Global warming and fossil pollen and spores from northern New Mexico were the focus of two technical posters presented by Dr. Nina L. Baghai-Riding, professor of biological sciences, and several environmental science students at the International Botanical Society of America Conference in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada on July 25-31, 2015.
More than 1,550 scientists and educators attended the conference.
The presentation on palynomorphs (fossil pollen and spores) was co-authored by Dr. Carol Hotton at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Kendal Davis (a current Delta State environmental science student) and Taylor Davidson (a former environmental science student). The presentation examined palynomorphs that represented the southern limits of the Jurassic Morrison Formation. The Morrison Formation extends over much of the Western Interior, from central New Mexico into Montana and equivalent units in Canada, and it is well known for its large tetrapod dinosaurs.
Davis took most of the palynological images and received raved reviews. Baghai-Riding has been working on the plants that made up the Morrison landscapes since 2007, and her previous work has focused on sites in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming.
The second poster presentation focused on global warming and was prepared by students Emily Bodin, Megan Clark, Shawnee Gundry, Ashley Mrozinski, Tyler Toole and Tara Willingham. The idea arose from students enrolled in Baghai-Riding’s BIO 415, Materials and Methods in Environmental Science. The students wanted to know if leaf stomata density is correlated to the increase of carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas) in the atmosphere. This concept has been reported in numerous scientific publications.
Students selected three tree species (red maple, Bradford pear and water oak) that occur in the Bolivar County and used specimens from the Delta State University herbarium in answering their question. During the Spring 2015 semester, the students assembled a poster on the research for the conference. The poster was favorably viewed by many scientists at the conference, and congratulations were given to the university for the high quality of the work.
Abstract submission for both posters can be viewed by going to the Botanical Society of America website: http://2015.botanyconference.org/engine/search/
Baghai-Riding also served as a PLANTS Grant mentor at the Botanical Society of America conference. She was recognized as the longest serving mentor, and she has participated in this service for the past six years (http://www.botany.org/awards_grants/detail/PLANTS.php).
The PLANTS Grant program is sponsored by the National Science Foundation and Botanical Society of America and helps to bring talented and diverse undergraduates to the meeting. Two Delta State students have received this grant in past years: John Lemoine and Barbara Putnam.
This year 15 undergraduates had all of their expenses paid at the conference. Each student had to attend at least three presentations per day as well as attend various social activities and field trips. Baghai-Riding was chosen to mentor Alicia Butko for Widener University in Pennsylvania. Butko shared many of Baghai-Riding’s interests including teaching effectiveness and the use of herbarium collections and will be applying to graduate school this coming year.