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Lead contamination in deer meat (venison) has been documented extensively throughout the past decade as a result of the use of lead ammunition in deer hunting. Bullets have been consistently documented to disintegrate into a cloud of fragments and contaminate venison. Many studies have shown that the consumption of lead-contaminated meat is directly correlated to increased blood lead concentrations that pose several human health risks; most of them are associated with neurological and renal disorders. It was hypothesized that there would be a higher lead concentration in rifle-harvested meat than archery-harvested meat primarily because archery arrows do not contain lead. In this experiment, meat samples from rifle-harvested deer and archery-harvested deer were analyzed for lead quantities using Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS). Random samples were collected from local meat lockers as donations for this experiment. The data show no significant difference in lead levels (t=0.734; p=0.467) between rifle and archery harvested meat samples. Results of this study also point to lead contamination in some archery samples, as deer may survive lead bullet wounds and be killed by another means.
Meningococcal meningitis, caused by Neisseria meningitidis, is a serious bacterial infection characterized by inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain. Meningococcal vaccines currently in use fail to protect against N. meningitidis strains belonging to serogroup B. A new vaccine, Bexsero®, has recently been developed by Novartis for use against serogroup B meningococci. This vaccine contains five different protein components: fHbp, NHBA, NadA, GNA1030 and GNA2091. Although the vaccine has been designed to elicit the production of antibodies that kill N. meningitidis, it is possible the antibodies could also affect other beneficial bacteria living in or on the human body that express similar surface antigens. The goal of the current study was to assess this possibility by using bioinformatics approaches to search for the five vaccine antigen-encoding genes in all microorganisms represented in the Human Microbiome Project reference genome database. The fHbp gene was found in N. cinerea and N. polysaccharea, and the nhba gene was found in N. flavescens, N. lactamica and N. polysaccharea. Multiple species, including 15 nonpathogenic Neisseria species, contain genes similar to gna1030 and gna2091. Thus, the human microbiota includes organisms possessing genes with the capacity to encode proteins highly similar to those included in the Bexsero® vaccine.
Vision is essential to interactions with the environment and survival of many animals. House crickets, Acheta domesticus, are nocturnal insects with compound apposition eyes, and thus may have a specialized visual system selected for low-light vision. Here, an analysis of regional variation in facet diameter around the eye of a cricket was conducted. Eye surface area was estimated and facet diameter was spot-sampled across the eyes of 13 adults and 13 juveniles. Juveniles had smaller facets than adults, and there was significant variation among eye regions in facet size. Specifically, larger facets were found in the posterior eye region. Overall, facets were large given the size of this animal's eye, which is consistent with what one might expect from a nocturnal insect under selection for high sensitivity. Furthermore, juveniles had proportionally larger facets than adults, which may indicate that the insects maximize the sensitivity of their ommatidia early in development, prior to increasing facet number to enhance visual resolution. No significant sexual dimorphism was found in absolute eye size, although males achieved equivalent eye size to females despite smaller body size. Regional variation was consistent between age classes and sexes.
The carbon (C) and phosphorus (P) dynamics of a stream macrophyte, Justicia americana, were assessed within watersheds of the Piedmont region of Maryland. Little is known about this emergent plant species that is rapidly proliferating throughout many rivers and streams in the mid-Atlantic region of the U.S. Aboveground biomass was collected at three stream locations in Frederick County, Maryland for determination of total aboveground C. To evaluate biomass densities of J. americana across stream sites, patches were measured as percent of total reach area. Leaf decomposition rates were measured for J. americana and two tree species, Ailanthus altissima and Acer saccharum, by placing leaf litter bags in a stream. Aboveground biomass indicated variable macrophyte densities across three streams and that J. americana is a major contributor of autochthonous C in the sampled reaches. Decomposition of J. americana leaves and stems was faster than tree leaves indicating temporal differences between autochthonous and allochthonous C and P contributions to stream nutrient budgets. In both J. americana stems and leaves, the highest rate of TP release occurred in the first 14 days of decomposition. The hypothesis that macrophyte and tree biomass would decompose at different rates was supported. The results also indicated that there are differences in the quantity and timing of C and P release between J. americana leaves and stems. J. americana is an important source of autochthonous C and P to stream ecosystems due to rapid decomposition.
All college students can benefit from becoming more engaged in their local community. This is especially true for biology majors who can play an active role in enhancing science education opportunities for students in the local K-12 school system. One such service-learning (SL) opportunity is presented where Nova Southeastern University college students work together with local schools by engaging young students in the excitement of hands-on science learning. This type of SL activity is beneficial to all those involved. College students gain valuable public speaking experience while learning how to explain potentially complex scientific concepts in a fun and engaging way. School students gain a varied learning experience and access to role models attending college. Elementary school teachers get some much appreciated support in bringing hands-on science opportunities to their students. College faculty are able to play a positive role providing a community need in their own children's school or a local neighborhood school.