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.
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.