This project will develop units of instruction for third, fourth, and fifth grade students that integrate coding into mathematics and science. Computer coding is an essential part of knowledge for the current generation of students, and it is important for it to be taught beginning at the elementary school level. Many students who are interested in mathematics, science, and computers in early grades lose interest as they progress through the grades. One way to pique and keep their interest involves using educational robotics and coding. However, in the increasingly packed curriculum, there is little time for coding and robotics to be taught as separate subjects. Instead, it is useful to integrate coding and educational robotics into other school subjects, such as mathematics and science. This project builds on frameworks from mathematics and science education to examine the level of cognitive demand of coding and robotics tasks. Tasks will be written with specific attention to the needs and interests of female and rural students, who are often underrepresented in STEM fields. This project aims to produce exemplary tasks that elementary school teachers can use as they integrate computer coding of educational robots into their regular classroom learning activities. This project will also create a framework that guides mentoring and professional development programs that develop teachers’ capacity to integrate computer coding with other STEM content areas.
This project builds on a longstanding research-practice partnership to develop units of instruction integrating coding into mathematics and science instruction through use of argumentation as a pedagogical strategy combined with research into their usefulness. The units will be co-designed by teachers from Jackson County School System and researchers from the University of Georgia. This project addresses the following research questions: (1) What are the characteristics of well-designed tasks that integrate coding with mathematics or coding with science?; (2)What resources and decision-making strategies do experienced teachers employ when they design (and revise) conceptually-focused, cognitively-demanding tasks that integrate coding with mathematics or integrate coding with science (COMS tasks)?; (3)What are the characteristics of instruction when teachers implement COMS tasks?; (4) What resources and support do teachers need as they implement tasks such as COMS?; (5) What do students learn from COMS tasks?; and, (6) How do students, especially girls and students from rural areas, respond to COMS tasks with respect to interest in coding or computer science, appreciation of integrated instruction, dispositions related to STEM learning? Data sources include written materials, interviews classroom recordings, pre/post assessments, and surveys. Analyses of data will include quantitative and qualitative approaches including the use of a newly developed framework for cognitive demand of coding tasks along with a revised framework for supporting argumentation. This project is funded through the CS for All: Research and RPPs program.
Funder: National Science Foundation
PI: Annamarie Conner, Mary Frances Early College of Education
An award is made to the University of Georgia (UGA) to acquire a high-resolution x-ray computed microtomography (micro-CT) system with in situ capabilities that will support the research, training, teaching, and outreach efforts of more than 30 investigators at UGA, Georgia Tech and Emory University in the biological sciences, physical sciences, archaeological sciences, geological and environmental sciences, engineering disciplines, and related fields. The ability to characterize internal microscopic features in intact natural and engineered materials in three dimensions (3D) and at high resolution will fill a critical gap in regional and national imaging capabilities. This specific micro-CT system will be the first of its kind hosted by an open-access facility, Georgia Electron Microscopy (GEM) at UGA. GEM hosts a wide array of highly complementary state-of-the-art microscopes that facilitate multidisciplinary use and interdisciplinary collaboration, and it will provide physical and remote access to high computing resources for CT data analysis. In addition to research applications and the associated training of student users, the new instrument will support UGA’s academic mission by integrating x-ray micro-CT in more than 20 course offerings and numerous outreach efforts that target underrepresented students in STEM. Micro-CT demonstrations and modules will be incorporated in the existing activities offered by GEM, including tours and workshops, and the instrument will be used to acquire data sets and generate 3D printed models suitable for integration into K-12 lesson plans.
