Summer Tick Study to Aid in Understanding the Spread of Lyme Disease

In the fight to stop the spread of Lyme disease in the United States, one crucial question has baffled scientists: Why is the disease so prevalent in the northeastern U.S., but in the southeast, relatively few cases have been reported? The trend persists even though the blacklegged ticks (also called deer ticks) that transmit Lyme through their bites can be found throughout the eastern part of the country.

Assistant Professor of Biology and Environment Studies/Environmental Science Liz Gleim, who is also a tick biologist, says one hypothesis has recently gained traction: the possibility that “the northern and southern populations of the blacklegged tick are genetically distinct, and that difference manifests itself in terms of how ticks quest for a host. A questing tick is one that’s crawling up on the tips of vegetation and hoping a human or animal host is going to brush up against them and they can hop a ride.”

Northern ticks have been found to be far more aggressive when questing and thus more likely to get on people than southern ticks, who tend to live in leaf litter where humans are less prone to come in contact with them.

Even within Virginia, Gleim notes that ticks from the coastal, central, and southwestern parts of the state exhibit different questing behaviors from one another. This phenomenon is the basis for a project this summer in which Gleim is collaborating with scientists from Old Dominion University and the University of Richmond to discover what makes ticks tick.

“Ticks along the coast are generally not as aggressive as those here in the Roanoke area. So what we’re doing is collecting ticks locally, around Richmond, and along the Virginia seaboard, sort of an east-west gradient, in the hope that we get populations that may be showing different questing behaviors,” Gleim explains. “Is their behavior actually controlled by genes, or it prompted by three distinctive climates? The hope is that we’ll be able to find out.”

Tick Arenas 2
Tick arenas have been placed in the woods adjacent to the Hollins campus to study the behavior of the parasites that will be brought in from throughout Virginia.

Gleim and her fellow researchers are taking the ticks they gather between Roanoke, Richmond, and the coast, and placing them in what she describes as “tick arenas,” containers that are located in mature hardwood forest areas, the preferred habitat of blacklegged ticks. At Hollins, the tick arenas have been situated in the woods adjacent to the northeastern part of campus.

“It’s a very cool way in which we can take advantage of our beautiful natural forests that are convenient to campus,” Gleim states. “We’re really lucky because the folks who are conducting research in Richmond and on the coast are having to use public lands, so they have to go through the process of working with state and public officials and securing permission.”

Students from Hollins and the University of Richmond will be working with Gleim on the project at the Hollins site. “They’ll be coming out multiple times a week to make observations on the ticks to see what sorts of questing behaviors they are exhibiting.”

Tick Arenas 3
Associate Prof. of Biology Liz Gleim (left) and biology lab technician Cheryl Taylor prepare a forest space for a tick arena installation.

Faculty members from the biology and environmental studies/environmental science programs at Hollins assisted Gleim in constructing the tick arenas and addressing a key concern: how to ensure the ticks they’re studying stay in place while keeping out the ticks that already live in the surrounding forest. “We’re putting sterilized leaf litter into the containers so that we’re certain we’re not inadvertently picking up ticks that aren’t part of our research,” Gleim says. “Installing metal flashing and chicken wire will not only help us keep ticks out but also prevent small mammals or wildlife from entering the arenas. The last zone of defense is this sticky material that’s almost like a paste that we use to coat the inside of each area. So, any ticks that try to leave or enter the arenas will get stuck.”

Gleim and her fellow researchers will be placing ticks in the arenas during the last couple of weeks in May. The study will continue through early and mid-July to coincide with when the blacklegged tick is naturally active.

Conducting tick research at Hollins is fitting. As Gleim notes, “Roanoke itself is a major focal point for Lyme disease. If you look at a map of Lyme cases in the U.S., there’s literally this bright red spot on Roanoke. Areas north of here have a seen a lot of it, too, but southward, there isn’t much. One theory is that northern ticks are making their way down through the mountains to the southern region.”

 

Featured photo: Associate Professor of Biology Morgan Wilson (left) and Professor of Biology Renee Godard work on several of the tick arenas that will facilitate this summer’s study of blacklegged tick behavior and the impact of genetics versus the environment.

