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Fall 2011 Volume 4, Issue 2

I n s i d e : Konza Prairie Celebrates 40 Years Established by Lloyd Hulbert in 1971, Konza Prairie is rich with Kansas history. Page 4

Retired Professor Gains Notoriety Outside Biology A family pet was the beginning of a lifetime hobby and enjoyment for Charles “Bud” Kramer. Page 5

Trauma Drama Sherry Fleming, associate professor, received $140,000 to study the “drama queen” of the immune system. Page 6


B u l l e t i n

Division of Biology Kansas State University

Oceans Away Landlocked Location Doesn’t Stop Student From Seeking Marine Biology Career


o paraphrase Shakespeare: The world is one’s oyster.  That saying couldn’t be truer for Kansas State University student, Andrew Collingwood, senior in microbiology from Shawnee Mission.  More than half way through his college degree in engineering at K-State, Collingwood decided to scrap it all and change directions toward his true passion, an ocean-related career. Despite a lack of marine based majors, he still wanted to graduate from K-State. Therefore, Collingwood became innovative and persistent in opening up doors for his future.  “I was trying to think of anything that would allow me to move into marine stuff because we don’t have anything like that at K-State,” Collingwood said. “I don’t want to move to Florida to go to school yet, so I thought microbiology is everywhere.  Collingwood, determined to gain experience in a marine microbiology lab, sought out and applied for an unpaid summer internship at Mote Marine

Laboratory, a marine research laboratory ethic is beyond reproach. He figured out and aquarium in Sarasota, Fla. Collingwood what was needed and just did it, whether begun his internship under Kimberly Ritchie, it was the least appealing task or the most staff scientist and program manager for the complex assay. Andrew picked up on these marine microbiology program at Mote. projects like they were second nature.”  “Since it was an unpaid internship,  Collingwood conducted several different I honestly experiments expected to be while at Mote. washing dishes One of them was and doing lab to investigate maintenance if the bacteria, type things, but found in the I learned a lot mucus of a from hands-on cownose ray, can e x p e r i e n c e s ,” fight off antibiotic Collingwood said. resistant human “My mentor, pathogens. Collingwood (left) with another intern, Dan Kimberly Ritchie,  “We isolated Ravs (center), and Kimerbly Ritchie (right). even gave me colonies of permission to bacteria from start working on my own project.” that mucus, and then tested them against  Collingwood’s determination to succeed in human pathogens, such as Vancomycinmarine microbiology made a big impression Resistant Enterococci and Methicillinon Ritchie. sensitive Staphyloccous, to see if it  “Andrew made himself indispensable early would inhibit the growth of those human on,” Ritchie said. “He is a sponge for new pathogens,” Collingwood said. information, incredibly bright and his work . . . CONTINUED ON PAGE 2

Dr. Brian Spooner Director of the Division of Biology


  have returned as the Director potential variation, data were reof the Division of Biology, from a sampled and re-weighted, and two year leave that allowed me to four different rankings were given serve as the Dean of the College of for each program. Arts and Sciences. Nevertheless,  The results for K-State Biology I continued to monitor the were rankings of 26, 37, 63 and 70. outstanding successes of biology These numbers translate, for 394 undergraduates and graduate programs, into a set of rankings students, and the incredible that are 6.6, 9.4, 16 and 17 achievements of Division faculty percentiles. That is, our program members in teaching, research, is in the top 7-17 percent of all the and outreach. ranked programs, a terrific level of  Last year the National Research recognition. Council, (NRC)  I have released a long also spent . . . in my opinion, (our faculty awaited review the past two members) are the basis for of doctoral months since (Ph.D) programs my return our student success, and our across the visiting one research accomplishments as nation. In on one with the Biology each Division the top unit of the University. category of f a c u l t y the natural m e m b e r. sciences, 394 programs were My goal, in these meetings, was assessed by a weighted sum of to listen and learn, from each of 20 characteristics. To account for them, about their perspective

on their current activities and goals, as well as their ideas about the Division as a whole.  What I learned through these conversations was that our faculty members have a great deal of passion for both research and teaching in the

biological sciences. In the face of continuing financial and infrastructural challenges, they continued to excel, and in my opinion, are the basis for our student success, and our research accomplishments as the top unit of the University.

