Wentz Research Scholars


Recent Submissions

  • Publication
    Low food availability and cyanobacteria impact zooplankton life history
    (Oklahoma State University, 2024-04-25) Todora, Avin; Nagel, Mitchell
    Zooplankton are extremely vulnerable to environmental change, serving as indicators of environmental stress. Knowing this, we tested how two different species that differed in body size responded to changes in food quality and quantity. We exposed Daphnia magna (larger) and Daphnia pulex (smaller) to either green algae (Scenedesmus sp.) (Mycrocystis sp.). Overall, our results showed D. magna had better reproduction and survivorship when exposed to green algae, while D. pulex did better when fed cyanobacteria. These results imply that the two species differ in their competitive ability based on food quality, and their presence in a given body of water may be indicative of environmental change.
  • Publication
    Dietary fiber, impulsivity, and the microbiome: Preliminary data
    (Oklahoma State University, 2024-04-25) Smith, Victoria
    The gut-brain axis has long been posited as influencing diet choices; however, this has not been well defined in free-living populations, including examination of contributing factors, such as consumption of dietary fiber. This study leveraged baseline data from participants enrolled in a dietary fiber behavioral intervention at the Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences. Data utilized were fecal samples for gut microbiome data, three-day dietary recall records for dietary fiber (grams/day), and a stop signal task to identify a measure of impulsivity.
  • Publication
    Effect of habitat fragmentation on plant species richness of the McPherson Preserve, Stillwater, Oklahoma
    (Oklahoma State University, 2024-04-25) Moore, Wyatt
    ​Habitat fragmentation, driven by human development and land use conversion, is a significant threat to biodiversity. In Oklahoma, extensive road networks dissect the 12 Level III ecoregions found in the state, exemplifying the challenge. The Tallgrass Prairie Preserve (TGPP) in Osage County, crucial for preserving the threatened North American tallgrass prairie, is a large contiguous area that is home to 763 plant species. In contrast, the OSU McPherson Ecology Preserve in Payne County, much smaller and highly fragmented, represents <0.5% of TGPP's area. This study assesses whether McPherson Preserve's small size supports fewer plant species than predicted by its area, using the well-known Species-Area relationship. Of the 200 species predicted by the Species-Area relationship based on TGPP, 224 were observed, suggesting habitat fragmentation does not have an impact on biodiversity. Effective conservation strategies necessitate habitat restoration, invasive species control, pollution management, native plant promotion, public awareness, collaboration, and ongoing monitoring is crucial to maintain McPherson Preserve's unique biodiversity.
  • Publication
    Nitrates in Oklahoma well water
    (Oklahoma State University, 2024-04-25) Lee, James; Pretorius, Erycka; Bouher, Brody; Hall, Kaylin; Pendred, Jim; Colston, Nicole; Wagner, Kevin
    Nitrate is a naturally occurring colorless, odorless chemical that is usually safe at low levels. However, levels that exceed 10 mg/L are dangerous and can lead to irreversible health effects due to nitrate’s ability to block oxygen carried into the blood. In baby’s at high enough concentrations, nitrates can cause blue baby syndrome making them appear blue. Our research samples wells across Oklahoma to let residents know what is truly in their water. Once data is collected, we have compiled a map to see where nitrates are the highest and what factors could cause abnormally high concentrations of nitrates. Through our research, we hope to provide Oklahomans with knowledge of what is in their water and how they can protect themselves along with understanding the factors that could cause potentially high nitrate concentrations.