 

 


“I Want to Make a Difference in Jamaica’s Healthcare System”: Senior’s Goal Is Opening Maternal Health Ed. Center in Home Country

Two summers ago, Roshaye Graham ’18 returned home to Jamaica to face a family crisis: her grandmother, a woman she considered to be her “second mother,” was terminally ill with cancer. For the biology major, the experience was both heartbreaking and infuriating.

“I witnessed firsthand the critical need for healthcare providers to not only devote time and care to their patients, but to also adequately and accurately inform caregivers of their loved one’s condition,” she recalls. “I had presumed the doctors would have informed my family about my grandmother’s condition, but found that they knew relatively little except that her body was rapidly deteriorating. When I finally heard from a doctor, I learned that her oncologist had continued chemotherapy irrespective of the fact that after each treatment my grandmother showed significant and continued decline of memory and overall physiological function, and the appearance of her ulcerating tumor grew worse.”

Told there was little more the medical community could do, Graham and her family were advised to take her grandmother home. “So that’s what we did. Every day for the next nine weeks, my grandfather and I fed, bathed, dressed, and comforted this beautiful woman until she passed.  While I felt liberated to know I was helping her, I was frustrated that I had not been given any clear understanding of her treatment and continued to be concerned that she had not received the best medical care.”

Graham says her grandmother’s ordeal furthered her interest in a healthcare career and sparked her desire to help patients and their families as they face some of life’s toughest challenges and decisions. Now, she is preparing to enroll at the American University of Antigua College of Medicine, where she plans to become an OB-GYN.

After her grandmother’s death, Graham’s interest in research and finding answers led her to complete two neurobiological research internships at The Rockefeller University in New York City, where she worked closely with distinguished neuroscientist Mary Beth Hatten ’71. “I couldn’t help but dream how exciting it would be to carry out studies in the same way that would aid in the medical field,” she says.

As an OB-GYN, Graham wants to open a maternal health education center in her home country. “The World Health Organization has found that nearly all deaths that result from complications in pregnancy and childbirth occur in women residing in developing countries such as Jamaica. While it is dismaying, I recognize that most of these deaths are often preventable.

“By obtaining a medical degree, I would be able to use my knowledge and skills to reduce these statistics. I want to make a difference in Jamaica’s healthcare system, and my determination, commitment, and passion will enable me to be successful.”

 

Photo by Michael Falco


Vet School Next Stop for Bio Major Who Conducted Amazon Rainforest Research

Katlin Gott ’18 came to Hollins four years ago with a goal of becoming a veterinarian, and now the biology major and chemistry minor has earned the opportunity to take the next major step in making her dream a reality.

The senior from Fairfax, Virginia, has been accepted at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine in Blacksburg, a leading biomedical teaching and research center. The college admits just 50 Virginia residents to its Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M.) program each year.

Gott complemented her classroom and lab work at Hollins by working as a veterinary assistant and completing internships in Roanoke and elsewhere, including a Signature internship in West Virginia with veterinary physician and Hollins alumna Jacqueline Chevalier ’01.

Another highlight of Gott’s academic career was spending Spring Term of her junior year in the rainforests of Peru with the School for Field Studies Center for Amazon Studies. While there, she was able to combine her interests in ecology and animal disease by studying gut parasite loads in primates. Her research project, “The Effect of Environmental Factors on Endoparasite Load and Diversity in Black-Capped Night Monkeys (Aotus Nigriceps),” was featured at Hollins’ 61st Annual Science Seminar last month.

“Our results suggest that human disturbance significantly increases parasite species diversity based on the changes in forest density,” Gott reports. “Future research will focus on determining if the degree of forest disturbance plays a role in these relationships, and if zoonotic transmission of parasites between humans and the black-capped night monkeys is occurring.”

Along with her academic work, Gott has been actively involved in a range of campus activities. Along with serving as vice president of the Pre-Med Club, she has represented the group Voices for Unity in the SGA Senate, and, she adds, “I also play guitar, and I’ve been a part of ensembles and played as an accompanying guitarist for a few choral events.”

Gott will begin pursuit of her D.V.M. degree this fall.

 


Dance Major Taking Commitment to Artistry, Social Justice to L.A. and London after Graduation

Epitomizing Hollins University’s enduring slogan artistically, geographically, and academically, Paris Williams ’18 is definitely going places after she graduates this spring.

The dance major, who hails from New Orleans, will be pursuing her Master of Fine Arts degree in choreography beginning in the fall of 2019 at London’s University of Roehampton, whose international status draws students and dance artists from around the world.

