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Posts Tagged ‘division of natural sciences’

Hydrofracking Topic of Earth Day Talk

Hydrofracking and its impact on the local area will be the focus of an Earth Day talk Friday, April 19, at Keuka College.

Helen and David Slottje

David F. Slottje and Helen H. Slottje, co-founders of Community Environmental Defense Council Inc. (CEDC), an environmental law firm, will speak on “Fighting Fracking: A View from the Trenches.” at 3:30 p.m. in Jephson Science Center  104. It is free and open to the public.

According to Kasey Klingensmith, professor of biology, law firms across the state say local governments can’t stop fracking in New York because state law takes away local authority to enact laws relating to the regulation of the gas industry.

“But Helen and David argued that banning drilling was not the same as regulating it,” said Klingensmith. “They developed and advanced the thesis that New York municipalities may utilize local land use authority. This allows them to enact laws prohibiting gas drilling and associated activities outright. It also provides protective laws—which are not laws relating to the regulation of the gas industry.”

For more than three years, the Slottjes have crisscrossed the state, teaching towns that they can enact laws to keep drilling out, and drafting those laws at no charge.

Kasey Klingensmith, professor of biology.

“Following CEDC’s lead, nearly 150 municipalities have passed either a ban or moratorium on gas drilling,” said Klingensmith. “CEDC’s work has energized the anti-fracking movement, brought hope to local residents, empowered local governments, and continues to send Albany politicians a clear message that New York will not be fracked.”

Helen Slottje received a bachelor’s degree in economics with honors from the College of the Holy Cross and received her law degree from the University of Pennsylvania. studied at Harvard Law School from 1990 to 1991.

David Slottje graduated magna cum laude from Syracuse University, where he was a member of Phi Beta Kappa. He received his law degree from Emory University.

A Bird in the Hand …

Newborn nestlings (All Photos by Hung Do Le '12)

Like most expectant parents or relatives, the wait for “D-day,” the day of delivery, is a torturous enterprise. But once the little one is safely arrived and nestled down for naps and feedings, the crowing begins.

So it is for the students in Keuka’s ornithology class and Assistant Professor of Biology and Environmental Science, Bill Brown, who have been keeping close watch on several nestboxes Brown placed along the outer perimeter of the campus, near the treeline beyond Davis Hall and the Red Barn Theatre. The nestboxes, which look like simple birdhouses to the untrained eye, are large enough for birds that prefer to live in cavities such as tree trunks to build a nest inside.

The nestbox of the Black-capped chickadees.

It has been a long wait, marred when eight of nine “active” nests of Eastern bluebirds and Black-capped chickadees were destroyed by house wrens and house sparrows, whose habit is to kick out any eggs already laid in a nest in order to take it over and lay eggs of their own. But one chickadee nest escaped the ravages of the migratory menaces, and that nestbox is the ultimate destination for Brown’s class on this, the final day of the outdoor lab for ENV/BIO 331.

Before paying a visit to the home of the new nestlings, the scientific term for baby birds recently hatched, the class stops at one additional box, where a house wren has begun to lay new eggs – three so far – after returning to the area in the last week or so.

Carefully unscrewing one side of the box, Brown reveals the wren’s nest, made primarily of twigs, with soft grasses, bluejay feathers and hair lining the inside. Fishing around with his hand, he pulls out three tiny pink-toned eggs.

Nest and eggs of a tree swallow.


Eyes (and Ears) Wide Open

Senior Jason Troutman references a list of bird species in Keuka's ornithology field lab, taught by Dr. Bill Brown, at right. (All photos by Brett Williams).

Bundled warm in hoodies against the morning chill at Keuka Lake State Park, the students are standing still, listening intently. From the branches of trees nearby come chirps, calls and sing-song melodies, rising over the sound of the waves lapping the shore.

“What do you hear?” asks Bill Brown, assistant professor of biology and environmental science, who holds a Ph.D. and specializes in ornithology, the study of birds. Binoculars hang suspended from the students’ necks, but Brown wants them to listen first.

