Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Nickie Seto and Brianna Rico, two undergraduates working with SNRE faculty member John Koprowski’s research group, have been selected by the BRAVO! (Biomedical Research Abroad: Vistas Open!) program at the University of Arizona to conduct their research project on plant secondary compounds and mammalian diet preferences at Tokyo Metropolitan University with Dr. Fumio Hayashi (http://www.tmu.ac.jp/english/index.html) and the Tama Forest Science Garden with Dr. Noriko Tamura (http://www.ffpri.affrc.go.jp/tmk/en/index.html) during Summer 2013.
The BRAVO! program is funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and since 1992 has supported 220 undergraduate students on collaborative basic international research experiences (http://ubrp.arizona.edu/programs/bravo/). Nickie and Brianna’s research proposal entitled “How do polyphenols influence selective feeding?: oak-squirrel interactions as a model system” was selected for funding from a competitive pool of applicants.
Folivory, leaf eating, is uncommon among mammals in part because these plant structures are laden with protective chemicals to deter foraging by animals. Not surprisingly, the plant secondary compounds often have medicinal value. The Japanese giant flying squirrel (Petaurista leucogenys) is a 1.0-meter arboreal gliding mammal that has developed the ability to thrive on leaves; however, the species is highly selective about the parts of the leaves that are eaten. Brianna and Nickie will examine the selective feeding patterns, identify the compounds using high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) and relate concentration of the identified compounds to foraging patterns.
In summer and fall 2012 with funds from the UA Undergraduate Biology Research Program (UBRP: https://ubrp.arizona.edu/), Brianna worked with SNRE doctoral student Sarah Hale to assess the ecological consequence of individual behavioral differences of black-tailed prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus). Similarly, Nickie worked with SNRE Wildlife Biologist, Senior Vicki Greer on the influence of reproductive condition on time allocation among female endangered Mt. Graham red squirrels (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus grahamensis). These two budding scientists then combined their efforts to develop their successful proposal in the fall. Congratulations to our two Japan-bound undergraduates!