CAFNR Announces Dissertation Research Improvement Grantees

The University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources (CAFNR) Office of Research recently announced its inaugural award winners of the CAFNR Dissertation Research Improvement Grants (C-DRIG). Each grant is worth up to $2,000 to support or partially support dissertation research projects proposed by doctoral students in the College. Proposals were evaluated by the CAFNR Research Council, an advisory body that advises the CAFNR Office of Research and is made up of representatives from each division in the College.

Student: Pawan Basnet (Plant, Insect and Microbial Sciences)
Advisor: Andrew Scaboo (Assistant Professor, Division of Plant Sciences)

Development of a Standardized Soybean Cyst Nematode (SCN) Screening Strategy and a SCN Resistance Mapping Population for Field Pennycress

Currently, a standardized screening strategy for SCN susceptibility and resistance using field pennycress is not available, and there has not been genetic mapping efforts using field pennycress either. Hence, this study would be novel and innovative in optimizing pennycress SCN screening and developing a mapping population for QTL (quantitative trait loci) mapping in pennycress against SCN. The development of a mapping population will be useful in the long-term goal of mapping SCN resistance QTLs. This will help to understand the mechanism of SCN resistance in pennycress and cross-link the resistant genes and mechanisms across crop species such as soybean. This will also lead to several avenues of newer research studies in the field of marker identification, use of marker-assisted selection for developing SCN resistant pennycress cultivars, and transgenic approach of incorporating resistant genes from pennycress to soybean.

Student: Jacob Cianci-Gaskill (Natural Resources)
Advisor: Rebecca North (Assistant Professor, School of Natural Resources)

Assessment of Cyanotoxin Accumulation in Fish Over Time: Does this Food Source Pose a Health Risk for Missouri Anglers?

The ultimate objective of this study is to assess the implications of cyanotoxins on fish with ramifications for human health, as well as to assess the relationship between cyanotoxins in water and in fish. We will look for patterns in cyanotoxin concentrations in fish tissues across season, species, sex, age, and length and compare them with water cyanotoxin concentrations over the course of a year. Results from this study will inform fish consumption guidelines in water bodies where cyanobacterial blooms occur. This study also aims to determine whether fish cyanotoxin concentrations are associated with adverse mass to fish health effects, as determined by lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) activity and the ratio of liver total mass.

Student: Shu-Yu Hsu (Natural Resources)
Advisor: Chung-Ho Lin (Associate Research Professor, School of Natural Resources)

Bioremediation of Atrazine Using Bacillus thuringiensis Spore Expression System

The goal of this study is to develop a cost-effective, economically viable, and environmentally friendly “green” bioremediation technique for large-scale remediation of ATR. In this study, a novel Bacillus thuringiensis spore-based display system will be utilized as the enzyme production and delivery system that could rapidly degrade the ATR and its metabolites. A high density of enzymes can be expressed on the spore surface using the gene fusion technique to fuse the desired enzyme to the localization domain of the BclA spore protein in the hair nap layer on the spore surface. These Bacillus spores are resistant to severe weather conditions and can survive in harsh environments. Moreover, these rigid enzyme-expressing spores can also provide a steady activity for bioremediation applications.

Student: Ye-Jin Lee (Food and Hospitality Systems)
Advisor: Dae-Young Kim (Professor, Division of Applied Social Sciences)

How the New Normal has Been Transformed Traveler Behavior Under the Pandemic Era: An Emerging Travel Trend and Evidence from Social Media

The purpose of this study is to explore and describe the emerging trend of pod travel under the pandemic situations and how travel pattern is gearing up for the new normal as traveler needs and behaviors shift. From a holistic approach by adopting big data applications using Twitter data, we aim to extract meaningful insights of the new normal, such as hidden patterns, traveler preferences, and market trends. In addition, looking into the reservation patterns of the entire house of peer-to-peer accommodations (i.e., Airbnb) is expected to manifest the emerging trend of pod travel. Based on the investigation of identifying influential aspects and explaining the various relationships through analyses, the findings will bring a meaningful outcome to guide both academics and industry to better cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Student: Dalen Zuidema (Animal Sciences)
Advisor: Peter Sutovsky (Professor, Division of Animal Sciences)

Investigation of the PINK1-Parkin Dependent Pathway in Post-Fertilization Sperm Mitophagy

This thesis enhancement application seeks to examine the hypothesized role of Parkinson’s and autophagy-related proteins Parkin and PINK1 in the mechanism of mammalian post-fertilization sperm mitophagy, a crucial early developmental event that assures clonal, strictly maternal inheritance of mitochondrial genes in humans and animals. Resultant knowledge will deepen our understanding of early development in animals and causes of heritable mitochondrial disease in humans.