Oceans Away Continued from Page 1  The internship at Mote helped Collingwood solidify his future career choice, and gave him experience to get a job as a student lab technician during the


school year under Lynn Hancock, Division of Biology associate professor. Hancock is also studying antibiotic-resistant pathogens.  “Kimberly Ritchie spoke highly

The cownose ray in a touch tank at Mote Marine Lab. Collingwood used the epidermal mucus from rays like these to study antibiotic resistant bacteria.

of Andrew in terms of his work ethic and desire to learn things,” Hancock said. “As we send our students for internships around the country, it is good to know that they work hard, and use their ability to think to enhance the institutional reputation of K-State. Andrew’s background and training will make him a valuable contributor to my own research.”  Collingwood will return to Mote next summer, this time as a paid intern, the first in Ritchie’s lab.  “Andrew has a drive that will guarantee success in whatever he wants,” Ritchie said. “I can’t wait to watch and see.”  Collingwood’s fortitude to find his true passion in life has benefited him in many ways. He realized that

it is never too late to follow your dream, persistence pays off, and marine microbiology is the best. Collingwood looks forward to returning to Mote next summer as a paid intern both because of the science, and the unique atmosphere of Mote Marine Lab.  “Considering that it was an aquarium and not just a lab, I think I had the best view of any microbiology lab ever,” Collingwood said. “Three of the walls are glass windows because I was one of the exhibits at the aquarium. Tour guides would say ‘look at our scientists working,’ and kids would bang on the glass.”

(A) Lateral view of 5 day old (E5) chick embryo showing nerve axons (arrows) extending from the ophthalmic branch of the trigeminal axon (OpV) to the developing eye. (B) En face view of E7 eye. Nerves will eventually invade the cornea (Co), yet upon approaching the cornea edge they are repelled for several days due to repulsive molecules secreted from the cornea and underlying lens, instead forming a ring around the cornea periphery. (C) Culturing trigeminal neuron explants (Tg) adjacent to an embryonic lens (L) reveals that nerve axons are strongly repelled from the lens under control conditions; however, (D) in the presence of a Robo-Slit signaling inhibitor the repulsion of nerves by the lens is strongly mitigated. This suggest that nerve guidance is instructed by Robo-Slit signaling during cornea innervation.

A Promising Start Postdoc’s Eye Research Earns NIH Award

Tyler Schwend checks on the eggs in the incubator.


  postdoctoral fellow is being recognized by the National Institutes of Health as a promising young scientist.  Tyler Schwend, a research associate in the lab of Gary Conrad, university distinguished professor of biology, has received the $50,000 Dawn Kirschstein National Research Service Award from the National Institutes of Health, National Eye Institute.  The award provides support for promising young scientists currently engaged in scientific and health-related research as postdoctoral fellows. Schwend is investigating the role of RoboSlit signaling on avian cornea innervation during embryonic development.  Robos are the receptors for the Slit family of repellent nerve guidance cues; interactions between these two proteins can negatively influence nerve outgrowth or repel nerve growth away from a certain tissue. Studying corneal nerves is important because many patients who have had surgery

on their cornea experience nerve regeneration that is slower than expected, and Schwend believes it may be due to the Robo-Slit interaction.  “Through conversations with clinicians we have learned that nerves grow back extremely slowly after corneal surgery, such as with LASIK or cornea transplantation. It can take many months to a couple of years, and in some rare cases they may not grow back at all,” Schwend said.  The cornea is the most densely innervated tissue on the surface of the body and its network of nerves are crucial for the well-being of the eye, Schwend said. A delay in nerve regeneration increases the risk of further trauma to a patient’s eye and vision because the nerves in the cornea are important for sensing pain and other noxious stimuli from the environment, increasing the need for tear production and a blinking reflex as a means of protection.  The Robo-Slit interaction, found to be essential during embryonic development of the eye, likely prevents nerves from entering

the cornea until development has reached a certain point. Similar interactions could be the cause of the delay in regenerating nerves in adults, Schwend said.  Schwend is studying the embryonic development of the eye in chickens. He alters the Robo-Slit interaction, adding a recombinant protein that mimics Robo and binds to Slit. This prevents the real Robo protein from binding and influencing nerve growth and path finding.  “As a developmental biologist, I’m always wanting to set up a functional study where I can either over-express a particular protein by giving the body or a tissue too much of it, or take that particular protein away,” Schwend said. “Then I ask, ‘OK, what happened to normal development?’ I wanted to see what happens when I take the Robo-Slit interaction, a potentially vital one, away during eye development.”  In preliminary tests, Schwend has discovered that when the RoboSlit interaction is prevented, nerves may grow into the cornea earlier but will be highly disorganized.