This state-of-the-art micro-CT system provides exceptional capabilities for 3D microstructural analysis that include submicron absorption tomography imaging down to 0.5 microns, tri-contrast interferometry that simultaneously provides absorption, phase, and scattering contrast tomography imaging down to 3 µm, with sensitivity down to 0.3 µm, and an optimized design that enables 4D imaging of samples in controlled experimental environmental conditions. These unique capabilities will make a major impact on research productivity, directly supporting a large number and range of well-funded projects and enabling new, high-impact research that falls into three broad categories: (1) high-resolution imaging of 3D internal structures of biological, geological, archaeological and engineered samples for research applications ranging from developmental biology to functional polymers, (2) combining in situ experiments with time-lapse imaging to visualize fundamental processes, such as material deformation and fluid flow and transport that are essential to infrastructure resilience, sustainability of water resources, and plant productivity, and (3) acquiring data to develop the new generation of image analysis algorithms, phenotyping frameworks and pore-scale numerical models. In particular, the ability to perform phase-contrast tomography with the proposed instrument provides unprecedented lab-based micro-CT imaging of low-density materials, thereby pushing the frontiers of soft matter and life sciences research.
Funder: National Science Foundation
PI: Charlotte Garing, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Geology
This project will document the major firefly groups across South America. Documenting and understanding the diversity of life on Earth is an essential step towards preserving biodiversity in the face of global threats, especially for organisms that are poorly known. This is true even for fireflies, charismatic beetles that have inspired childhood memories and poetry for centuries, and contributed to advances in biotechnology and medicine. The firefly family Lampyridae includes about 2200 named species from all over the world, but twice as many species are thought to exist. About 25% of known species occur in South America, and it is likely that an equal number still remain to be discovered there. This project will document firefly diversity in South America by discovering new species, revealing their evolutionary relationships with other fireflies worldwide, and creating tools to facilitate future research on fireflies and other beetles. Students at all stages will be broadly trained to be capable of leading biodiversity exploration in the future. A series of educational videos for the public will allow a glimpse behind the scenes into the research life of scientists, insight into how species are described, and how biodiversity is documented.
This project will significantly advance the state of taxonomy for Lampyridae by attacking the biggest barriers to research on the South American fauna. Specimens in museum collections and newly available material provided by a network of Brazilian and Colombian collaborators will be used to conduct phylogenetic analysis of novel and confusing groups of South American fireflies using DNA squences and morphological data. The researchers will rectify the confusing taxonomy of Lucidota, the most vexing South American firefly genus, using integrative taxonomic approaches. The researchers will develop powerful identification tools for all South American genera and targeted groups of species. They will generate a rich variety of biodiversity data that can be easily and freely used by other researchers, citizen scientists, and the public via a convenient, internet-based, central resource for South American lampyrid taxonomy. By assessing lampyrid diversity across all major neotropical regions, this project will highlight geographical areas that deserve additional attention, and identify higher-level groups with a large proportion of undescribed species that will be the target of future taxonomic studies.
Funder: National Science Foundation
PI: Kathrin Stanger-Hall, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Plant Biology
Using new ocean observing technologies in two contrasting locations, this research is combining measurements of biological and environmental conditions to understand highly productive ocean shelf food webs. Within marine food webs, a diverse community of small animals, referred to collectively as zooplankton, serve as prey for larger animals including fishes and marine mammals. Zooplankton can also influence lower trophic levels, such as marine microbes that in turn, affect nutrient and gas cycling throughout the oceans. This project is also supporting graduate and undergraduate students, including several from Savannah State University, a Historically Black University with undergraduate and graduate programs in marine sciences. The field research is providing authentic oceanographic experiences for K-12 educators, who will participate in the planned research cruises, as well as research opportunities for juniors and seniors at a local high school with high enrollment of groups underrepresented STEM. Public outreach includes annual open house events at the University of Georgia’s Skidaway Institute of Oceanography.
