MSU Student Research Celebration

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    Creating a Hydraulic Vulnerability Curve for Two-Year Old Ponderosa Pine Seedlings
    (Montana State University, 2023-11) Kincy, Sarah; Hoy-Skubik, Sean; Ulrich, Danielle E.M.
    Anthropogenic driven climate change and subsequent drought conditions have negatively affected limber pine and ponderosa pine forests through mass mortality events, jeopardizing the future of these species and the overall health of montane and subalpine ecosystems. Hydraulic failure is pervasive in tree mortality caused by drought, and results in the loss of conductivity of the xylem through embolism. Complete hydraulic failure is likely not necessary for tree mortality; therefore, quantifying the levels of xylem percent loss of conductivity (PLC) associated with tree death is important for understanding and predicting landscape scale patterns of tree mortality. Hydraulic vulnerability curves can be utilized to quantify the percent loss of conductivity in the xylem at a given water potential, which can then be used to predict the lethal threshold for the species. We’ve created three hydraulic vulnerability curves, one found from limber pine leaves, one from limber pine stems, and one from ponderosa pine stems. These were created by measuring the water potential and PLC of 30 two-year old seedlings having undergone different levels of water stress, ranging from no stress to severe water stress. The lethal threshold for hydraulic failure on the curves were determined using logistic regression. These curves can be utilized to predict landscape scale mortality events of limber pine and ponderosa pine colonies due to ongoing water stress, and ultimately help to conserve and protect these species from future drought conditions.
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    Using Photos to Improve the College Experience of Indigenous BSN Students
    (2023-04) Holt, Nicole
    Purpose: To improve the enrollment, retention, and well-being of American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) students pursuing degrees in nursing through an environmental intervention to reduce cultural mismatch and highlight AI/AN nurses through history. Background: Enrollment of American Indian students in higher education has historically been low. Currently, around 19% of American Indian students enroll in college, while 42% of white students enroll. The population is affected by this lack of education by having the highest poverty rates of any race group. Of the 19% of American Indian students that enroll in college, only a small number graduate. Dropout rates are high among native students due to cultural mismatch, finances, and a lack of representation and cultural understanding at their universities. It is important to explore a variety of environmental approaches to address the obstacles to AI/AN students completion of the 4-year degree. Methods: The display will be in a location that nursing students will pass by frequently, which will help foster a sense of belonging among AI/AN students. Results: Copyright for photos of the nurses will be gained for educational purposes, and the photos will be displayed in the building that houses the Mark & Robyn Jones College of Nursing. Photos in the display will include nurses Elizabeth Sadoques (Abenaki), Virginia Rosebud Sneed Dixon (Cherokee), and Susie Walking Bear Yellowtail (Apsáalooke/Crow), among others. This project is a part of the (Caring for Our Own Program, which has been successful in increasing the enrollment and retention of AI/AN students. The goal of this project will be to continue to increase enrollment and retention but also to improve the well-being of AI/AN students, and then AI/AN communities. Implications: Most native students come from one of the seven American Indian reservations in Montana, and when they graduate, many will return to their communities for their careers. When the students serve their community through nursing, they also serve as role models for younger generations. This will likely encourage children to pursue nursing in college, increasing enrollment. Because they have role models from their communities, these students will likely graduate, increasing retention. Putting up the display is a relatively short-term project, but the effects will be long-lasting.
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    Oral Health Education Through Illustration
    (Montana State University, 2022-04) Holt, Nicole
    American Indian preschool children experience almost three times the rate of untreated decay as children from other groups. There are many aspects to this problem but among them is the slow arrival of information to rural and remote areas. GoodHealthTV (GHTV) is designed to address this information gap and equip parents and families with information to improve overall oral health literacy and confidence in pursuing treatments for their loved ones. This project will consist of two parts; the first is the creation of scientific illustrations explaining a new dental procedure, and the second part is a survey measuring the effectiveness of the illustrations. Broadcasting high-quality information using the GHTV Network depends on strong communication skills, which will be demonstrated through the illustrations. The illustrations will depict complicated chemical processes in a way that benefits the lay audience member. GHTV provides healthcare information to waiting-room patients in 48 Montana IHS clinics. The scientific illustrations will show how silver diamine fluoride (SDF) acts on the tooth so that people will be more likely to allow dental hygienists to use SDF on their children’s teeth. Illustrations will be paired with voice-over text, music, and live footage to create a quality production for statewide viewership. While the drawings are being aired on GHTV in the IHS clinics, surveys will be given to viewers to measure the effectiveness of the illustrations. If the illustrations are effective, parents will have an increased understanding of how SDF works and confidence in electing this new treatment.