Seniors Steve Stout and Justin Henry record bird species they've identified during an outdoor field lab.

Pencils poised over palm-size waterproof notepads, the handful of students lower their heads and jot down four-letter codes for different species as they respond with the names: Mourning dove. American robin. Cardinal. Canada goose. Carolina wren. Downy woodpecker. [Eastern] Pheobe. House finch.

This is ENV/BIO 331, Keuka’s ornithology class, where one of Brown’s primary objectives is teaching students to master identification of some 104 different species of birds by sight. Thirty-nine of those species must also be identified by sound. And those are just the birds found here in New York state.

According to Brown, almost 90 percent of “birding” is done by ear; the rest comes from knowing what to expect in a given setting, whether that may be a small cluster of trees near a building, along a road, or deep in a forest fragment. (more…)

Scientists in the Making

Chemist Dmitri Mendeleev is credited with developing the first periodic table of the elements, the most important reference in chemistry because it arranges all the elements in an easy-to-read chart.

This table was key for the nearly two dozen St. Michael’s School (Penn Yan) and Penn Yan Elementary School students who visited the Keuka College campus Nov. 19 for the Chemistry Club’s Kids’ Day, held in Jephson Science Center.

Chemistry Club member Richelle Coons adds food coloring to 'elephant toothpaste' as St. Michael's School fourth-grader Sarah Loucks looks on.

The elementary school students used the table to find the atomic numbers of such ingredients as potassium and iodine before creating “elephant” toothpaste, a foam that looks like “human” toothpaste.

Conducted once a semester, Kids’ Day shows elementary school students “how much fun science is,” said Club Secretary Janelle Davidson. “We want to get the kids interested in science at a young age and [Kids’ Day] gives them the opportunity to conduct experiments in a fun and safe way.”

Davidson, a senior biology major from Cortland, showed the youngsters how to use cabbage juice as a pH indicator.

“Acids and bases will make the cabbage juice turn different colors, depending on the pH in the acid or base,” she said.

Chemistry Club president Katie Barnhart, a senior biochemistry major from Warsaw, showed the youngsters what happens to marshmallows, a glove filled with air, and a hard-boiled egg inside a vacuum. The children also dipped cotton swabs in different salts and club member Jason Troutman, a senior biology major from Kirkville, placed the end in a Bunsen burner and, depending on the salt, a different color flame was produced.

Several elementary schoolers poke the 'ooblek' to feel its properties.

Club members also showed their young friends how to make ‘ooblek,’ a type of slime that has properties of both liquids and solids; conducted experiments by combining sugar and fire; and created fireworks with gummy bears.

The highlight of the event was watching Assistant Professor of Chemistry Andy Robak, Chemistry Club adviser, create bubbles by placing a gas-filled hose under water and dish soap. He got his hands and arms wet under the gas bubbles, scooped up the bubbles, and Barnhart set the bubbles on fire.

Other members of the Chemistry Club who took part included: Kyle Morgan, a sophomore biochemistry major from Alfred Station; Steve Stout (treasurer), a senior environmental science major from Locke; Brian DelPineo, a sophomore biochemistry major from Oneida; Ashley Hager, a sophomore biochemistry major from Chemung; Sonya Decker, a freshman occupational science major from Chemung; Kathlyn Parrish, a freshman biochemistry major from Cincinnatus; Caitlin Adams, a sophomore biology major from Redwood; Andrea Burgess, a senior management major from Hemlock; Alex Jones, a senior biology major from Conklin; Chelsea George, a freshman biomedical major from Strykersville; Krystal Russell, a freshman medical technician major from Berkshire; and Richelle Coons, a freshman adolescent biology major from Lyons.

A Veterinarian in the Making

Editor’s Note: This is the 2nd in a series of stories saluting members of the Class of 2011. We asked division chairs for story ideas and they in turn contacted faculty members for ideas. We believe they came up with some terrific profiles.

