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Environmental Studies Minor

Research Opportunities

Dr. Patrick Vigueira | Biology

Research Interests: Research in our lab explores the impact of anthropogenic land use on the abundance and diversity of native bees and other insect pollinators. Global populations of insect pollinators have experienced a sharp decline over the last century. If we aim to preserve the diversity and abundance of bees on our planet, we must act swiftly and decisively to study and effectively manage high-quality bee habitat.

Recent advancements in power line right-of-way vegetation management have given conservation biologists reason to consider the potential positive impacts of utility corridors. Bees have two primary demands from their habitat: diverse locations for nesting and access to nutrient-rich forage. Vegetation surveys of utility corridors report increased forage quality and abundance as well as suitable pollinator nesting habitat. Ultimately, we hope that our studies will provide land administrators with the necessary data to make ecologically-informed management decisions.

Contact: pvigueir@highpoint.edu 


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Dr. Chelsea Wentworth | Anthropology

Research Interests: My research examines hunger and food security in cultural and environmental context, and sits at the nexus of critical medical anthropology, environmental anthropology, and nutritional syndemics theory. 

Current Projects: My primary research focuses on food security in the Pacific Island nation of Vanuatu, and changing concepts of appropriate feeding based on how caregivers value foods for children, and the structures that mediate feeding practice. Responding to both biomedically driven pressures from health care workers and familial and cultural pressures from their communities, I argue that caregivers achieve syncretic definitions of “good” and “bad” foods, hunger and satiety, malnutrition, food insecurity, and feasting. These conceptions shape how caregivers feed children, how they value their access to natural resources for subsistence gardening, their desire to engage in wage labor, and how they approach the health care system. I’m beginning a new research project in Vanuatu examining how urban and peri-urban gardens impact food security. 

Contact: cwentwor@highpoint.edu 


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Dr. Sandra Cooke | Biology

Research Interests: Humans greatly depend on the ecosystem services provided by freshwater resources, and yet anthropogenic impacts on aquatic ecosystems continue to be critical. I am interested in the ecological effects of exotic species, ultraviolet radiation, temperature, and other stressors on aquatic ecosystems.

Current Projects:  Ecology of the exotic water flea Daphnia lumholtzi, comparing the UV sensitivities of less-well-studied zooplankton taxa (e.g., Bosmina), and effects of leaf litter leachates on zooplankton life history. I am also involved in a collaborative project examining the effects of land use on freshwater turtle populations.

Contact: scooke@highpoint.edu


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Dr. Angela Bauer | Biology

Research Interests: Research in my laboratory focuses on the potential health effects of exposure to endocrine disruptors. Endocrine disruptors are chemicals within our environment (e.g. components of plastics, pesticides, herbicides, pharmaceutical contaminants in groundwater, hormones in dairy manure) that interfere with hormone signaling once they enter the body. Many endocrine disruptors mimic or block the actions of the sex hormones, estrogens and androgens. Thus, physiological processes that are known to be regulated by our endogenous sex hormones (e.g. sexual differentiation, reproduction, bone ossification) are susceptible to disruption by these chemicals. Furthermore, the incidence and progression of certain diseases that are hormone sensitive (e.g. endometriosis, breast cancer, prostate cancer, inter-sexed conditions) are suspected to be influenced by exposure to endocrine disruptors.

Current Projects: Currently, two lines of research that focus on endocrine disruption are underway in my laboratory. They include 1) an assessment of the ability of plant estrogens (e.g., EGCG, a component of green tea) to mitigate or block the proliferative effects of estrogenic endocrine disruptors on breast cancer cells; and 2) an examination of the impact of estrogenic endocrine disruptors on skeletal development in zebrafish.

Contact: abauer@highpoint.edu 


  
Dr. Peter Summers | Economics

Research Interests: Dr. Summers’ research interests include empirical macroeconomics, business cycles, time series econometrics, Bayesian econometrics, forecasting, and economic indicators. Recent research with HPU students has focused on the impact of renewable fuel standards in the US on feeder cattle prices. Specifically, his students use vector autoregression models to answer such questions as the effects of corn prices, corn supply, and percentage of corn delegated to ethanol production on the price of feeder cattle.

Contact: psummers@highpoint.edu 


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Dr. Niky Hughes | Biology

Research Interests: My lab researches the biochemical, physiological, and ecological adaptations of plants to environmental stress.  Recent field expeditions with students have taken us into the cloud forests of Colombia, the Southern Alps in New Zealand, and the Snowy Range in Wyoming. Visit our lab page for more details.

Current Projects:  How clouds affect plant carbon and water relations, function of purple spots in the wintergreen orchid Tipularia discolor, effects of seasonal leaf movements on micrometeorology and ecophysiology of the evergreen fern, Polystichum acrostichoides

Contact: nhughes@highpoint.edu
Lab page: 


  

Dr. Cindy Vigueira | Biology

Research interests: Rice (Oryza sativa) is the most widely consumed food for much of the world’s population. Weedy red rice is a conspecific weed and is one of the biggest factors that limits rice production. We are studying the evolution of weedy red rice in different world regions in hopes to understand how to better combat this pest species.

Current projects: My research is focused on population and quantitative genetics. I am interested in how genetic variation is shaped by selection, demography and other evolutionary forces. Currently, there are several research projects underway in the Vigueira lab. Please email me for more details.

Contact: cvigueir@highpoint.edu 


  
Dr. Pamela Lundin | Chemistry

Research Interests: In one hour, enough solar energy is incident upon Earth to power our planet for an entire year. Therefore, solar energy will be a critical component in building a future that is not dependent on fossil fuels. Among the many types of solar cell technologies that will be employed, organic photovoltaics (OPVs) have advantages of light weight and flexibility. These properties will enable the use of OPVs in specialty environments, such as on lightweight vehicles and in portable chargers.

Current Projects: In our lab, we are interested in exploring the design of specialized conjugated polymers capable of charge separation and subsequent current generation within one macromolecule. This design has the potential to simplify the preparation of the active layer in OPVs. To do this, we use organic chemistry techniques of reaction set-up, work-up, purification, and characterization.

Contact: plundin@highpoint.edu 


Dr. Christian George | Biology

Research Interests: Broadly, my research interests fall into two categories. The first is exploring the relationship between climate and mammalian communities from the last Ice Age until the present. I have investigated this topic through a variety of techniques, and have recently focused on using GIS (geographic information systems) to analyze the spatial distribution of fossils from large digital databases such as FAUNMAP, Paleobiology Database, and NEOTOMA. The second area of research is in undergraduate science education. I just received a NSF grant, “Leveraging “Big Data” to Explore Big Ideas: Utilizing the Paleobiology Database to Provide Hands-On Research Opportunities for Undergraduates” to develop new ways of using databases of fossils in undergraduate classes.

Contact: cgeorge@highpoint.edu
Lab page: http://www.highpoint.edu/biology/christian-george/

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