But before that, Williams is anticipating a very exciting and productive gap year more than 5,400 miles away. First, she’s been awarded a full scholarship to attend the Dance/USA 2018 Annual Conference, which takes place June 6 – 9 in Los Angeles. According to the conference website, the event enables participants to “network and learn from nearly 500 dance professionals including executive directors, artistic directors, emerging arts leaders, artists, agents, company managers, presenters, development and marketing staff, and more. Conference programming is shaped around issues of equity and justice, community and collaboration, audience development, and preservation and legacy.”

Then, Williams will remain in L.A. to complete a residency with No)one. Art House, an arts/dance collective that The Huffington Post reports “is one of the only black run contemporary dance organizations in the country. No)one’s aim is to shift the paradigm on how people view dance, art and people of color’s bodies….” Artsmeme.com called No)one, “another harbinger that incredible things are happening in dance in Los Angeles.”

Williams’ upcoming opportunities in Los Angeles and London are the culmination of a distinguished college career.

“During my time at Hollins,” she says, “I have interned twice with our M.F.A. program in dance, including going to the program’s residency in Frankfurt, Germany. I also took part in the Hollins London abroad program, and have been able to attend a variety of conferences on topics surrounding LGBTQ+, dance and performance, and other social justice initiatives.”

This year, Williams served as chair of the university’s Black Student Alliance and has also been the external chair for the Hollins Repertory Dance Company. During her four years she was also actively involved with Cultural and Community Engagement, the Batten Leadership Institute, the Office of Admissions, Housing and Residence Life, the Office of Student Affairs, and many other campus activities.

“Paris is a tireless leader and social justice advocate,” says Meredith Cope-Levy ’12, M.F.A. ’18, Hollins’ coordinator of alumnae events. “She has made incredible work during her time here.”

Williams in turn praises the Hollins dance program for providing her with the foundation for her accomplishments as an undergraduate.

“I give loads of love and gratitude to HollinsDance, especially [Associate Professor of Dance] Jeffery Bullock, for my dedication, growth, and success at this university.”


61st Annual Science Seminar Celebrates Student Researchers

From the Dana Science Building and the surrounding community to the Chesapeake Bay, Caribbean Sea, South America, and Southeast Asia, Hollins students worked closely with science and mathematics faculty throughout this academic year to perform considerable hands-on research in biology, chemistry, environmental studies, mathematics, physics, and psychology.

Twenty-three students discussed their research with the campus community during the 61st Annual Science Seminar, held April 26 in Moody Student Center’s Ballator Gallery. Science Seminar 1

This year’s poster session featured abstracts for 18 research projects. The initiatives included endeavors that focused on the impact of Hurricanes Irma and Maria on fish biodiversity and abundance in the U.S. Virgin Islands; the effect of environmental and social factors on black-capped night monkeys in Peru; and the abundance and richness of fish in the wetlands of Cambodia. Closer to home, student researchers studied glioblastoma, the most lethal and most common form of brain cancer, at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, and explored the economic and ecological benefits of oysters in the Chesapeake Bay. At Hollins, they examined the impact of the emerald ash borer on the campus tree population; the functionality of prosthetic limbs for upper extremity amputees; and new, promising treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.

Science Seminar 2Seniors, juniors, sophomores, and first-year students were all among the researchers featured at this year’s Science Seminar. Some of the goals members of the class of 2018 who participated in the event plan to pursue after graduating from Hollins include:

  • Attending Eastern Virginia Medical School to complete an M.D. degree.
  • Pursuing a career as a physician assistant.
  • Beginning a Ph.D. program in ecology, evolution, ecosystems, and society at Dartmouth College.
  • Attending the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine to complete a D.V.M. degree.
  • Studying sustainability science and policy through a graduate program in The Netherlands.

Watch highlights of the 61st Annual Science Seminar.

Science Seminar 3

 

Science Seminar 4

Senior Thesis, Film Short Screenings Showcase Student Filmmakers

Over the past four years, senior film majors at Hollins have honed their craft through a variety of hands-on, on-campus opportunities. These students will conclude their undergraduate careers by screening their senior thesis films and screenplays on Wednesday and Thursday, May 2 and 3, from 7 – 8 p.m. in the Wetherill Visual Arts Center’s Niederer Auditorium.