Therefore, Schwend believes that the Robo-Slit interaction is important for nerves to precisely pattern themselves around the cornea and enter the cornea at the exact time the cornea is ready for them.  “Ultimately we hope this research will tell us how the nerves get into the cornea during development, and perhaps we can come up with a way, for a short time, to remove some of these proteins that may be slowing down regeneration in adult corneas,” Schwend said.  The award is renewable for three years, at $50,000 a year, allowing Schwend to continue his research on the cornea and travel to conferences that will further his communications with clinicians and other scientists.  Schwend, Washington, Ill., earned a bachelor’s in biology in 2003 from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a doctorate, with an emphasis in cellular and molecular developmental biology, in 2009 from Northwestern University, Chicago, Ill.


Konza Prairie Celebrates 40 Years


estled in a small valley of the Flint Hills, just south of Manhattan, sits a ranch house and an old barn. If walls could talk, oh the history they could tell.  Both built of native limestone in the early 1900s, the stone house and the barn are part of the Konza Prairie Biological Station, jointly owned by The Nature Conservancy and Kansas State University and managed by K-State’s Division of Biology. Their history began many years ago when Konza Prairie was the Dewey Ranch.  According to a report by Charles Given, Friends of Konza Prairie Historian, land prices in Kansas had dropped significantly in the late 1800s, so Charles Paulson Dewey, a wealthy man from Ohio, began investing in several sections of land in and around the Manhattan area. Among them were large sections of unplowed prairie.  Chauncey Dewey, Charles Dewey’s son, inherited the land after his father’s death in 1904, and in 1911 paid a local stonemason to begin construction on the barn and house.  The limestone and cottonwood supports for both buildings were hauled from a quarter mile away and construction was completed in 1912. Mainly cowhands occupied the house while the barn held up to 36 draft horses, feed, equipment and an occasional barn dance.  A series of poor choices and expenses from lawsuits over a gunfight involving Chauncey led to

the decline of the Dewey fortune, and the eventual forced sale of the ranch in 1930, splitting the Ranch land between Geary and Riley counties.  The Geary county section ended up in the hands of former Kansas Governor Alf Landon’s wife and daughter, Theo Cobb Landon and Nancy Landon Kassebaum.  In 1956, Lloyd Hulbert, professor of biology, first presented the idea of an ecological field station to university administrators. In 1971, with assistance from The Nature Conservancy and an anonymous donor, 916 acres of the Geary county section of land were purchased from the Landon Family, to start Konza Prairie.  The anonymous donor had requested that the field station be given an American Indian name. Thus Konza, a variation of the spelling for the Kansa tribe, was chosen.  Hulbert and other K-State scientists developed burning and grazing management research treatments for the site to study the tallgrass ecosystem. However, since several watersheds extended to the north of Konza Prairie, in the Riley county section, it was decided that the inaugural 916 acres was too small to effectively study grazing using native grazers. Thus, scientists once again sought to acquire additional acreage.  The Nature Conservancy, again with an anonymous donation, purchased 7,220 acres for Konza Prairie in 1977. Later that year an additional 480 acres was purchased, bringing Konza Prairie to its size of 8,616

acres of tallgrass prairie. In 1981, Konza Prairie scientists received funding from the National Science Foundation to establish Konza Prairie as one of the first Long Term Ecological Research program sites, which has been continually funded since.  The additional land allowed researchers to rethink the management treatments, and add native grazers, bison, in 1987. The anonymous donor for both purchases was identified after her death as Katharine Ordway.  This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Konza Prairie Biological Station and the 30th anniversary of the Konza Long Term Ecological Research program. To celebrate, the Institute for Grassland Studies is hosting an anniversary symposium, Grasslands in a Global Context, on Sept. 12-14 ( grassland/). Konza Prairie is hosting Tasting in the Tallgrass on Sept. 30 in the Dewey Ranch Barn, which was renovated into a Meeting Hall in 2008 with funds from the Cortelyou Family.  The symposium will feature keynote speakers from grasslands around the world, while the tasting will feature wines from grasslands around the world. Complementary food pairings and beer made in the Kansas Flint Hills by the Tallgrass Brewing Company will also be available.  Tickets to the tasting are $100 each and space is limited. All proceeds from Tasting in the Tallgrass will enhance graduate student research at Konza Prairie.