This project addresses fundamental questions in ocean sciences regarding how environmental conditions affect the structure and composition of zooplankton communities in continental shelf ecosystems. Biologically productive shelf ecosystems can oscillate between extremes of vertically mixed waters during windy and colder seasons and vertically stratified waters during warmer and calmer conditions. Warm, calm conditions favor the formation of dense layers or aggregations of plankton and particulate material, generating hot spots of biological activity that potentially allow marine organisms to feed at much higher rates than water-column-average abundances might suggest. Although physical mechanisms of layer formation and plankton groups associated with them have been described in several shelf environments, less is known about the influence of layers on zooplankton community composition and trophic transfer. For fast-reproducing pelagic tunicates such as salps, pyrosomes, appendicularians, and doliolids, these layers or aggregations may serve as rich food resources that prime pelagic tunicates to form dense blooms which then ultimately serve as food for gelatinous predators. This sequence of events, from layer formation to pelagic tunicate reproduction and predation on the bloom, may generate high abundances of gelatinous organisms throughout the marine food web. The investigators will test this hypothesis by measuring fine-scale abundances of gelatinous zooplankton with in-situ imaging, gelatinous zooplankton diets using molecular gut content analysis, and food web properties using compound-specific stable isotopes in both vertically mixed and stratified conditions. To determine if food web interactions are generalizable to water columns with and without vertical structure, these processes will be compared in the South Atlantic Bight and northern Gulf of Mexico shelf ecosystems. Both provide favorable conditions for doliolid blooms yet differ in drivers of vertical stratification.
Funder: National Science Foundation
PI: Adam Greer, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Marine Sciences
Loss of oligodendrocytes gives rise to demyelination, ultimately resulting in axonal degeneration and debilitating clinical outcomes in diseases like Multiple Sclerosis. While remyelination can prevent neurodegeneration, there are currently no approved therapies for promoting remyelination. Thus, there is an urgent need to identify factors that control remyelination. Neural stem cells in the adult subventricular zone are one of the sources of remyelinating oligodendrocytes. These cells are a heterogeneous population that show diverse responses to signaling pathways in the healthy vs demyelinated brain. We have studied one such pool marked by Gli1, which generates remyelinating oligodendrocytes only in response to demyelination. Our previous work showed that the recruitment and differentiation into oligodendrocytes leading to functional recovery is increased substantially by loss of Gli1 in this pool of neural stem cells; however the molecular mechanisms involved in this repair is not known. Through a transcriptomic analysis comparing gene expression in neural stem cells with and without Gli1 expression, we identified the TGFβ1 pathway as a major regulator of remyelination mediated by neural stem cells. However, the effects of TGFβ1 signaling are context dependent and differ with the cell-type, timing and dosage suggesting the presence of specific modulators of the pathway in different cells. Using a combination of bioinformatic analysis and remyelination studies in mice, we discovered a novel mediator of the TGFβ1 pathway, Gpnmb which is highly expressed along with its receptor CD44 in neural stem cells in response to demyelination. In the first aim, we will define the cell-autonomous function of Gpnmb in neural stem cells and its role in remyelination by neural stem cells. In the second aim, we will determine the impact of paracrine Gpnmb signaling through CD44 receptor on remyelination mediated by neural stem cells. In the third aim, we will elucidate the mechanisms of regulation of Gpnmb by TGFβ1 ligand and reciprocal modulation of the TGFβ1 pathway by Gpnmb. For the remyelination studies, we will use the toxin induced models of demyelination. To define the molecular mechanisms of the TGFβ1-Gpnmb signaling pathway, we will utilize in vitro neural stem cell cultures from adult mouse brain. Together, these studies will help identify therapeutic targets for promoting remyelination.
Funder: National Institutes of Health
PI: Jayshree Samanta, College of Veterinary Medicine
This effort will produce accurate and contemporary population estimates for the South Georgia bear population. Such an estimate will allow for an evaluation of how current and future proposed harvest rates will impact the SGP. Data collection will include genetic hair-snare sampling, camera-trapping efforts, and GPS collaring activities. Together, this will provide information on black bear survival, reproduction, recruitment.
