Student Research Highlights | College of Agricultural Sciences | SIU

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student looking in microscope

Student Research Highlights


Forestry undergraduate student, Margaret M. Anderson from Indianapolis, received a research award at the 2011 Undergraduate Research Forum. Anderson was the recipient of the "People's Choice Award" for her research project entitled, "Growth Response of Mature Oaks Following TSI and Prescribed Burning Treatments." Her results found that thinning and burning treatments did not increase oak growth when compared to the control group, suggesting that while thinning and prescribed fire may increase oak regeneration, additional management may be necessary to increase residual tree growth. Anderson's faculty mentor was Dr. Eric Holzmueller, Assistant Professor of Forestry.


Plant propagators have been producing new plants using manmade seeds for years. Laurie George, a doctoral student in Plant and Soil Science, has developed a new process that can yield nearly five times as many plants as the artificial seeds do. Using a mixture of kelp, calcium chloride and tissue culture, George has a developed a "cookie" which is chemically similar to natural seed coverings. Depending on the type of plant, George varies the concentrations of the mixture in the "cookie" and the time spent sterilizing it. In the industry, there are machines that complete individual encapsulation of the nodes. George states, "The artificial seeds encapsulate individual nodes, which takes a lot of time and labor." Using the "cookies" increases the number of nodes, or plant starts, that the mix can protect. "What I am trying to do is reduce these costs by focusing on mass encapsulation. It's a technique smaller operations could use without a high cash outlay, and it can increase the number of plants that might not produce viable seeds on their own, plants that are rare and plants where we need to preserve their germplasm," states George. To learn more about this breakthrough in plant propagation, follow the link to the story below.


Chances are that many of us have never seen a swamp rabbit. The swamp rabbit is a larger, darker-colored cousin to the cottontail rabbit. They like to hang out near wetlands with scenery that includes an abundance of irregular patches of shrubbery with brushy edges and stumps. After becoming concerned over the shrinking numbers of swamp rabbits and Eastern Cottontails, Dr. Clayton Nielson, an Associate Professor in the Department of Forestry, started working on a grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to examine how well programs aimed at reclaiming swamp rabbit habitat are working to help restore the population. Nielson is working with Dr. Eric Schauber (Associate Professor of Zoology), and a team of researchers and graduate assistants on the study. The team is finding that the decline is slowing, but is directly dependent the existence of rabbit habitats on both public and private land. Joanne Crawford, a graduate student in Forestry who has worked on the project for over a year, believes the best way to conserve the animals is to work with private landowners, and providing them with information about the federal programs that help fund the creation of wildlife habitat. Crawford is taking the research to the next level by attaching radio collars to individual rabbits and then tracking their movements. Crawford states, "I want to know where they live, how long they survive and what kills them." The study will likely continue for another 4-5 years. To learn more about this interesting study, follow the links below.


Kristen Woods, a senior in Agribusiness Economics is spending her time assisting Dr. Silvia Secchiwith research into public sector initiatives aimed at fostering production of a variety of renewable energy sources. Woods' work focuses on identifying federal and state efforts that assist alternative energy producers, and how those efforts have changed energy production.

When talking about her undergraduate research experience, Woods states, "It's a good way to increase your educational experience because if all you do is go to class, you don't get the depth you do when you do your own research ... You get that one-on-one time with your professor, and you learn a lot about a specific topic."


Jamie M. Douglas, a graduate student in Animal Science,is working in conjunction with Dr.Karen Jones to study a potential herbal remedy for fescue toxicosis. Douglas is studying the effects that blessed thistle extract has on fungal toxin. Douglas states, "Blessed thistle extract has been used in humans to reduce fever, increase circulation, regulate hormones and stimulate milk production--the same problems we're having with the cows--so we wondered if it would have the same effect on them." Read more about Douglas' project at:


Can worms compete with giant chemical companies in the production of quality fertilizer compost? Bryan Shupe, a graduate student inPlant and Soil Science,states, "It takes four pounds of raw material to make a pound of compost, and worms can break down a poind of food waste in 24 hours." Shupeis working in conjunction with Dr. Alan Walters, vegetable expert, to determine the impact of growing tomatoes in soil enriched with vermicompost (compost made by worms).