Konza Prairie Biological Station Celebration Events »» Grasslands in a Global Context, Sept. 12-14, 2011 »» Tasting in the Tallgrass, Sept.. 30, 2011 »» Hale Library Exhibit - The Konza Prairie: Earth, Wind and Fire! 1971-2011, Sept. 6-Dec 23

We would like to thank our sponsors for Tasting in the Tallgrass

»» Russell Clay Harvey, MD


Kramer’s Biological Research  Dr. Kramer, emeritus professor in the Division of Biology, has spent his life researching fungal spore production and dispersal and until his retirement in 1998.  His research was funded during his career by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.  His specialty is the epidemiology of wheat rust fungi, although he has also developed several spore collection traps still used today by plant pathologists and allergists.

Bud Kramer with his current dog, Charlee, a Papilon.

Biology Professor Gains Notoriety Outside of Biology


  affy, a small white Maltese puppy purchased in 1966 to please two little girls, was the beginning of a lifetime hobby and notoriety for Dr. Charles “Bud” Kramer, emeritus professor in the Division of Biology.  As with most puppies, Daffy needed obedience lessons. One day, Kramer came home from work to his wife, Vel, who handed him a leash with Daffy on the other end, and told him he had 20 minutes to get downtown where he was registered for dog obedience classes. As time went on, and training continued, the couple’s two daughters began to show interest in training and showing dogs.  “The kids saw me training Daffy, and they thought it was pretty neat, so they wanted to get involved with it too,” Kramer said. “Lisa, our youngest, took over training Daffy, and wanted to start showing her.”  Kramer recognized the hobby as a welcomed break from his research, and saw an opportunity

to develop it into a family hobby. However, being a scientificminded person, he needed more information on dog sports if they were to going to continue. The family started attending a summer dog training seminar in Galesburg, Ill, taught by Bob Self, owner of “Front and Finish,” a publication devoted to canine training and performance events. The seminar became an annual tradition for the family, and they became good friends with Self.  In 1983, news had spread to America about a new type of dog sport called agility. Originated in England in 1977 for large dogs, agility is a timed canine event in which the handler instructs the dog through many obstacles. After some convincing from Self, Kramer agreed to write a series of articles for “Front and Finish,” followed by the first complete book on dog agility, thus bringing the sport to the United States.  “I started thinking about how agility could be developed into a program in which all dogs, regardless of size, and handlers,

regardless of their age or ability to run fast, could participate in this kind of program and be successful with it,” Kramer said. “So I developed a set of regulations that would allow this.”  Agility in the United States was met with some resistance at first; however, it has now become one of the most popular events, attracting many new individuals to the sport.  “Agility became so popular, everyone new to dog showing and performance was participating in agility rather than obedience,” Kramer said. “Right at the time I retired, I got to thinking about the decline in number of individuals participating in obedience, and what we could do to promote obedience rather than going straight into agility. That’s when I created rally obedience.”  Rally combines the aspects that handlers enjoy most about agility, such as dog/handler interaction throughout the performance, with the commands and actions of obedience.  “The name, rally style

obedience, was adopted because it uses a series of directional signs somewhat similar to that of rally car racing,” Kramer said.  Although the popularity of both agility and rally has grown, spreading throughout the United States of America, Western Europe, Australia, and a few locations in South America, Dr. Kramer admits that neither he nor his daughters, ever showed dogs in either event. Instead, they always found more enjoyment training and showing dogs in obedience.  “The years that our kids were showing were some really fun times,” Dr. Kramer said. “It has always remained a hobby, and something we did for fun.”  Dr. Kramer, now in his 80s, continues to train dogs and is currently working with a fivepound Papillon, Charlee, that he plans to show in August.  “She’s the smartest dog I’ve ever owned, and we’re going to show her in obedience in August for the first time,” Kramer said.