Funder: Georgia DNR
PI: Michel Kohl, Warnell School of Forestry & Natural Resources
A wide range of plants are grown for food, feed or fuel, and biotechnology has the potential to improve the quality, yield, and sustainability of these plants. Biotechnology applications include improving nutrition, enhancing resilience to stress, carbon sequestration, production of bioplastics/biomaterials/bioproducts/biofuels, and space exploration. Yet, technology barriers currently prevent construction of plants with complex new features. This project will generate a novel, first-of-its-kind platform – a chassis – that will enable the design and fabrication of plants with novel properties. These properties include 1) the production of high value chemicals such as pesticides, bio-materials, bio-plastics, and pharmaceuticals, 2) improved carbon sequestration to address excess global carbon dioxide levels, 3) enhanced sustainability such as the reduced need for fertilizer or insecticides and 4) improved resiliency and adaptation to drought and temperature stress. To encourage participation in science and to convey to a younger generation that science can address global challenges, this project will directly engage undergraduates in the characterization of the chassis. To broaden the diversity of participants in science, this project will recruit and train members of under-represented groups in emerging biotechnology and computational methods, thereby aiding development of a 21st century workforce in scientific disciplines. In the 21st century, the nexus of genomics and biotechnology will be the development of plants with improved yield, nutrition, and market quality, enhanced resilience to biotic and abiotic stressors, increased sustainability, and/or novel phenotypes such as the ability to sequester carbon or synthesize bio-products, biomaterials, and new-to-nature molecules. To achieve this “Third Green Revolution” in agriculture, we need the ability to engineer complex pathways and processes to harness the sustainable production platform of plants. Development of minimal bacterial and yeast genomes have permitted the rewriting of genomes and enhanced the utility of engineered microbes for biotechnology. Advancing plant genome engineering methods and resources are essential for plants to be utilized as sustainable platforms in the bioeconomy. One barrier to either singly or combinatorial engineering complex metabolic pathways and developmental processes is the sheer redundancy of gene function due to whole/segmental genome and gene duplication in all angiosperms. This project will develop a gene editing platform at scale that will be used to generate novel plant genotypes with reduced gene content and redundancy, which can serve as chassis (i.e., a platform) to rapidly engineer plants with new phenotypes and test heterologous genes relevant to biological processes of interest. This project will be the first phase in creating a true minimal plant genome, such that we can begin to rewrite the genome for new-to-nature molecules and biological processes. Due to its small stature, rapid life cycle, and amenability to transformation, the logical choice for creating a minimal plant genome is Arabidopsis thaliana, the mouse-ear cress. Our specific aims include a design phase and two cycles of build-test-learn in which we target 324 protein-coding genes for deletion across 18 5 Mb modules that span the Arabidopsis genome using state-of-the-art multiplexed gene editing approaches. The presence of synthetic lethal pairs will be tested through pairwise and higher order crosses of the modules. Machine learning approaches will be used with empirical and bioinformatic data to develop and improve models that predict gene dispensability. This project will include a Vertically Integrated Project in which all personnel are engaged across the project and institutions and in which a larger number of undergraduates can participate via a custom course entitled Building a Minimal Plant Genome to Enable a Sustainable Bioeconomy. This project will engage under-represented groups to advance participation in STEM disciplines relevant for the 21st century.
