Summer projects put students into research mode

1 Mar 2018

Turtle laying eggs on beachTurtles, disinfectants, hairy caterpillars, mosquito viruses, climate change, physics models, Uber and Airbnb, and beetles in honeybee colonies all featured as research topics in the University of Queensland’s 2017-2018  Summer Research Scholarship Program.

Co-ordinated by UQ’s Student Employability Centre and the Faculty of Science, the program engages students in formal research projects over the summer semester and to apply their classroom knowledge and gain practical field and laboratory skills.

Bachelor of Science student Melissa Staines, who is majoring in marine biology, is working with Loggerhead sea turtles at Mon Repos, the largest rookery for the species in eastern Australia, just a few kilometres east of Bundaberg, Queensland

Supervised by turtle experts, UQ School of Biological Sciences’ Dr David Booth and Dr Col Limpus, Melissa

investigated the effects of vegetation cover on hatching and emergence success, and post-hatching performance and morphology.

“Sea turtles are such amazing marine reptiles, with only a few surviving against all odds to maturity. Unfortunately, due to increased trawling efforts between 1980’s – 2000, the eastern Loggerhead population was reduced to just 20% and is now classified as endangered” she said.

 “Female loggerheads first enter the breeding population at around 28 years of age, so research into increasing the hatchling production for recruitment is required to save the population.”

Melissa said a large proportion of sea turtle mortality occurs during the incubation period and the first week post-hatching .

 “By comparing nests that have low vegetation cover and in the full sun, to nests with high vegetation cover and lots of shade, we can show the effects of natural temperature differences in the sand on the physiology of the embryos and hence the performance and survival of the hatchlings.”

“I look forward to seeing how the results from my research will impact the ongoing management of the Sea Turtle rookery and conservation park here at Mon Repos.”

Dr Cheryl-Lynn Ong and Professor Alastair McEwan are supervising students who are studying the importance of biofilm formation in bacteria causing middle ear and lung infections. 

These infections are a major disease in children under five years old, and result in over US$3 billion in healthcare costs in the USA alone annually.  The project aims to understand the infection, and to trial alternative, non-antibiotic therapies to treat it. 

Students working on the project are Denise Ng and Charmaine Lim, both second year Bachelor of Science students.

Denise said: “I feel that being able to work on a research project gives me an opportunity to have a hands-on experience and also a feel of what it's like to be a researcher. The project which I've worked on, would serve in adding new knowledge to the scientific field on improving the effectiveness in treating diseases cause by Streptococcus pneumoniae through the usage of metal ions like zinc.”

For further details about the UQ Summer Research Scholarship Program, visit the UQ Faculty of Science site.