  • Publication
    Investigating the effects of Culturelle probiotics on gut microbiome composition in lab mice
    (Oklahoma State University, 2024-04-25) Glover, Jordyn
    The gut microbiome plays a crucial role in maintaining host health, and probiotics have been researchered for their potential to modify microbial populations in beneficial ways. This study aimed to explore the impact of Culturelle probiotics on the gut microbiome of laboratory mice within a two-week timeframe. Despite encountering challenges in the initial phase of the study, such as unsuccessful 16S extraction from feces,cecum extraction and investigation will be used from this point forward within this research. This report provides a detailed account of the methodology, results, discussion, and conclusions derived from this investigation, integrating insights from five research articles: "Probiotic Supplementation Shapes Gut Microbiota and Prevents High-Fat Diet-Induced Metabolic Disorders in Mice" (Hsieh et al., 2021), "Microbial Modulation of Host Satiety Hormones at the Basis of Weight Control: Focus on the Endocannabinoid System" (Díaz-Ruiz et al., 2020), "Probiotics and Prebiotics: Present Status and Future Perspectives on Metabolic Disorders" (Singh et al., 2019), "Effects of Probiotic Lactobacillus Plantarum 299v Consumption Associated With Exercise Training on Weight Management" (Amaral et al., 2020), and "Gut Microbiome and Depression: How Microbes Affect the Way We Think" (Ko et al., 2022).
  • Publication
    Role of interferon stimulated genes in early recognition of pregnancy in cattle
    (Oklahoma State University, 2024-04-25) Buckmaster, K. L.; Melton, C.; Lopes, M.J.A.; Lamberti G.S.E.; Briggs E. A.; Lalman D.L.
    Nonpregnant cattle represent a financial and logistical problem for the industry, making early pregnancy detection essential for the economical progression of operations. For example, a dairy farm with 5,000 cows could save $180,000 every year by diagnosing pregnancy 11 days earlier. Obtaining pregnancy rates from artificial insemination (AI) or natural service at an earlier time impacts how soon the cow can be resynchronized, culled, or have reproductive challenges diagnosed. Currently, the gold standard for pregnancy diagnosis is ultrasonography, which can be done commercially no earlier than day 28 (D28) of gestation. Interferon-tau (IFNT) is a protein secreted by the bovine conceptus (embryo plus extraembryonic membranes) which is essential for maternal recognition and pregnancy establishment in cattle. IFNT secretion by the developing conceptus increases around D16 and stimulates the expression of interferon-stimulated genes (ISGs) in circulating white blood cells (WBCs). The objective of this study was to evaluate circulating WBCs in bred cows for ISG expression, which could potentially lead to the ability to detect pregnancy via a blood test as early as D19. The methods include drawing blood from heifers at D19 and D30 following AI. Whole blood was centrifuged in the laboratory, proceeding with the isolation of the WBC. Total RNA was extracted from WBC followed by cDNA synthesis and real-time PCR, for measuring expression of a variety of INTF-stimulated genes: ISG15, MX1, MX2, and OAS1. These genes are interferon-stimulated, which means that their expression levels can be associated with the presence of a developing conceptus secreting IFNT. Ultrasonography was performed at D30 of gestation to confirm pregnancy. MX2 mRNA expression was higher (P = 0.02) in pregnant compared to nonpregnant heifers. Similarly, ISG15 mRNA expression tended (P = 0.09) to increase in pregnant compared to nonpregnant heifers on D19 after AI. Results from the current study reinforces the idea that ISGs can be used to estimate early pregnancy in cattle. Further research needs to be conducted for the development of methods with high sensitivity and specificity for early detection of pregnancy in cattle.
  • Publication
    Investigating the relation between INI-1 and mononucleosome movement
    (Oklahoma State University, 2024) Maguire, Brianna; Sweeney, Bailey; Henry, Kayla; Rogers, Landon
  • Publication
    Wild whiches in Oklahoma! The use of connective which in Oklahoma English
    (Oklahoma State University, 2024) Dean, Chandler
    Historically, which is a relative pronoun; it not only connects two clauses, but also creates a gap that refers back to something in the main clause. However, speakers of British, Australian, and northeastern American English can use which forms that are only connective– they have no gap (Burke, 2015; Loock, 2007a; Loss & Wicklund, 2022; Loss, n.d.). For example, in the sentence from Loock’s (2007a: 75) work, “And she decided to move out which I think she’s crazy,” which has neither an antecedent nor a gap. Broader claims about the use of which in American English require data from other dialect regions. Oklahoma is a perfect candidate because it contains both Midland and Southern dialects. My research explores the use of which in Oklahoma English and compares it to Loss’s work on northeastern American English. To capture conversational Oklahoma English, I created an automated transcription of The Oklahoma Today Podcast and categorized each use of which as a relative pronoun or connective which. The corpus contains 85,431 words, and 156 instances of which. Of these, 15 (10%) are connective. This is comparable to Loss’s corpus in which 53 (15%) which are connective X2 (2, N = 474) = 2.7217, p = 0.098. The subdivision of the types of connective which in each corpus are also strikingly comparable, X2 (2, N = 67) = 1.6314, p = 0.44. This study suggest that Oklahoma podcast use of connective which is similar to NE American English podcast use of connective which and therefore could be a feature of general American English. We must study this construction in other American dialects.