TRAUMA DRAMA Biology Professor Researches Drama Queen of Immune System


  ivision of Biology’s Sherry Fleming is investigating the factor that initiates the immune system’s “drama queen”: the one responsible for intestinal cell damage after hemorrhage.  Fleming, an associate professor, is using a $140,000 grant from the American Heart Association to identify the molecule responsible for the overreaction that can cause cell death in the intestines after trauma.  “What’s starting this drama queen situation? A 13-year-old girl doesn’t usually become a drama queen without a reason. There’s something that initiated the drama -- clothes, shoes, make-up, movies, etc.,” Fleming said. “With hemorrhage, we’re looking for the initiating factor in the drama which occurs after trauma.”  After a traumatic event, such as the loss of a limb or severe bleeding, the body cuts off blood flow to the intestines, sending more blood


to the vital organs like the heart, lungs and brain, Fleming said. During that time, cells in the gut release molecular markers to let the body know that they are not getting oxygen.  After the trauma is resolved, blood flow is returned to the gut and a protein in the blood -- known as beta2 glycoprotein 1 in mice and apolipoprotein H in humans --

binds to the molecular marker on the cell to notify antibodies that there is a problem. The antibodies then activate a cascade of proteins, known as complement, that normally help the immune system by killing bacteria and helping rid tissues of dying cells. However, after a trauma this system can overreact and unnecessarily kill healthy cells.

 “If you’ve been in a car accident and sever an arm or start hemorrhaging, you want complement there to protect you from bacteria. So we don’t want to stop all complement action entirely,” Fleming said.  But Fleming is looking for a way to interrupt the chain of events leading to the over activation of complement following a traumatic event, because trauma patients often develop further complications throughout their body due to the activation of complement, she said.  “Many times trauma patients who have lost a lot of blood will end up with acute respiratory distress syndrome or multiple organ dysfunction syndrome, due to the complement system overreacting,” Fleming said. “So they not only have to deal with the trauma, but also with their immune system attacking things that it shouldn’t.”  As a possible solution, Fleming and her lab group have developed a peptide that takes the place of the beta2 protein in binding to the molecular marker on the cell’s surface, thus preventing the activation of complement.  “This treatment is a promising solution,” Fleming said. “The funding from the American Heart Association will give us the opportunity to make major progress in this research.”

Daniel Carter accepts the Chris Edler Award for Outstanding Research on Konza from Walter Dodds.

Sam Wisely presents Ellen Alice Rintoul Welti with the Enloe Family Scholarship.

Lynn Hancock presents Theresa Barke with the Haymaker Outstanding Senior Award.

Loretta Johnson presents Jennifer Shelton with the Ackert Award for Outstanding Presentation by a Graduate Student at the Biology Graduate Forum.

Benjamin VanderWeide accepts the Watkins Award for Outstanding Graduate Student Teaching from Dave Hartnett.

Parker Rayl accepts the Most Promising Student Award from Sue Brown.

2011 Undergraduate and Graduate Student Awards

Emily Poholsky accepts the Most Promising Student Award from Larry Williams.

Lynn Hancock presents Vijaya Iyer with the Roth Award for Superior Graduate Student Research in Cellular Biology.

Tony Joern presents Susan Rolfsmeier with the Frazier Award for Excellence in Graduate Student Research in Plant Science.

Jesse Nippert presents Graciela Orozco with the Most Promising Student Award.

Tonia Von Ohlen presents Rebecca Martin with the Haymaker Outstanding Senior Award. Sam Wisely presents Rachel Roth with the Most Promising Student Award.

Lynn Hancock presents Jeff Bryant with the Most Promising Student Award.

Dave Rintoul presents Erica Cain with the Haymaker Award for Outstanding Presentation at the Graduate Forum.


Upcoming Events Kansas Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit Coordination Meeting Date: September 29, 2011, 9am-5pm Location: International Grains Program building Contact: Konza Prairie Anniversary Wine Tasting Celebration Date: September 30, 2011, 6pm-8pm Location: Konza Prairie Barn Contact: Ecological Genomics Symposium Date: November 4-6, 2011 Location: Muehlebach/Marriott Hotel in downtown Kansas City Contact: 10th annual K-INBRE Symposium Date: January 14-15, 2012 Location: Westin Crown Plaza, Kansas City Contact: Graduate Student Forum Date: March 3, 2012 Location: K-State Student Union, Big 12 Room Contact: Division of Biology Main Office, 785-532-6615 or

Listeria monocytogenes biofilms on turkey meat surfaces.

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The Bulletin  
The Bulletin  

A semi-annual publication from the Division of Biology at Kansas State University