkaline refuse from industrial processes using limestone and basic reagents. These sites are typified by alkaline soils with high concentrations of base cations and extremely low concentrations of available nitrogen and phosphorus. They often re-vegetate naturally—to at least 50% cover within 10 years following dumping, and they often support a mix of native and non-native early successional species as well as rare species from calcareous, infertile or otherwise stressful habitats. The goal of this study was to restore a seasonally flooded lime waste (i.e., Solvay waste) site near Syracuse, NY that had remained largely barren for over 30 years. Native plant communities from infertile, stressful and calcareous settings (i.e., alvar grassland, inland salt marsh, Great Lakes dune, and marl fen) were targeted for the restoration as well as a collection of stress tolerant emergent species from fresh to salt marsh communities. Species were mainly introduced to the 2.1 ha site by planting: from 2008 to 2010 approximately 55,000 plants were installed. Over this time period 8.96 metric tons of pelletized 5-10-5 fertilizer was applied, and invasive species were controlled by a variety of means. As of 2010, 172 vascular plant species have been observed on site, 85 of which were planted or sown and eight of which are classified as threatened or endangered in New York. Since 2008, the following variables have been on a positive trajectory over time: total cover (%), cover of target species (%), and species richness per square meter

Relative cover of the highly invasive Phragmites australis and Lythrum salicaria are on negative trajectories. Analysis of soils and species traits shows that the weathering of magnesium oxide (a key constituent in Solvay waste) drives a soil process that suppresses competitive exclusion and favors species with traits associated with stress tolerance and efficient nutrient use. Historic flooding of the project site in 2011 has modified the initial trajectory of vegetation development with robust emergent vegetation increasing, perhaps temporarily, in importance. This project demonstrates that stressful growing conditions provided by Solvay waste simulate stresses provided by saline or alkaline groundwater discharge, enabling the restoration of marl fen and inland salt marsh plant communities. Lessons learned from this project will be discussed in the context of restoring other post industrial and stressful urban sites.


October 3, 2011

 Melissa K. Fierke, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Forest Entomology

Department of Environmental and Forest Biology, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry


“Girdling, Splitting and Rearing to Know: Insights into New York Invasive Forest Insects”

 Abstract:  Research in my lab centers around two invasive wood-borers in New York State, emerald ash borer and Sirex noctilio, the European woodwasp. With emerald ash borer, we are investigating different management techniques in order to slow ash mortality as new infestations are identified in NY. We are looking at parasitism of the woodwasp by native hymenopterans as well as interactions with our native woodwasps. This presentation will give an overview of these insects as well as some of the insights we’ve gained over the past couple of years.



October 24, 2011

 David Butler, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow, Wadsworth Center, NYS Department of Health

 “Improving Bifunctional Intrabodies Against the Huntingtin Protein”

 Abstract:  Single-chain antibodies (scFvs) that bind Huntingtin (HTT) protein show promise as possible immunotherapeutics for Huntington's Disease (HD).   Intrabodies directed at the N-17 domain of HTT are capable of minimizing the toxic effects of protein misfolding in cell culture, ex vivo cultures, and Drosophila melanogaster models of HD.  Additionally, intrastriatal delivery of scFv-C4 has been shown to significantly reduce the size and number of aggregates in HD transgenic mice; however, this protective effect diminished with age and time after injection. Additional optimization of scFv-C4 is required for this intrabody to be of future use in clinical applications.

                Proteins that contain enriched regions of amino acids Proline (P), Glutamic Acid (E) or Aspartic Acid (D), Serine (S), and Threonine (T), otherwise known as PEST regions, are targeted for proteasomal degradation and generally have a short half life. This talk will summarize the data which suggest that fusion of the C-terminal PEST region to scFv-C4, a bifunctional intrabody, reduces soluble and insoluble httex1-72Q fragments in vitro.




November 7, 2011

Steven D. Hanes, Ph.D., Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, SUNY-Upstate Medical University


"Use of Model Organisms to Study Gene Regulation"


Abstract: Gene Regulation in Development and Disease:  My laboratory is interested in how cells control the activity of genes during early development of the embryo and during the cell cycle.  One key point of regulation is the synthesis of an RNA copy of individual genes.  This process is carried out by RNA polymerase II (RNA pol II).  We study RNA pol II in two distinct contexts.  Each project uses a different model organism to its best advantage, where we can apply sophisticated genetic, molecular, and biochemical tools to discover important mechanisms of gene regulation. Our findings are relevant to understanding similar mechanisms that occur in human cells, and whose disruption is often associated with disease.

            Homeobox genes:  In the first project we study homebox transcription regulators in Drosophila melanogaster (fruit fly). For example, we study a homeobox gene called bicoid, which encodes a protein (Bicoid) that directs development of the head and thorax in early embryos.  Bicoid works by recruiting RNA pol II to selected target genes, and how exactly it does this is the subject of our work. Our results have been important for understanding how homeobox genes function in normal cells and how their disruption causes certain human cancers (e.g. childhood leukemias).  We also discovered proteins that interact with Bicoid (Sap18 and Bin3). These proteins have human counterparts and we are trying to understand how they function. 

                Prolyl isomerases: In a second project, we study a called ESS1 in Saccharomyces cerevisiae (yeast) which encodes an enzyme known as a prolyl cis/trans isomerase. ESS1 is essential for growth in yeast and cells that lack ESS1 arrest in mitosis. A counterpart of ESS1 is found in humans and is called PIN1. We are learning how yeast ESS1 and human PIN1 control cell growth.  We discovered that Ess1 works by controlling the conformation of RNA pol II.  This understanding might lead to the development of antifungal drugs against ESS1 (or anticancer drugs against PIN1).



November 28, 2011

Dr. Terri Provost, Ph.D. Biology Department, Utica College and Megan Peppenelli, Graduate Student, SUNY Upstate Medical University

 “Exposure to Polychlorinated Biphenyls Causes Alterations in Brain Serotonin Concentrations in Swiss-Webster Mice”

 Abstract:  TBA


Dr. Daniel Kurtz
Chair of Biology

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