“We teach a comprehensive curriculum for film studies and for film/video production. Other schools don’t always invest in all these disciplines under one roof,” explains Amy Gerber-Stroh, associate professor of film and chair of the Hollins film department. “Very few schools in the nation offer an undergraduate all-woman film program, particularly a program that includes film/video production.”

This year’s senior thesis screenings include:

Wednesday, May 2

Honey Bear’s Big Adventure by Rachel Harris (animation)
A young bear fails at her attempts to talk to a cute bunny who brings the mail every day. It’s not until Honey Bear saves the world that she can summon the courage to ask Bunny-Boo out.

Homeless in Bolivia by Annalise Kiser (documentary)
Shalom, an organization in Bolivia, takes in homeless and neglected children. This film reflects on stories about dedicated volunteers and the children who seek refuge.

Dust Buddies by Allison Moore (scene reading of screenplay pilot)
Maxa Thousand is an anthropomorphic armadillo who enjoys solitude in the Grand Stretch until he meets AcroBat, a girl bat who is trapped at a circus and begs Maxa to break her out.

In These Woods by Nia Orellana (narrative)
Kevin, a young cryptid, is ready to explore the human world, finding allies to help him and those who would like nothing better than to see him dead.

Conspiracy by Seph Reid (scene readings of feature screenplay)
On the anniversary of his sister’s death, an old friend shows up at Mark’s workplace with a shocking secret.

Thursday, May 3

The Souls Within by James Stewart (scene readings of feature screenplay)
Sarah is a new kid in school who is miserable until she meets a boy named Zim. When they discover a strange book in the library, their lives change forever.

Frankie & June by Leiana Valenzuela (narrative)
Amidst a surreal landscape of Los Angeles, flighty June must overcome her fear of love in order to accept herself and her feelings for her best friend Frankie.

Appetite by Delaney Walker (animation)
A boy named Johnny accepts a job as a groundskeeper’s apprentice. All he has to do is assist in routine trimmings, yard work, and orange harvesting. How bad could it be?

We Are Here to Stay by Sydney Williams (documentary)
A film that explores the meaning of transgender and the reasons why transmen students choose to attend single-gendered institutions.

 

In addition, the Hollins film department will present film shorts made by the Spring Term 2018 film production classes on Friday, May 11, from 7 – 8:30 p.m.

Admission to all three screenings is free and open to the public.

 


Senior Student-Athlete Receives Major NCAA Scholarship

Hollins University senior and swimming standout Dani Raymond has been awarded the NCAA Women’s Enhancement Graduate Scholarship, which supports students enrolled in a sports-related program as a full-time graduate student.

Raymond, who plans to pursue a graduate degree in sports management beginning this fall at Virginia Commonwealth University, will receive a $7,500 nonrenewable scholarship for the 2018-19 academic year.

Raymond competed as a member of the Hollins swim team during each of her four years as an undergraduate and was the team’s primary distance swimmer. Highlights of her career include serving as team captain for two years and receiving the Bonnie Kestner Sportsmanship Award at the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) Swim Championships. Outside the pool, she served as both a team representative and an officer with the Hollins Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and completed internships with the ODAC and the Hollins Sports Information office.

Raymond will graduate this May with a double major in English and communication studies, and participated in the university’s Batten Leadership Institute. Her academic accomplishments include earning Academic All-ODAC and VaSID Academic All-State citations. She is a Batten Scholar at Hollins and is a member of Omicron Delta Kappa, Chi Sigma Alpha, and Lambda Pi Eta.

As a scholarship recipient, Raymond is invited to attend the 2018 NCAA Career in Sports Forum (CSF), which will take place at the NCAA National Office in Indianapolis, May 31 – June 3. The CSF brings together 200 selected student-athletes to learn about careers in sports with a primary focus on intercollegiate athletics. The educational event is designed to assist student-athletes in charting their careers in the business, giving them the opportunity to network and learn from current athletics professionals.

 


Hollins Establishes Research Initiative with Roanoke Valley Community Partners

Hollins University is launching a regional partnership with the Roanoke Valley that will focus on community-based research and learning.  Faculty and students from a diverse array of disciplines will be matched with area businesses and organizations to undertake a variety of cooperative projects.

