HSU students tapped for ‘Blue Goo’ talk

Submitted information | For The Arkadelphian

A Henderson State University undergraduate research team has been selected by the Arkansas Idea Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) to give an oral presentation at the 2022 INBRE Research Conference in Fayetteville on October 21.

Out of 130 abstract submissions from colleges and universities around the state, only six in biology were invited to be presented orally, with the remainder to be presented in poster format.

The talk, titled “Blue Goo and Petroleum Ponds: The Unique Microbial Ecology of Two Tennessee Cave Systems,” will be presented by senior biology major Aspen Huseman.” Other student members of the team are biology majors Matti Fairchild and Kaitlin Farr, both seniors, and junior Maya Robles. Faculty mentors are Dr. James Engman, professor of biology, and Michael Ray Taylor, former professor and chair of the Department of Communications and Theatre Arts.

The team is researching caves in Tennessee that have microbial communities based on chemolithoautotrophy, an energy-capturing process that does not rely on photosynthesis or sunlight. Such communities in caves have been proposed as models for potential life in subsurface Martian environments.

The team descends a breakdown pile in Secret Squirrel Cave in Tennessee. | Photo by Chuck Sutherland
Aspen Husman retrieves samples in the Blue Lagoon Cave of Tennessee. | Photo by Chuck Sutherland

Their work has been funded by grants from NASA and the Arkansas Space Grant Consortium, The National Cave and Karst Research Institute, The Tennessee Cave Survey, Arkansas Department of Higher Education Student Undergraduate Research Fellowship, and the Explorer’s Club.

The team has received numerous honors for their work, including the Best Student Paper Presentation at last year’s Annual Conference of the National Speleological Society. 

Categories: Outdoors

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3 replies »

  1. Well thank goodness, Chuck Ambrose and Chuck Welch eliminated the biology major. We can’t have all this rigor and honors and stuff. (Sarcasm)

  2. Those who have supported the Arkansas General Assembly’s approved official mission of HSU as “Arkansas’s public liberal arts university” for over three decades, should savor articles like the one that appears above. Some may never see its like again after the end of this academic year—because, as so many now realize, what used to be a liberal arts university is no more, sad to say. (By the ways, the term “liberal arts” historically has always included the sciences. As a most highly respected and knowledgeable colleague at HSU used to remind everyone who needed it,“Saying ‘arts and sciences’ is like saying ‘two twins.’”)

  3. Joel, Dr. Engman, who is obviously a person that I wanted to see my post, says he can’t find it. Did I do something incorrectly?