  • Publication
    Children appear to influence TA eating habits, especially dietary quality
    (Oklahoma State University, 2024) Sampson, AnnaBeth; Sanchez Gonzalez, Pamela; Tuttle, Brooke
    Background: Chronic diseases occur at higher rates among tactical athletes (TAs) than US averages. Chronic disease prevalence continues to rise despite existing nutrition interventions. Children have emerged as a possible influence on TA nutrition. Civilian studies reveal a bidirectional relationship such that parents and children influence one another’s eating habits. Because TAs have a rigorous schedule, it is suspected that they cater to children’s food preferences as compensation. Thus, the purpose was to determine whether children act as gatekeepers to TA eating habits and nutrition.
  • Publication
    Critical actors in subnational legislatures: A new frontier in women’s representation?
    (Oklahoma State University, 2023-04-27) Pritzlaff, Riley
    This study examines women’s issues and critical actors in Republican-controlled and Democrat-controlled U.S. state legislatures by examining publicly available legislative data. I study individual authors as potential critical actors. Existing work in comparative politics finds that men are more likely to advocate for women’s issues as women’s presence increases, though there is less consensus regarding subnational critical actors. I contribute to this gap using 2020 legislative data from Oklahoma and Maryland. Oklahoma and Maryland are different in two key regards: Oklahoma’s legislature was made up of approximately 21.5% women as of 2020 and continues to be controlled by a Republican supermajority in both legislative chambers (as well as a Republican trifecta). Maryland, on the other hand, was made up of 38.8% women as of 2020 and was controlled by Democratic supermajorities in both legislative chambers (though Republicans controlled the governorship). Legislative data is gathered with Legiscan and analyzed using binary logistic regression. I propose two main hypotheses: H1: Women are more likely to introduce women’s issue legislation, but successful legislation is more likely to have a male author both in Oklahoma and Maryland. H2: Women’s issue bills are more likely to be authored by Democrats overall, but partisan patterns in success will arise in single-state analysis. I find that bill success largely depends on author party for the 2020 legislative session.
  • Publication
    Mother or womb? The portrayal of women as mothers in ancient near eastern texts
    (Oklahoma State University, 2023-04-27) Dean, Chandler
    Many assumptions are made about the portrayal of women in the Bible, but what does the text actually portray them as, and how does this portrayal compare to the portrayal of women in other contemporary texts? This project shows that women in Ancient Near Eastern texts do not have personage until they bear a child, and even when they have borne a child, they don’t have any characteristics besides “wife” or “mother” and have no agency. In contrast, women in the Bible are portrayed as fully developed characters even before they have a child, and they have emotions, goals, and agency.
  • Publication
    Novel Ca²⁺ sensor controlling iron uptake in Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a human pathogen
    (Oklahoma State University, 2023-04-27) Winton, L.; Achour, M.; Burch-Konda, J.
    Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a Gram negative, opportunistic pathogen which causes a wide range of severe infections in humans. These infections are difficult to treat and, especially in the lungs of cystic fibrosis (CF) patients, often become chronic. Complicating eradication of P. aeruginosa is pyoverdine, a virulence factor which aids bacterial iron acquisition in iron-limited environments. Previous work has shown that pyoverdine production in P. aeruginosa strain PAO1 is increased under elevated levels of Ca²⁺, as are found in the pulmonary fluids of CF patients. A Ca²⁺-binding EF-hand protein, EfhP (PA4107), was demonstrated to be critical for the Ca²⁺-regulated virulence in PAO1. This study seeks to characterize EfhP regulation of the P. aeruginosa response to Ca²⁺, particularly pertaining to critical iron uptake pathways. We have established that deletion of efhP significantly hinders PAO1 pyoverdine production when grown at high Ca²⁺ in BMM8 medium. Pyoverdine is a fluorescent molecule quantified by measuring fluorescence at 400 nm excitation/460 nm emission and normalized by OD600. The presence of efhP in several CF clinical isolates was confirmed with PCR using efhP-specific primers. We observed that these clinical isolates also show increased pyoverdine production at 5 mM Ca²⁺ vs. the no Ca²⁺ condition. In the clinically relevant synthetic cystic fibrosis sputum medium (SCFM), PAO1 shows increased pyoverdine production with increasing Ca²⁺ concentrations. In the future, we aim to identify specific sequences in the efhP gene that are most important to the regulation of pyoverdine production by testing a series of strains expressing mutated EfhP. We also plan to evaluate expression of efhP in CF clinical isolates and test for their pyoverdine production when cultured in SCFM. The new knowledge gained can support further studies to develop novel efficient medications to improve the quality of life of CF patients who struggle with chronic P. aeruginosa infections.
  • Publication
    Effect of acid adaptation on pathogenic bacteria used as challenge organisms for microbial validation of biltong processing
    (Oklahoma State University, 2023-04-27) Wilkinson, Jade; Gavai, Kavya
    Biltong is a South African dried beef product that has grown in popularity in U.S. markets over the last five years. Unlike traditional American beef jerky, biltong is dried at ambient temperature and humidity after marination. However, the United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS) requires the use of heat lethality and maintenance of 90% relative humidity in a sealed oven to accomplish adequate reduction of pathogens on dried beef products for consumption. If these parameters are not met, such as is the case with biltong processing, a microbial validation study must be provided to demonstrate sufficient bacterial reductions of a ‘pathogen of concern’ can be achieved. Moreover, the use of acid-adapted cultures during validation studies for acidic foods is ‘highly recommended’ by USDA-FSIS. It is widely thought if challenge cultures are not acid-adapted prior to acidic treatment the culture may react by being overly sensitive and result in falsely high microbial reductions. With this, communication with USDA-FSIS officials indicates that research demonstrating the importance of acid-adaptation would move USDA-FSIS guidelines to require acid-adapted cultures for industry process validation. Research done in our laboratory directly addressed this issue by performing process validation studies using acid-adapted and non-acid-adapted Salmonella serovars and Listeria monocytogenes serovars for biltong processing to determine whether acid-adaptation is a necessary pre-culture treatment prior to microbial validation studies. The data using Salmonella serovars disproves the USDA-FSIS approach that non-acid-adapted cells would be more sensitive during an acid process treatment than acid-adapted cells. However, this relationship was not clear when using L. monocytogenes serovars as a biltong processing challenge culture.
  • Publication
    Parental experience of their child’s cancer diagnosis as a predictor of health anxiety
    (Oklahoma State University, 2023-04-27) Moulton, Kayleigh; DeLone, Alexandra M.
    Following a child’s pediatric cancer diagnosis, both the child and parent experience significant psychological stress. Several factors, such as cognitive appraisal mechanisms, demographic variables, stress, anxiety, and social support have been identified as important indicators of psychological risk or resiliency. To date, however, little is known about the experience of health anxiety related to the experience of caring for a child with cancer. Health anxiety is defined as a fear of becoming ill that causes individuals to interpret normal physical symptoms as a sign of illness. The present study explored the relationship between parents’ experience of their child’s cancer journey and the presence of health anxiety in the parent. Parents/caregivers of children with a primary diagnosis of pediatric cancer were recruited from a comprehensive cancer center in the Midwest. All children were currently on active treatment. Parents/caregivers completed self-report questionnaires including demographic information, experience with their child’s illness across 4 domains: guilt and worry, unresolved sorrow and anger, long-term uncertainty, and emotional resources (Parent Experience of Childhood Illness Scale (PECI)), and their own health anxiety (Short Health Anxiety Inventory (SHAI)). Our study found that there is an association between parents’ emotional experiences of sorrow and anger and long-term uncertainty and their health anxiety when caring for their child with cancer. Parents of children with pediatric cancer who experience greater amounts of stress may be at higher risk to develop health anxiety.