Funder: National Science Foundation
PI: Carol Buell, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences
The evolution of mating system, whether a plant primarily self-fertilizes (inbreeds) or outcrosses (is pollinated by a different individual), is one of the most frequent changes during plant evolution. Self-fertilization is associated with a common set of changes in floral development, together known as the selfing syndrome. For example, flowers of self-fertilizing species tend to be smaller and unscented because they do not need to attract pollinators. We know less about how the transition to self-fertilization impacts the genome and epigenome, the pattern of chemical modifications that control the way genes function. Using multiple plant species in two genera (Capsella and Mimulus), this research will investigate how genomes and epigenomes differ between self-fertilizing and outcrossing species. This work will help us understand hybridization barriers, which limit our ability to make inter-species crosses for breeding improved crops. This research will also increase our fundamental understanding of seed development, a critical aspect of agricultural productivity, and generate a wealth of sequence-based resources that will enable the plant genomics community to answer further questions. Research from this project will be incorporated into undergraduate and graduate courses taught by the PIs. Finally, this research will help maintain ongoing collaborations with local K-12 teachers to develop hands-on plant biology activities for use in their classrooms. Selfing fundamentally alters the nature of genomic conflicts and is predicted to affect several epigenetic phenomena, including genomic imprinting, effective ploidy, and host defense against transposons. RNA-directed DNA methylation (RdDM) plays a key role in epigenomic regulation and has been linked to genomic conflicts, suggesting that the nature or function of RdDM might be altered following the evolution of selfing. This project will test the hypothesis that there is a common pattern of epigenomic change following the transition to inbreeding and that these changes are mediated by RdDM. Because the selfing syndrome is only apparent when multiple transitions to selfing are compared, the relationship between mating system and the epigenome will be investigated using six inbreeder/outbreeder comparisons in two genera (Capsella and Mimulus). Specific areas of research include 1) determining how selfing impacts RdDM’s role in transposon defense and collateral gene silencing, 2) establishing the molecular cause of divergence in effective ploidy and determine whether these changes are common during the transition to selfing, 3) assessing the differential function of RdDM following the evolution of selfing and 4) determining whether there is a reduced role for RdDM in selfing species.
Funder: National Science Foundation
PI: Andrea Sweigart, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Genetics
The Institute for Resilient Infrastructure Systems will conduct two case studies (one in each of the Colorado and Mississippi River Basins), develop a curriculum and certificate for natural infrastructure workforce development and host a design workshop to explore and create an implementation plan to expand the Network for Engineering With Nature to include resilience liaisons.
Funder: Walton Family Foundation
PI: Clifton Woodson, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Marine Sciences
The species composition of microbial communities determines the impact they have on human health and the environment, but we have a very limited understanding of how microbial communities form. A major driver of this composition is a competition among microbes that is mediated by naturally produced antimicrobial compounds, that help shape which microbes are included or excluded from the community. Notably, many key microbes found in these communities are sensitive to the natural antimicrobial compounds produced therein. This is especially true for fungi, which are particularly vulnerable to many classes of toxic antifungal compounds produced within microbial communities. Despite this, fungi play key roles in host-associated microbial communities for plants, animals, and humans. In order to explain how such sensitive organisms gain access to antimicrobial replete spaces, my lab discovered a class of microbial interactions whereby bacterial members of the community that are resistant to antimicrobial compounds extend protection to physically associated fungal partners. Such bacterial partners act as “toxin sponges,” sequestering natural antimicrobial compounds, in addition to providing protection against frontline antifungal drugs used clinically against fungal pathogens. The discovery of bacterial partners protecting their host fungi provides an unstudied avenue that can be applied to A) predicting how microbial communities form and B) dissecting new mechanisms of resistance to antifungal drugs whereby resistance originates from a bacterial partner. My lab focuses on developing a model system based on this type of symbiosis, making use of a co-isolated fungal-bacterial pairing. The fungus, Aspergillus calidoustus, was found physically associated with a novel bacterium we named Paraburkholderia edwinii. We have rendered the bacterium genetically tractable and are working to do the same with the fungus. We are interested in discovering the mechanisms at work for protection on three levels. First, at the level of the bacterium, we are characterizing how the bacterium processes and detoxifies antifungal compounds. Second, at the level of the bacterial-fungal interface, we are interested in understanding how signals of fungal stress are communicated to the bacterium to activate the protection response. Finally, at the level of the mixed bacterial-fungal co-colony, we are focused on understanding how antifungal drug flow is manipulated through the fungal mycelial structure to bacterial aggregates that form within where detoxification of the drugs occurs. Beyond the mechanisms involved in this pairing, we aim to co-isolate bacterial-fungal pairs from clinical samples to identify which bacterial members of microbial communities provide safe harbor for associated fungi, and to what classes of antifungal compounds such partnerships can defend against.
Funder: National Institutes of Health
PI: Kurt Dahlstrom, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Microbiology