Faculty, Student Research Showcased at Research Day 2014

Molly Wright presents her thesis research

Las Vegas, N.M. — New Mexico Highlands University showcased its passion for faculty and student research excellence, scholarship, and creativity during it 12th Annual Research Day April 4.

“Learning and the advancement of knowledge represent the raison d’etre for any university,” said Jim Fries, Highlands University president. “Here at Highlands, this is well represented by faculty and students alike through a wide array of original research in disciplines across campus.”

Forestry professor Sara Brown chairs the Faculty Research Committee and coordinated Research Day this year.

“Interdisciplinary sharing of research across campus by students and faculty is the most important aspect of Research Day,” Brown said. “Research Day demonstrates that Highlands is making important contributions to fundamental new knowledge through research.

“When we take our students to outside conferences they rise to the top for student research, even when compared to large research institutions. Our students are eager to present their research and always shine when they do,” Brown said.

Molly Wright, who graduates with her master’s in biology in May, presented her thesis research on the impacts on amphibians of the 2011 Track Wildfire near Raton that burned 28,000 acres. Wright’s study examined the native frog species of woodhouse toads, western chorus frogs and leopard frogs, as well as the non-native bullfrogs. Brown was her adviser.

“After the high-severity Track Fire, the amphibians were completely removed — we didn’t see them, hear them or catch them in any in traps in our Sugarite State Park study area,” Wright, 25, said. “The amphibians still haven’t returned. Because amphibians are great indicators of water quality, this suggests a link to disturbances in water quality.

“My research opportunities at Highlands have been incredible and my professors — Sara Brown, Jesíºs Rivas, Sarah Corey-Rivas, and Edward Martí­nez — have been phenomenal. The cross-disciplinary collaboration is much better at Highlands than other graduate programs I researched,” Wright said.

The oral presentations of faculty research were as diverse as geology professor Jennifer Lindline’s geochronology and crystallization study of the Hermit’s Peak Granite monolith north of Las Vegas and English professor Donna Woodford-Gormley’s study of Cuban adaptations of Shakespeare’s Othello.

As in past years, students made a strong research showing, presenting 13 oral talks of their studies. In addition, another 40 students presented posters of their research.

Student disciplines represented at Research Day included biology, chemistry, computer science, forestry, geology, natural resource management, education, psychology, social work, sociology, and more.

A few examples of student research include biology graduate student Casey Taylor’s study analyzing the urban black bear population in Northern New Mexico; geology graduate student Geno Castillo’s study of the paloemagnetic features of the Buena Vista Dike in North Central New Mexico; social work graduate student Barbara Salazar’s study on the correlation between community distress and school violence in Española Public Schools; and forestry senior Juan Juaregui’s study of deep seed corn planting as a model system to explore extreme drought management strategies in agriculture.

The university’s Sigma Xi research society chapter is a major sponsor of the student’s research, as well as Research Day.

A full program with the abstracts for Highlands University Research Day 2014 is online at http://its.nmhu.edu/includes/onlinedocs/display.html?quicklink=2996

Photo: Margaret McKinney/Highlands University

Cutline:  Molly Wright, who will graduate in May with a M.S. in biology, presents her thesis research April 4 at Highlands University’s 12th Annual Research Day.