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College of Liberal Arts
University of Mississippi

2013 Faculty Grants—Biology

Buchholz, R., primary investigator

Mating Strategies of Male Ocellated Turkeys in Disturbed and Undisturbed Forests

Sponsor: National Geographic Society
Award Amount: $19,800.00

This ‘starter grant’ from the National Geographic Society has allowed us to begin to study the social behavior and reproductive success of ocellated turkeys in two protected locations in Belize. There are only two species of turkey in the world: our North American wild turkey, and the ocellated turkey which is endemic to the Yucatan region of Central America. Unfortunately the ocellated turkey is rapidly disappearing from its small geographic range due to habitat destruction and illegal hunting. With additional funding my graduate students and I hope to understand how habitat structure affects social structure in this threatened bird so that we can better manage it for future generations of both bird-lovers and turkey hunters.

Day, E., primary investigator

Cerebellar Specializations for Non-vocal Avian Courtship Displays

Sponsor: National Science Foundation
Award Amount: $144,599.00

Male birds perform spectacular songs and dances. Studies of song have revealed how brains adapt for vocal learning and how sex hormones regulate non-sex areas of the brain, like vocal pathways. However, the dance elements have been little studied. We will examine brain complexity and brain hormone sensitivity in species of manakins (Pipridae), birds that have a range of dance complexities. Species with the most complex displays announce the breeding season with firecracker-like snaps of the wings that punctuate flips performed faster than the eye can see whereas the least complex species performs relatively simple flights. Imagine how the brains of the former and latter must differ. This study will reveal capabilities of motor regions of the brain to adapt to demands for motor complexity and to be responsive to sex hormones in a way not thought possible for motor areas.

Hoeksema, J., primary investigator

Collaborative Research: Price Determination in Ectomycorrhizal Symbioses

Sponsor: University of Alaska Fairbanks
Award Amount: $30,000.00

Trees have essential fungal partners living on their roots, acting as extended root systems into the soil. However, there are hundreds of species of these fungi, and we suspect that they help trees in a variety of ways. We are studying nutrient trading between pine trees and different species of these symbiotic root fungi, to better understand how they affect tree growth and nutrient cycling in forests.

Collaborative Research: Price determination in ectomycorrhizal symbioses (REU Supplement)

Sponsor: National Science Foundation
Award Amount: $6,250.00

Identification of Climate Effects on Microbial Symbionts of Longleaf Pine

Sponsor: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers/Engineer Research and Development Center
Award Amount: $43,050.00

Trees have essential fungal partners living on their roots, acting as extended root systems into the soil, but trees can also be attached by pathogenic fungi in the soil. There are hundreds of species of both beneficial and pathogenic fungi around the roots of trees, but we still understand very little about how they interact with each other, and how they affect trees. We are identifying the beneficial and pathogenic fungi associated with the roots of longleaf pine trees on two different army bases in the south, to better understand the factors that control them, and how they affect tree growth and survival.

Kiss, J., primary investigator

Novel explorations into the interactions between light and gravity sensing in plants

Sponsor: National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Award Amount: $325,001.00

This grant is for a project to study plant development in a series of spaceflight experiments on the International Space Station. The main goal is to understand basic mechanisms of how plants sense light and gravity. In the long-term, information from this project will provide insight into how to grow plants in the microgravity environment of spaceflight as well as on the Moon and Mars.

McCook, L., primary investigator

Collaborative Research: CSBR: Natural history Collections: Magnolia grandiFLORA, Digitally Linking Herbaria to Support Botanical Research and Education in Mississippi.

Sponsor: National Science Foundation
Award Amount: $103,731.00

The National Science Foundation awarded five years of funding to our collaborative project to gather all the plant data from herbaria in the state and to display it in one on-line portal in a format that can be used by many different kinds of scientists, educators and interested citizens. The Pullen Herbarium, located in the Department of Biology at The University of Mississippi, is working with herbaria at Mississippi State University, University of Southern Mississippi, the Mississippi Museum of Natural Sciences and Delta State University. The project is called Magnolia grandiFLORA in honor of the official state tree and flower of Mississippi, as well as to highlight the comprehensive and collaborative spirit of investigators. The resulting data set will be used to develop botanical resources for Mississippi, including a checklist, atlas andfield keys, to address questions regarding invasive species, systematics, biogeography and other research areas, and to develop educational materials for K-12 teachers and students that can be integrated into the existing Mississippi science education framework..

Parsons, G., primary investigator

Promoting Crappie Recruitment in Northwest Mississippi Reservoirs

Sponsor: MS Dpt of Wild/Fish/Parks
Award Amount: $15,000.00

The project endeavors to describe black and white crappie activity patterns in Sardis and Enid Reservoirs in north Mississippi. Specifically we are using radio-telemetry to track fish over several months during the crappie spawning season. We hope to correlate various environmental parameters with crappie behavior, determine home range, and to identify spawning habitat in each reservoir.