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The UW Oshkosh College of Letters and Science (via travel grants) is sponsoring:

Sara Hagedorn and Diana Cartier, NCUR presenters

  • Categorizing animals as bold or timid and its importance to the conservation of endangered wildlife.
  • Faculty Sponsor: M. Elsbeth McPhee, Environmental Studies program and department of Biology and Microbiology

Captive-bred animals are often released back into the wild in order to supplement or reestablish an endangered population.  Released individuals often do not survive, however, due to behavioral problems. To better design successful reintroduction programs we need to understand how a species will behave in a variety of contexts. With that in mind, we tested for a relationship between an animal’s response to a novel environment and response to a predator. Using, wild-caught meadow voles (Microtus pennsylvanicus), we hypothesized that the way an individual responds when exposed to a novel environment would indicate their response to a simulated predator. Specifically, we predicted that the more bold or fearless a vole is in a novel environment, the bolder they would be when faced with a predator stimulus. These predictions are based on the observations that captive-bred individuals may have inappropriate levels of boldness and thus may suffer from reduced fitness in the wild (Bremner-Harrison 2004 Animal Conservation). In addition, we hypothesized that sex would affect level of boldness, predicting that a male would respond more boldly than a female. Preliminary data suggest that, in both sexes, animals that were bolder in the face of a simulated predator were more exploratory than those that were cautious. In addition, males were bolder and more exploratory than females. Interestingly, however, the correlation between predator response and boldness in a novel environment was not as strong as expected. These data are an important first step in determining which animals are more suited to be released back into the wild. Understanding how behaviors are related within an individual will help conservation biologists make more effective decisions when designing reintroduction programs for a variety of taxa.

Emily Fisher and Suzi Hietpas, NCUR presenters

  • The correlation between investigative and foraging behaviors in meadow voles (Microtus pennsylvanicus).
  • Faculty Sponsor:  M. Elsbeth McPhee, Environmental Studies program and department of Biology and Microbiology

Selection of appropriate conservation methods is becoming increasingly imperative as wildlife populations plummet. Reintroduction of captive-bred animals into the wild is a common means to increase numbers in threatened or endangered species populations. Appropriate preparation of animals prior to release, however, is essential in ensuring the success of reintroduced individuals because some captive-bred species may not be equipped to survive in the wild. Thus, we must find new ways to prepare captive-bred animals for survival in their natural environments. Therefore, we wanted to know if there is a correlation between foraging and navigational ability within an individual animal. We predicted that investigatory animals would be more likely to spend time foraging. We tested this in 10 wild-caught meadow voles (Microtus pennsylvanicus) and recorded their behavior in response to a complex environment as well as their behavior when provided with foraging opportunities. We compared mean behaviors with the Kruskal-Wallis test and compared variances with the Levene’s test. Correlations were determined with a Pearson’s correlation. Preliminary data suggest that animals that spent more time exploring the complex environment also found the food source more quickly and spent more time foraging. This is important because we need to understand how traits necessary for survival in the wild are related. The implications of this for conservation are complicated, especially with animals that were raised in captivity and did not have pressures on them that would not be found in the wild. Through this, we can learn about the success in behavioral traits, such as exploration and ability to find food.

The UW Oshkosh Office of Grants and Faculty Development is sponsoring:

Alexander James Turinske, NCUR presenter

  • Effect of high-temperature calcination on properties of alumina nanofibers.
  • Co-authors: A.J. Turinske, A. B. Gipril, N. Stojilovic, A.F. Lotus and G.G. Chase
  • Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
  • Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, The University of Akron
  • Faculty Sponsor: Nenad Stojilovic, Physics and Astronomy

Alumina (Al2O3) nanofibers were prepared using eletrospinning method and subsequent calcination at high temperatures. Electrospinning is a simple and inexpensive method that produces nanofibers with diameters ranging from 10 to 1000 nm whereas high-temperature calcination results in the removal of polymeric materials used in the preparation of composite solutions. Morphology of the calcined and pure metal-oxide nanofibers was studied using transmission electron microscopy whereas the structural changes have been monitored using X-ray diffraction system. We study the effects of high-temperature calcinations on specific surface area and crystal structures of the nanofibers in order to determine the optimal conditions for preparation of structures with enhanced surface-to-volume ratio. Excellent thermal stability and flexibility of these nanofibers combined with large surface-to-volume ratio are particularly important in high-temperature catalysis applications.

The UW Oshkosh McNair Program is sponsoring:

Nathan Harris, NCUR presenter

  • Solving Eternity II: Edge Matching Puzzles.
  • Faculty Sponsor: Steven Winters, department of Mathematics

An edge-matching puzzle is a type of tiling puzzle involving tiling an area with (typically regular) polygons whose edges are distinguished with colors or patterns, in such a way that the edges of adjacent tiles match. Edge-matching puzzles are known to be NP-complete, and capable of conversion to and from equivalent jigsaw puzzles and polyomino packing puzzles. The first edge-matching puzzles were patented in the U.S. by E. L. Thurston in 1892.Edge-matching puzzles have recently enjoyed resurgence in popularity with the 2007 release of Eternity II, a 16×16 edge-matching puzzle with a 2 million dollar prize for its solution. Due to the number of possible solutions, the puzzle is not solvable using computer methods in any reasonable amount of time. Possible methods of reducing search time as well as pattern matching methods were attempted in this paper. Reducing the puzzle to 64 pieces by combining single pieces into 2×2 “mega-pieces” was not shown to improve solvability. Dividing the puzzle into sections such as 8×8 quarters was also not shown to improve solvability of the larger puzzle. The creator of the puzzle has said that the puzzle will be solved by someone noticing a pattern in the pieces. Therefore, it is likely that none of the above methods will yield a solution. Future solving attempts could benefit from a more visual approach, focusing on patterns formed by the edges rather than the edges themselves.

Hope Schuhart, NCUR presenter

  • Social Desirability in Bias Surveys and Online Discussions of Civic Engagement in   American Teens and Emerging Adults
  • Faculty Sponsor: Michael Jasinski, department of Political Science

Over the past several decades, surveyors, both institutional and individual, have poured substantial amounts of time, money and effort into monitoring opinions and trends in youth civic engagement. Such surveyors have consistently found that youth are less likely than older cohorts to be engaged in activities such as voting, following the news, and contacting legislators. However, socially sensitive questions in surveys, particularly onymous ones, may be susceptible to social desirability bias. This study expected to find that American youth between the ages of 15 and 24 report more engagement activity when they know they are being surveyed than when they discuss such activities informally with anonymous peers in online message boards. Data was collected from six social survey data sets and three youth discussion websites. Four questions common to the data sets and websites were located and answers for each sorted and compared. This study finds that only one of the four selected questions showed evidence of social desirability bias, and that youth are not necessarily inhibited or embarrassed about discussing their lack of civic engagement. However, this study also finds that youth online discussions of politics rarely stay on topic long enough to answer most questions meaningfully, and that most answers focus on insults of others while revealing many misconceptions about American political processes.

Weston Fredenberg, NCUR presenter

  • The Impact of Diversity Training on Understanding Minorities in American films
  • Faculty Sponsor: Marguerite Parks, College of Education and Human Resources

Media heavily influences American society. One sees this specifically through the subliminal or omitted messages contained in American films. Understanding this is significant because discriminatory and racist acts are often committed against people of color within the films. This project was designed around answering the question of whether or not having some form of diversity training helped make individuals more aware of the treatment of people of color in films. To accomplish this a survey was designed and will be sent to 160 individuals, some known to have diversity training and some chosen at random. Results are pending.

For more information about the National Conference on Undergraduate Research, visit

Susan Surendonk, Grants and Faculty Development department, submitted this announcement. Faculty, staff and students are encouraged to contribute calendar items, campus announcements and other good news to UW Oshkosh Today.