  • Publication
    Differential effects of prebiotics on the gut mucosal immune response within the Peyer’s patches compared to the lamina propria of c57bl/6 female mice
    (Oklahoma State University, 2023-04-27) Snethen, Avery; Abedigba, Pelumi; Hatter, Bethany; Alake,Sanmi; Islam, Proapa; Ice, John; Ritchey, Jerry; Smith, Brenda J.
    This study was designed to examine the effects of two difference prebiotics (i.e., tart cherry and fructooligosaccharides) on cytokines and chemokines that regulate T cell homing, differentiation and activation within gut-associated lymphoid tissue of the small intestine. 8-wk-old female C57BL/6 mice were randomly assigned to treatments in a 2 x 3 factorial with antibiotics (+ or – ABX) and diet (control, tart cherry [TC] or fructooligosaccharides [FOS]) as factors. At the end of 10 wks of treatment, whole body dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) scans were performed, intestinal samples were collected. Fecal short chain fatty acid (SCFAs) were analyzed using gas chromatography techniques. RNA was extracted from Peyer’s patches and genes of interest were assessed using RT-PCR. Data were analyzed using 2-way ANOVA followed by post hoc testing with significant main effect or interaction was detected. FOS supplementation and not TC increased whole body BMC and BMD. The benefits of FOS on bone were unaltered in presence of antibiotics. T regulatory cells were increased within the lamina propria of the ileum with FOS and this response was suppressed with antibiotics. No changes occurred in the pro-inflammatory, Th17 cells, with FOS. Fecal SCFAs were upregulated with both TC and FOS diets, but FOS had a greater effect. Antibiotics suppressed the increase in SCFA induced by the prebiotics. Neither prebiotic increased gene expression of CCR5 and CCR9 in the Peyer’s patches, but antibiotics increased CCR9 expression. An unanticipated increase in IL-6 gene expression was noted with the TC and FOS, but the antibiotic treatment blocked this response. Although antibiotics suppressed IL-10 expression, neither TC nor FOS had an effect on this anti-inflammatory cytokine. However, both the TC and FOS suppressed the expression of the highly pro-inflammatory cytokine, IL-17. We conclude that alterations in gene expression in the Peyer’s patches with FOS supports a decrease in the IL-17 and no change in IL-10, which differs from the alterations in Th17 and Treg cell populations in the lamina propria. Furthermore, our findings indicated that FOS’s effects on bone may be mediated by some other mechanism than SCFAs’ effects on T regulatory cells via the gut-bone axis.
  • Publication
    Exploring the ecological implications of seed defense strategies in Oklahoma forests
    (Oklahoma State University, 2023-04-27) Barber, Gabby; Errico, Gina; Lopresti, Eric
    An important but often overlooked topic in plant community research explores bottlenecks to plant recruitment and survival due to seed predation (granivory). Often, granivory has a higher impact on seedling survival than microsite conditions or pathogens. Little is known about the various and intertwined factors by which granivores choose to consume seeds, which this ongoing study addresses by analyzing three factors. One factor is habitat proximity; predator dynamics change relative to the forest edge, but few studies analyze these effects on granivory. Another factor is seed density in the context of the Janzen-Connell (J-C) hypothesis, which explains that herbivores selectively prey on seeds and seedlings closer to conspecific adults. The last factor is crypsis, which can allow seeds to be visually overlooked by predators.