“Hollins is deeply dedicated to civic engagement, social responsibility, and strengthening our roots in the local and regional community,” says Hollins President Pareena Lawrence. “This partnership reinforces and enhances this commitment, and celebrates the ideals of public citizenship. I can think of no better way to prepare our students to solve complex real-world problems than to immerse them in understanding these issues and applying the knowledge they are learning in their coursework together with the guidance of their faculty and our community partners to find solutions.

“I’m confident this initiative will provide exceptional experiential educational opportunities for our students while simultaneously helping to meet critical but unmet community needs,” she continues. “This partnership has the potential to infuse the Roanoke Valley with fresh ideas that will have an impact.”

Patricia Hammer, Hollins’ vice president for academic affairs, believes that collaborative, community-based research should be “an integral and vibrant part of our student learning experience. Matching community needs with specific courses strengthens our curriculum and our community in a way that is relevant and necessary in the 21st century.” She envisions the number of community partners growing each year in tandem with the increasing participation of students and faculty and the addition of new, related courses. “Our students and faculty are excited to begin this work.”

Hollins’ first partner in this endeavor is the Roanoke Valley – Alleghany Regional Commission (RVARC), which for more than 45 years has spearheaded collaboration and strategy on issues that are critical to the economic growth, quality of life, and sustainability of the area. This summer, Hollins will be supporting an initiative created in 2011 by the RVARC and the Council of Community Services called the Partnership for a Livable Roanoke Valley.

“This undertaking focuses on economic and workforce development as well as fostering a healthy Roanoke Valley and preserving our natural assets,” explains RVARC Executive Director Wayne Strickland. “Beginning in May and continuing through August, students from Hollins will be helping us address some crucial questions: How do we track improvements? What measurements do we need? And, how do we sustain this work? The students will become engaged in our community, learn more about the area, and play a key role in determining where the Roanoke Valley wants to go in the future.”

Hollins’ regional partnership program is supported by the university’s Presidential Initiative Fund and is directed by Associate Professor of International Studies Jon Bohland. Three years ago, Bohland co-founded the Small Cities Institute, a research and teaching collaboration between Hollins, Roanoke College, and Virginia Tech where faculty and students tackle issues facing small urban areas around the globe.

Roanoke Valley businesses and organizations that are interested in exploring potential partnerships with Hollins are invited to contact Bohland at jbohland@hollins.edu.

“Hollins has enjoyed significant involvement in the community and region through the individual work of our faculty, staff, and students in research, public service, and internships,” says Lawrence. “This new partnership will provide more structure, public visibility, opportunity, and an overarching intentionality to this existing involvement, and will allow us to develop new ways to build upon our current efforts.”


For the First Time, Hollins Students Take Top Spots at Research Forum

Megan David ’18 and Emili McPhail ’18 have earned an unprecedented achievement for Hollins.

The communication studies majors won first and second place, respectively, at the 16th annual Student Undergraduate Research Forum (SURF), held at Lynchburg College on March 17.

The Lynchburg College website says SURF “brings together undergraduate students from colleges in the region to present original undergraduate research. The students’ original research and oral presentations are evaluated by a panel of judges and awards are given. The students gain valuable experience in doing research and get insight into the possibility of pursuing their research interests in graduate school.”

In addition to Hollins and Lynchburg, participating institutions include Liberty University, Longwood University, Radford University, Randolph College, and Sweet Briar College.

David captured the top prize with her paper presentation, “Oh the Places We Have Gone: The Interplay between Study Abroad and Social Media.” McPhail’s second-place paper, “Parasocial Relationships with Celebrities: Finding Meaning with the Famous,” also focused on social media. Both papers were based on the students’ individual senior theses, which were completed under the guidance of Associate Professor of Communication Studies Chris Richter.

Sponsored by Associate Professor of Communication Studies Lori Joseph, Hollins communication studies students have participated in SURF since 2013 and have consistently earned honors.


Swim Team Earns Scholar All-America Status

For the fifth consecutive semester, the Hollins University swim team has been named a Scholar All-America team by the College Swimming and Diving Coaches Association of America.

To earn the honor, teams must have earned a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or higher for the Fall 2017 semester. The Hollins swim team last fall boasted a 3.56 GPA, its highest ever.

Coach Patrick Richardson’s squad also has the distinction of holding the highest overall GPA among the college and university swim teams that compete in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference.