BioFeedback

The Annual Newsletter of the Andrews University Biology Department

Online Edition

 

Autumn 2004

 

BioFeedback

Biology Department

Andrews University

Berrien Springs, MI 49104-0410

BIOLOGY@andrews.edu

http://www.andrews.edu/biology

Editor: H. Thomas Goodwin

Layout & Design: David A. Steen

 

 

A Mammoth Gift

            The Prillwitz Mammoth has found a permanent home.  On October 27, 2004, Wes and Vi Prillwitz generously donated this Michigan treasure to Andrews University–42 years to the month after its discovery on their farm during excavation of an irrigation farm. Andrews University is fortunate indeed to be given this specimen, which is the most complete mammoth ever recovered from Michigan. 

         The Prillwitz Mammoth is no stranger to Andrews.  It has been the centerpiece of our Natural History Museum since 1974, soon after the specimen was returned from the University of Michigan for local display.  Wes and Vi always wanted the mammoth to be a local treasure, available to the people of Berrien County, and the Natural History Museum provided a venue.  However, the specimen was never donated to the University until this year–it was on loan from the Prillwitz family.

         Several years ago, Wes and Vi made clear that they were eager to have the mammoth more accessible to the local public than it currently is, and began exploring various options to make this possible.  After careful review of options and extended dialog between the Prillwitz family and University, an agreement was reached–the Prillwitz Mammoth would be given to Andrews University for perpetual display, and Andrews agreed to improve accessibility, publicity, and the quality of its display (see sidebar, “A mammoth need”).  “It’s an honor,” notes Tom Goodwin, curator of AU’s Natural History Museum.  “We are grateful that Wes and Vi have entrusted the mammoth with us for perpetual local display, and we’ll do our best to make this state treasure even more accessible to local residents.”

         The signing ceremony was a reunion for some of the participants crucial in the mammoth’s discovery and excavation–Wes and Vi Prillwitz, on whose property the specimen was recovered; Carl Harris, who skillfully operated the drag-line that dredged up the bones; and Richard Ritland, who helped with recovery of bones from the excavation and, 11 years later, was responsible for mounting the skeleton for display.  We only wish Asa Thoreson could have been present, as he was instrumental in excavation and subsequent display.  Other participants included University administrators, led by President Niels-Erik Andreason; a number of University faculty; and several interested members of the community.

         In addition to its public and educational value, the Prillwitz Mammoth is of significant scientific interest.  A scientific study is underway (a collaboration between Tom Goodwin and former AU biology student, Amy Roosenberg) to describe and determine the paleobiology of this intriguing specimen.  Results indicate that some early interpretations were probably erroneous.  For example, we currently think the mammoth was a young male ~25-30 years of age, not a female as initially inferred.

 

 

A MAMMOTH NEED

            As part of the negotiations leading to this generous donation, Andrews University agreed to improve publicity, signage, and regular access to the display of the Prillwitz Mammoth.  In addition, after 30 years of display, the specimen clearly needs significant renovation.  This will require that the specimen be dismounted to allow treatment of the bones, and then remounted for display.  We are exploring alternatives for a new display to increase public accessibility, although ideas are in the early stages.  One thing is clear–our new responsibility as owners of the Prillwitz Mammoth will take money!  If this project is of particular interest to you, you can send a donation earmarked for the Prillwitz Mammoth Fund.  Thanks for your consideration!

 

 

JACK STADDON PURSUES MD/PHD

         Jack Staddon (BS Zoology, 1997) stands tall–literally, at 6 feet 6 inches, and as an inquisitive, young Adventist medical scientist!  After graduation from AU, Staddon commenced an MD/PhD program at the University of Minnesota where he has completed two years of medical education and five years of dissertation research.  He expects to soon defend his dissertation before finishing medicine.  “I thank God for the opportunity to be here,” says Staddon.  “It’s a great program for those naturally curious about their world.”

         Staddon’s research focuses on lateral gene transfer between bacteria, that is, on how DNA is shared between bacteria that sometimes represent different species and even genera.   A recent paper in Journal of Bacteriology summarizes one aspect of this research.  “Jack’s DNA analysis has helped us understand more clearly how genes, especially those involving antibiotic resistance, can be transferred between related bacterial species,” notes AU biologist Rob Zdor.  “This body of work is especially relevant as it appears to help explain how multiple antibiotic resistant strains of medically important bacteria can arise.”

         When asked about his long-term career plans, Staddon pauses noticeably as he mulls over diverse interests.  “Somewhere at the intersection of geography and research.  I suppose research in international medicine.”  This interest in geography isn’t surprising–in 1989, Staddon, then an 8th grader, won the first National Geography Bee, an event that netted national attention and a $25,000 college scholarship.

A few minutes later in conversation, Jack hits on another passion–teaching.  “I really enjoy helping people meet their potential.”  Indeed, an important aspect of Jack’s life is his involvement in an ethnically diverse Seventh-day Adventist congregation, serving first as a Junior Sabbath School teacher and more recently as coordinator of all children’s Sabbath School.  “Virtually all of the teachers I work with are immigrants,” says Staddon, noting the confluence of his interests in teaching and international life.

         Staddon also reflects on his preparation for the academic rigors of medical school.  “If you take the hardest courses you can at Andrews, you’ll be well prepared for medical school.”  Prospective med students, listen up!  A secular academic environment poses other challenges and opportunities as well, as one’s Christian worldview comes in contact with other points of view.  “It can be an emotional experience, grappling with faith,” notes Staddon.  “The bottom line: I am a Seventh-day Adventist.  God put me in this faith community, and that’s where I intend to serve him.”

         Those of us who know Jack, as his teachers from yesteryear, eagerly look forward to the unfolding story as Jack continues to follow his passions–for gaining knowledge about science and the world around him, for sharing that knowledge through scholarship and teaching, and for his faith in God.

 

CHARLES AHN PRACTICES OPTHAMOLOGY

Charles Ahn (BS Zoology, 1989) has practiced ophthalmology for the last six years after completing his MD at the University of Michigan, residency at the University of Illinois, and a fellowship at the University of Utah.  Ahn recalls many enriching elements of his Andrews experience–from great courses, like anatomy and embryology, to participation in campus musical groups.  He credits a research project on crickets, mentored by Jack Stout and Gordon Atkins, as important in his career choice.  “This gave me the initial confidence in my microsurgical abilities which would lead me to pursue a career in ophthalmology.”

         Ahn’s passion for research, though perhaps ignited at Andrews, has continued unabated.  “I continue to be involved in clinical trials,” he notes.  His CV demonstrates this commitment, with numerous presentations and publications. Ahn also delights in his medical practice.  “I really enjoy the practice of ophthalmology as we are able to utilize cutting edge technology in providing the highest quality of care for our patients.”

         But Ahn’s life goes beyond the clinic and lab.  He and his wife, Sunhee, have three boys aged 1, 6, and 9.  “I love spending time with my boys,” he notes.  Ahn enjoys golf and running as hobbies, and recently ran his first marathon–he completed the Chicago Marathon in 3 hours and 30 minutes!  He also remains active in his local church and uses his expertise in mission activities.  “This past March, I traveled to Panama on a mission trip to perform cataract surgery,” recalls Ahn, “and to help train the local ophthalmologists to perform the surgeries themselves.”  This interest in missions has deep roots; Ahn served as a student missionary to Korea while a student at Andrews University.

 

 

NEW BOOK BY THORESEN

Asa Clifford Thoresen, Emeritus Professor of Biology at Andrews University, recently published a new book entitled Auks of the World. Thoresen is a world authority on auks, or alcids, an avian group that includes puffins, auklets, murres, guillemots, and other diving seabirds of the northern hemisphere.

         Auks of the World reflects years of fieldwork by Thoresen. His interest in this group of birds began during the 1950s, when he studied the nesting biology of pigeon guillemots for his master’s thesis at Walla Walla College. In 1960, he completed a Ph.D. at Oregon State University, where he researched the breeding behavior of Cassin’s auklets for his dissertation. Since that time, he has studied the habits of several other alcid species on California’s Farralon Islands, Teuri Island in northern Japan, and various islands in the Pacific Northwest.

         Auks of the World contains detailed descriptions of the great auk, now extinct, and of the 22 other extant species of this bird family. Each chapter features one species, and includes a list of alternate common names, a range distribution map, and extensive information on the behavior of the birds. As he notes in the Foreword, Thoresen “aims to describe what the birds ‘do’, rather than giving lengthy descriptions of structural features.” Each chapter is extensively illustrated with color photographs. Scattered throughout the book are pen-and-ink drawings by the author illustrating the behavioral repertoires of auks.

         In addition to species accounts, Auks of the World features chapters on fossil auks and conservation concerns, appendices summarizing a wealth of information on auk biology, and an extensive bibliography that contains references to 667 articles on alcids. “This work represents a significant addition to studies of this fascinating group of birds,” notes AU’s Jim Hayward, who also studies seabirds. “Asa’s contribution will prove valuable not only to professional ornithologists, but also to anyone interested in seabirds. The wealth of technical information is presented in a style and format that is both beautiful and informative.” 

         Initially, Auks of the World was to be issued by a commercial publisher, but the company folded before completion of the project. Thoresen decided to self-publish the volume, an enormous undertaking facilitated by the generous help of Fred Barrett and Beth Ritland, friends of the Thoresens. While Auks of the World currently is unavailable in bookstores, Thoresen hopes to soon make the book accessible in web or CD format.

         Thoresen served as a professor in the Biology Department from 1960 to 1992, and as chair from 1963 to 1983.  He and his wife Shirley are retired in McMinnville, Oregon.

 

 

AU SCIENCE BUILDING SURVIVES THE “GREAT FLOOD”

         AU Chemist Desmond Murray made an early morning foray to the Science Complex at about 3:00 am on Tuesday, February 3, 2004.  He got a wet welcome!  Murray discovered a powerful waterfall plunging down a major stair well within the Science Complex.  Before the deluge was stopped an hour or so later, thousands of gallons of water were disbursed on all three floors of Price and Halenz Halls (home to Biology, Chemistry, and Clinical Laboratory Sciences) leaving soggy carpets, ruined books, and tens of thousands of dollars in damage.  According to Bill Mutch, chair of the Chemistry Department, repair of their NMR machine alone cost ~$10,000. 

Other damage can’t be measured in dollars, but was even more significant.  “I lost a research collection of Urtica seeds,” notes Dennis Woodland.  “I’ve been developing it for years in order to do a systematic study of this genus of nettles.”

         “All in all, we were most fortunate indeed not to lose much more as a result of the flood,” says David Steen, chair of Biology.  To a great extent, thanks go to Desmond Murray, whose early morning habits caught the flood in its early stages, and to the quick and professional work done to dry out the building.  If nothing else, the Science Complex may be a little “cleaner” than it once was!

         The flood occurred when a frozen and fractured water main, located in the stairwell adjacent to the biology greenhouse, thawed out in early February.  All Biology, Chemistry, and Clinical Laboratory Science classes were cancelled on the day of the “great flood,” with classes the remainder of the week placed opportunistically around campus.

 

 

 

 

Alumni Notes

 

Tatnai Burnett (BS, 2003) is in his first year of med school at the University of Michigan.  His wife, Tania, is in the Masters of Social Work at U of M.  Tatnai and Tania are expecting their first child in May, 2005!

 

Sandra Caballero (BS, 2003) is half-way through her second year of med school at Loma Linda University.  Although very busy, she is grateful to have made special friends and found a home church, and treasures her memories of Andrews.

 

Pamela D’Souza (BS, 2003) is in her 2nd year of med school at Loma Linda University and is enjoying the region’s “sunshiny days,” which lift her spirits during the challenges of life as a med student.

 

Jerome Joseph (MS, 1979) recently completed his Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of the West Indies and appreciates the preparation AU gave him for doctoral studies and teaching.  He lives in Trinidad, where h currently chairs the Biology Department at Caribbean Union College and is a lecturer in biochemistry at the UWI.

 

Amy Lorenz (BS, 1995) loves her new career as a Media Specialist in Arlington, Minnesota for grades 1-6 and 10-12.  She shares her home with Max, a cat, and enjoys playing with her nephews on the weekends.

 

James Park (BS, 2003) is working double-duty–as a realtor in Redlands, California, and as a dental student at Loma Linda University!  He’s grateful that AU prepared him very well for dental school, but reports missing our freezing weather!

 

Barbara Reid (BA, 1968) subsequently obtained a PhD from the University of Maryland.  She serves on the faculty of Columbia Union College and has a strong interest in instructional strategies for teaching science.

 

Ron Stout (BS, 1982) recently retired from the U. S. Air Force after 22 years of active and reserve service.  He works in Procter and Gamble’s Health Care Global Business with responsibilities that include employee health, safety surveillance, and medical affairs.  He and his wife, Pam, have two children and enjoy travel and water-based sports for recreation.