Emily Credit

Andrew Robak, assistant professor of chemistry, liked Emily Credit from the first class in which she took with him “because she did as much teaching as I did, and helped solve problems in the chemistry lab.

“Since then, I have gotten to know her better, and I only became more impressed,” said Robak.

Credit, a biology major from Canandaigua, chose Keuka because she liked the small class sizes, and the individual instruction she would receive from her professors.


Cancer Research Reinforces Career Choice

Senior Felicia Lenzo has an aunt who is a breast cancer survivor, and for her summer Field Period, Lenzo wanted to study breast cancer in hopes of learning more about the disease.

So,  the biochemistry major and Endicott resident was encouraged by Joan Magnusen, professor of biology, to pursue cancer research in Carolyn Klinge’s ’79 lab.


Flexing Their ‘Mussels’

With the ultimate goal of enhancing the learning of their students, six high school teachers became students this week (July 26-29) at Keuka College.

For the second straight year, Keuka is hosting a Rochester Area Colleges—Center for Excellence in Math and Science (RAC-CEMS) summer institute this week on “Using Zebra Mussels for Good, not Evil: Hands-on Experiments and Modeling Activities.”

Linda L. MacDougal-Spross who teaches 9-12 living environment and environmental science at Marshall High School in Rochester, wanted to attend the institute because she is looking to motivate her students with hands-on experiments.

“I found the DNA extraction [of zebra mussels] fascinating, and I wanted to get ideas for other hands-on experiments,” she said. “I am getting plenty of great ideas.”

So is Eric English, a science educator for grades 9-12 at Escuela Americana in San Salvador, El Salvador.

“I want to learn techniques for teaching scientific design, and I want my students to become more independent and use their own scientific means to come to the answers,” said English, a native of Corning.

Virginia Donahue

Other participants included Tim Downs (School of the Arts, Rochester), Virginia Donahue (Fairport High School), Marilee Buffum (Fairport High School), and Eileen Hammond (Churchville-Chili Senior High School).

Limnologist Tim Sellers, associate professor of biology and environmental science, and Michael Keck, chair of the Division of Natural Sciences, Mathematics, and Physical Education and associate professor of chemistry, led the workshop. They were joined by Barb Demjanec, laboratory coordinator, and Keuka senior-to-be Dominique Derminio, a biochemistry major.

Zebra mussels look like small clams, with yellowish or brownish D-shaped shells, usually with alternating dark and light brands of color. Via small, tight elastic threads, they attach themselves firmly to solid objects. Though they are diminutive in size, they have the ability to wreak havoc with lakes, rivers and streams. They have also been known to clog pipes in the homes of waterside residents and jam water treatment and power plant systems.

But they are also valuable educational tools, according to Donahue, an AP and Regents biology teacher. She wants to encourage her students to ask questions and find their own answers, rather than “following a recipe.

“I am always looking to make learning relevant to my students, and I want to learn new activities to take into my classroom,” she said. “Just having zebra mussels in the classroom will generate questions.”

According to Hammond, a senior high school science teacher, the Regents exams are focusing more on western New York.

That is why she “wanted to learn more about the New York state aquatic ecosystems, as well as the latest technology and lab experiences to bring back to my students. I am now in the process of writing a lesson plan based on zebra mussels and what I have learned here.”

Downs, a living environment and science 8 teacher, has always been interested in invasive species like zebra mussels. He believes his students have had some interaction with zebra mussels “so they will connect with this experience.

“I am interested in the identification between zebra mussels and quagga mussels, and want to give my students exposure to using dichotomous,” he said.

Buffum, a 10th grade Regents biology teacher, believes it is “valuable to invest the time to make things fun and interesting for the students.

“I have learned a lot about zebra mussels, such as how the environment and other things affect their life span and their anatomy,” she said. “Extracting DNA has been fun, and between the labs, notes and hands-on experiments, the institute has been beneficial, and I have learned a lot.”