Impacts Lives & Ecosystems
for undergraduates have been created by funding from BYU alumnus Roger
Sant and his wife Vicki. Their interest in conservation spans 30 years.
"We're excited to give
BYU students an incentive to study," said Sant
"Sustainable development is close to our hearts."
The BYU endowment
created by the Sants has funded a host of mentored projects, including :
Students "Hunt" Black
Andrea Johnson, Brady Heward, and Cammie Frandsen worked with
integrative biology professor Hal Black to research the ability of
female black bears to reproduce under various lifetime environmental
Students survey the Book Cliffs area of eastern Utah from a small airplane and then travel on foot using telemetry and GPS to find the radio-collared female black bears in their dens.
For 14 years, Dr.
Black's researchers have annually located the bears, replaced radio
collars, determined the number and sexes of cubs, and evaluated the
health of the mothers.
"Students see that it
takes a lot of work to get a few words in a textbook," said Dr. Black.
"They learn how to solve problems away from campus. They find that you
get the obnoxious and the routine along with the exciting, which helps
them make better career choices."
Fungi May Cure Disease
BYU undergrads Joseph
Hangs and David Reay helped Gary Strobel, professor of plant pathology
at Montana State University and Wilford Hess, professor of integrative
biology at BYU, collect fungi with possible curative agents from native
plants. Hanks and Reay went to five forest reserves in Madagascar and
collected 60 samples that may cure malaria, resist anthrax, and kill
Unrecognized fungi in Madagascar were sampled, bagged, labeled, and photographed. Promising fungi may be developed commercially to create drugs to cure diseases.
"Students must pay the
price for mentoring," said Hanks. "But the rewards are incredible. The
classroom provides a theoretical background but not the
interconnection offered by field studies. You don't really understand
how it works until you go out, sample it, and bring it back to the
Amazon Turtle Homing
(LEFT)Amazon river turtles are released on the beach as part of a migratory research study.
integrative biology Jack Sites believes that large female tartarugas
(Amazon river turtles) may migrate back to the beach where they were
hatched like marine turtles do. He began his natal homing research in
1997, and has involved several undergraduate students like Cameron
Turner and Brigham Dastrup.(RIGHT) Cameron Turner visits one of the Quilombora communities adjacent to the Trombetas Reserve where he assisted with the work on the river turtles.
Turner went to the
Amazon and collected DNA during the nesting emergence of thousands of
baby tartarugas. This resulted in an invitation from Venezuela for
research on the same turtle species, creating a mentored experience
mentoring benefits my program greatly," said Dr. Sites. "Since we offer
a Ph.D. as a terminal degree, our undergrads are mingling with M.S. and
Ph.D.-level students, usually a post-doc or two, and a sabbatical
visitor from another institution. This creates an extremely dynamic and
stimulating learning atmosphere, and it increases the number of
undergrads I can accommodate by five-fold."
“Participating in a scientific expedition to Maupiti changed my view of my future,” said entomology major Emily Bybee. “It opened my eyes to different cultures and helped me sort out my priorities—a priceless thing to learn at a young age.”
Sarah Kendall and Emily
Bybee, both mentored by professor of integrativebiology Riley Nelson,
helped discover new species of arthropods on Maupiti, a small island in
French Polynesia. Due to its distance from the mainland, scientists
thought that only a small number of species existed on the island.
Research proved otherwise.
Dr. Nelson and his research team created much good will among the people of Maupiti
"My experience has
caused me to think more about why we do science," said Kendall. "Which
one of these unknowns should we try to unravel, and why? What could this
mean once we figure it out? Are there better ways to do certain things?
I was surprised how much there is out there that we just don't know
"I'm also amazed," said
Kendall, "how enthusiastic potential employers become when they find
out about all my research experience. It's opened many doors for me."
Moroccan Plants Combat
James Riordon and
Andrew Cardon (see page 14) found that several plant extracts found in
Khenifra, Morocco were effective against cervical cancer cells, yet not
harmful to non-cancerous cells. Mentored by professor of integrative
biology Rex Cates, they also found that placing essential plant oils in
livestock feed may improve microbial antibiotic resistance.
Moroccan leaders voiced
great interest in further collaboration on medicinal plants to improve
their quality of life.
"This program has given
me an opportunity I never dreamed could happen," said Andrew Cardon.
"There's more to science than just lab work —it's working with people,
exchanging knowledge, and helping one another."
Rare Plant Species
Some agencies hold the
untested idea that collecting seed from a plant species and having
farmers grow it will preserve the genetic makeup of the species. BYU
researchers Val Jo Anderson and Robert Johnson believe such adaptation
is different under cultivation compared to the wild population, and
question whether the plant retains its wild genetic makeup when put in
(LEFT)A Moroccan species of Thymus (thyme) contains essential oils that are being tested for activity against human diseases. (RIGHT)Luke Marchant and Ruth Walker collect seed and tissue samples of rare sedge fescue for DNA analysis.
Anderson and Johnson
selected two rare plant species with different modes of pollination that
historically could have been more abundant if not for grazing pressures
that limited them.
Reviving Rock Canyon
More than 2,000 volunteers have contributed 4,500 hours on plant restoration in Rock Canyon, northeast of BYU. Once destroyed by wildfires and invasive weeds, perennial grasses, shrubs and wildflowers are making a comeback
students, two thousand volunteers, and one influential teacher have
helped revegetate a threatened canyon ecosystem in BYU's back yard. Once
dominated by perennial grasses, shrubs, and wildflowers, the mouth of
Provo, Utah's Rock Canyon is now overrun by invasive annual weeds. This
critical habitat for many wildlife species is being destroyed.
After two seasons of
planting, weeding, watering, and testing, the plots are showing
progress. It will still take six to ten years for full restoration.
Becky Wilde Peterson, a
senior in Range and Wildlife Biology said Dr. Phil Allen, professor of
plant and animal sciences has had an influence on her life as well as
her education. "He makes research an art as well as a science," she
said. "As an advocate for students who want to go on to graduate school
or get a good job, Dr. Allen goes the extra mile."
Effort Saves Native
mentored by integrative biology professor Dennis Siozawa researched
the impact of non-native brown trout in Utah County streams. Brown trout
were brought to the area as sport fish. Because they start eating other
fish very early in life, the biodiversity of these streams and rivers
Aubrey Mueller, Kara Redlin, Crystal Smith, Virgil McCarthy, and Beck Miller are part of Dr. Dennis Shiozawa’s team researching diets and growth patterns of the fish in different sections of Utah streams and reser voirs.
In the lab, students
measure the length and weight of the brown trout, examine stomach
contents, and examine samples of their livers and other body parts for
insight into their diets.
Restoring these streams
could save the native fish and improve fisheries.
mentoring opportunities, and international ecosystems are impacted by
one generous donor: Roger Sant.
| ROGER SANT
Roger Sant was
cofounder and is now chairman emeritus of Applied Energy Service (AES)
of Arlington, Virginia. Throughout his career, he has been at the
forefront in developing efficient energy and in increasing global
awareness of energy use, environmental conservation, and wildlife
protection. He once headed an effort to plant 52 million trees in
deforested areas of Guatemala to offset the carbon dioxide pollution a
new AES facility would produce over its 40-year lifespan.
Sant is chairman of the Executive Committee for the Smithsonian Institution, and formerly chaired the World Wildlife Fund U.S. He received a B.S. from BYU and an MBA with distinction from Harvard. He and his wife Vicki have four children.