Abstract: Communicating Environmental Science with Documentary Film

Dr. Dorothy Ibes (ENSP) and Professor Tanya Stadelmann (FMST) are producing a feature length documentary about the emerging story of ecotherapy (healing with nature) for their Reveley Interdisciplinary Fellows course: Communicating Environmental Science with Documentary Film. They are working in conjunction with the Parks Research Lab (PRL) to create the documentary. PRL initiatives aim to increase understanding of the contribution of greenspace to public health and well-being and encourage more nature contact, with a focus on the William and Mary campus the community of the Greater Williamsburg Area. Last April Ibes and Stadelmann screened a 8 minute trailer for Provost Halleran, Vice-Provost Grover and Annie Davis, Executive Director, Corporate and Foundation Relations, which was well received.

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Ecosystem productivity as a catalyst of growth: a study of Striostrea gigantissima

This summer I’ll be collecting data on Striostrea gigantissima, a species of fossil oyster that lived in the southeastern United States from roughly 50-23 million years ago. Gigantissima is remarkable for its large body size; an average valve is 25 cm in length, while most modern oysters are only 5-8 cm in length. Modern Chesapeake oysters are particularly small as a result of declining health. This has serious implications for entire marine ecosystems. Oysters are reef builders, which means they provide substrate and habitat for other marine taxa and protect coastal systems from incoming storms. Oysters also filter feed, which has a side effect of improving water purity and quality. Therefore the decline of modern oysters signals a major threat to the continued health of marine systems. Gigantissima offers a unique opportunity to study variables associated with large, healthy oysters, and potentially apply those observations to the rehabilitation of modern oysters.

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Abstract: (Re)Constructing a Nation: Contesting Nationhood Within the Walls of the Metropolitan Theater of Manila

Built in 1931 during the American Colonial Period, The Metropolitan Theater of Manila (The Met) sits in an idyllic corner near the Mehan Gardens and the iconic Liwasang Bonifacio. Inspired by Felix Mendelssohn’s “On Wings of Song”, its architect Juan Arellano designed the Met in modern Art Deco, but infused it with local Filipino motifs. It served to showcase a cultured Filipino identity acceptable to Western audiences. But since that age of silver screen actresses and opera stars, the Met’s occupants have fluctuated dramatically across the social strata. Today, however, pounding hammers and whirring saws have invaded the space, loudly singing a new melody. Widely covered by the national media, the Grand Old Dame of Manila now enters a new chapter in its storied history, undergoing a renovation spearheaded by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA). Touted as a restoration of a “glorified past” by bureaucrats and media alike, The Met has become symbolic for a storied Filipino identity. In this narrative, this renovation becomes the rediscovery of a Golden Age of Culture, unwillingly lost to the whims of time. Yet the propensity to emphasize the wonder of “rediscovery” reveals a refusal to engage in the historical realities that caused its disappearance from the national psyche and further assumes that past ideas of Philippine identity are consistent with the present. Therefore, countering this narrative that The Met embodies a lost Filipino spirit, I ask whether its treatment instead parallels the actual shifts of Philippine national identity. Further, I ask what does its contemporary portrayal reveal about Philippine national identity today.

Concise Synthesis and Biological Testing of Natural Products with Potential Anticancer Activity

Natural products are organic compounds that are generated by living organisms as secondary metabolites and may function as defense chemicals. A wide range of natural products have been identified to have significant inhibitory activity vs. certain enzymes. Our products of interest are derivatives of quinones. Modified quinones are a group of molecules found naturally in plants and often exhibit a wide array of biological activities including inhibitory response linked to cancer cell death. However, as they are only generated by organisms in very small amount, the extraction of the molecules from a natural source for biological assays is infeasible. Thus, the research question I hope to answer is how to design and execute novel and innovative synthetic methodologies to produce quinone derivatives in sufficient quantities to test their anticancer activities.

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Evolutionary divergence in competition strength

Competition is an important mechanism for understanding how species compete for resources and coexist, and is also an important process to understand biodiversity in nature. However, the traits that determine the outcome of interspecific competition are often assumed to be constant for each species. Many studies have shown rapid evolution in traits that can influence competition, but no study to date has quantified whether the strength of competition between two species is a heritable trait. My proposed summer research project will measure the strength of competition between two freshwater zooplankton species and quantify how much of this trait is heritable from one generation to the next. I plan to extend the results of the summer research project to a broader honors thesis project, which will determine how the spatial proximity of rock pools on the James River (Richmond, VA) influences (i) competition between zooplankton species and (ii) regional coexistence and biodiversity patterns in this natural system.

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