  • Publication
    Analysis of prescribed burn costs and associated variables in the Great Plains
    (Oklahoma State University, 2023-04-27) Watts, Maddie; Russell, Aaron
    In the Great Plains, fire is an important land management tool essential to maintaining and preserving the region’s ecosystems. Prescribed fire is critical in perpetuating regular fire return intervals and enhancing land characteristics. Since private landowners are the primary stewards of the forest and rangeland in this region, their decision to conduct burning is important for the sustainable management of natural resources. Subsequently, the cost is one of the major obstacles in the implementation of prescribed fire. Therefore, our study objective is to understand the factors that play a role in determining operational expenses while conducting a burn. In this project, we performed a descriptive analysis and a regression analysis of cost factors using data from a survey of prescribed burn professionals in the Great Plains region. The average cost of implementing prescribed fire in the study region was found to be $11.23 per acre. The results suggest that variables such as firebreak types, number of burns conducted, and the number of acres burned may play a role in determining the cost of burning. Identification of the cost of prescribed fire and the factors influencing it allows landowners, prescribed burn professionals, and government agencies in the Great Plains to better understand, implement, and facilitate prescribed burns as part of land management plans.
  • Publication
    Supporting activities of daily life for seniors via ai assistant
    (Oklahoma State University, 2023-04-27) Howell, Steven
    The goal of this project was to improve human to machine communication with individuals who suffer from a decreased mental function as a result of dementia. The first step was to understand complex and fuzzy inputs made my user and route those to assistant's actions. The second step was to make communication more fluid however that proved to be more difficult than first anticipated and with the creation of ChatGPT dozens of new methods have been opened that were not available at the proposal stage of this project. Therefore the first part of the project was focused on and mostly accomplished.
  • Publication
    Antifungal activity of novel microcycle derivatives
    (Oklahoma State University, 2023-04-27) Lieberman, Jacob A.; Hubin, Tim
    Cryptococcus neoformans is an opportunistic fungal pathogen that causes cryptococcosis. After inhalation, the organism disseminates to the brain, where it causes cryptococcal meningitis. Annually, approximately 225,000 immunocompromised individuals develop cryptococcal meningitis, resulting in over 181,000 deaths. To treat these patients, there are only four classes of antifungals currently available and these options are toxic at high concentrations and ineffective. In addition, fungal pathogens are becoming resistant to existing antifungals. In the current study, we are testing the antifungal activity of macrocycle compounds against C. neoformans. These compounds have been shown to be active against many other fungal pathogens, allowing us to hypothesize that these compounds would exhibit antifungal activity against C. neoformans. We first tested 12 macrocycle compounds against C. neoformans strain H99. After incubating each compound at different concentrations with H99, the minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) was calculated. Compounds exhibiting antifungal activity were then tested for cytotoxicity using the mouse macrophage cell line J774.A. Effective, non-toxic compounds were then assayed with existing antifungal drugs in checkerboard assays to determine possible synergistic or antagonistic activity. The majority of the compounds showed antifungal activity. Of these compounds, 6 were non-toxic. Initial checkerboard assays have shown synergistic and indifferent interactions between the tested compounds and antifungal drugs. Future studies will focus on identifying the mechanism of action of these compounds. Confocal and electron microscopy will be used to identify changes in fungal cell wall & membrane morphology, and screening of mutant libraries will be used to identify mutants resistant to these compounds.
  • Publication
    Preventive effects of red ginseng on an aging hallmark - senescence
    (Oklahoma State University, 2023-04-27) Arndt, Juliana May
    By 2030, 1 in 6 people in the world will be aged 60 years or older, increasing the importance of interventional therapies for age-associated diseases. Research investigating cultural dietary differences recognized that the use of herbal medicine supplementation such as processed Panax ginseng, referred to as red ginseng (RG), increases lifespan in Asian countries by facilitating healthy aging. However, the mechanism for how RG prevents, delays, or reverses aging-related diseases is unknown. Thus, this study assessed how RG facilitates healthy aging by identifying cellular and molecular mechanisms of hepatic senescence pathways in an aged mouse model.