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    The link between serum cortisol levels within an American Indian community
    (Montana State Univeristy, 2017-04) Racine, Jerry; Kipp, Colbi
    The purpose of this study is to understand the link between serum cortisol levels within an American Indian community. Stress levels can be determined by serum cortisol, which have a direct impact on the immune system. Historically, Native American communities suffer from various stress disorders related to generational trauma, mental, and substance abuse. This has resulted in increased frequency of infectious disease, autoimmune disease and various cancers. Native American communities, potentially due to high-stress levels affecting their immune systems, suffer from the highest incidence of health disparities. This study seeks to find if there is a direct link between stress-related hormones and an increased vulnerability to disease by comparison of self – reported depression amongst various bio-markers and socio-economic factors. This project fully began in the summer of 2015, canvassing local students and members of the community to engage in this project. Each participant was asked to complete a survey, and donate blood and saliva samples for direct cortisol testing. Analysis was performed of serum and saliva samples for direct cortisol testing. Analysis was performed on serum and saliva samples via Enzyme-linked Immunosorbent assays (ELISA). The assay is performed and analyzed to see the direct link of specific antigens or antibodies attaching to the surface of certain wells, within the ELISA test, to view cortisol levels within the system.
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    Combining both Qualitative and Qualitative Measures
    (Montana State Univeristy, 2017-04) Hall, Terydon; Ollinger, Scott
    This project investigates serum levels of cortisol within a federally recognized tribe. Cortisol, a steroid hormone, is produced and released via adrenal gland function. Relevant to this study, cortisol can be detrimental to humans, as it directly suppresses immune function and thereby increases disease susceptibility. Historically, incidence of chronic disease is markedly higher within Native American populations, than other ethnicities. This mixed-methods study, combining both quantitative and qualitative measures, seeks to determine whether this federally recognized tribe experiences prolonged high-stress events via serum sample and analysis. A further goal of this investigation is to ascertain whether or not stress levels are related to increased infection vulnerability and chronic disease, via a participant self-report survey.
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    Antibiotic Potential of Flathead Fungi and Flora
    (Montana State Univeristy, 2017-04) Powell, Raser
    Widespread overuse of antibiotics in medical and agricultural industries has resulted in extensive antibiotic resistance at the global level, which poses an immediate threat to human health. The most commonly used antibiotics are currently synthesized from fungi & bacteria, yet other organisms such as lichens, bryophytes and pteridophytes have sparked scientific interest as potential sources of antimicrobial compounds, but only a small fraction of species have been tested. The overarching goal of our research is to determine whether locally occurring fungi, lichens, bryophytes, and pteridophytes have antibiotic potential against several pathogenic bacteria. One-hundred-and-ten plant and fungal specimens were collected, identified, dried and deposited in the FVCC herbarium. Samples were later prepared for antibiotic analyses using ethanol extractions and tested using the Kirby-Bauer disk diffusion method. Extractions from 9 different lichen, 3 bryophytes, and 1 pteridophyte species inhibited growth of Staphylococcus epidermidis, but none inhibited that of E. coli. Our continued research in this area will involve testing extractions from additional fungal, plant and lichen species against these bacteria, and combining various extracts to determine whether we can produce more synergistically effective antibiotics.
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    A Mixed-Methods Community Investigation of Trauma and Depression Incidence within an Indigenous Population
    (Montana State Univeristy, 2017-04) Spottes Horse, Dannette; Wagner, Lana
    American Indians experience some of the highest health disparities in the nation per ethnicity, to include lower life expectancy and disproportionate stress, poverty, discrimination in the delivery of health services, poor social conditions, and cultural differences. Increased frequency and intensity of prolonged stress has been related to susceptibility of infection and autoimmune and chronic disease. This inquiry seeks to define the relationship between stress biomarkers, infection, and disease. A primary piece of this investigation is the potential connection between salivary cortisol, trauma, and negative health experiences. This was measured by both quantitative blood and saliva samples compared with the qualitative self-report survey called the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) with the aim of exposing the increased occurrence of chronic disease and infection frequency as well as adverse life conditions community participants were experiencing. Enzyme-linked immunenosorbant assay (ELISA) was used to establish salivary cortisol levels in 110 recruited participants, determining if they exhibited elevated levels of stress. This research further explored additional stress biomarkers such as c-reactive protein and immunoglobin A (IgA). The purpose of this work is to provide information to educate individuals in the management of stress to improve quality of life. We found that there was significant correlation between trauma and depression, though no correlational significance between salivary cortisol, C-reactive protein, nor immunoglobin-A with trauma.
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    West Nile Virus 2016
    (Montana State Univeristy, 2017-04) Capjohn, Lorrie
    The Goal of the West Nile Research on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation is to find the presence of the WNV. There are many steps to take in getting some answers. The first step is trapping and identifying the mosquitos that are carriers of the West Nile Virus, the Culex Tarsalis and Culex Pipien. Once the identification is done we move to extract the RNA from the sample mosquitos. We then prepare the RNA samples for the PCR machine to detect the presence or absence of the West Nile Virus. One of the unique things about Lame Deer is we are a “hot spot” for Culex Pipiens which are rare in other parts of the state. About half of every sample of mosquitos we collect is Culex Pipiens.
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    Targeted Deletion of IFNγ- and GM-CSF-Activated STAT Proteins
    (Montana State Univeristy, 2017-04) Dupuis, Lydia; Domanico, Luke
    Various CRISPR-Cas systems act as adaptive immune system in the archaeal and bacterial domains. These systems utilize captured fragments of foreign genetic sequences to enable the prokaryote to defend against specific threats such as viral genomes. The CRISPR associated proteins (Cas), when expressed along with short segment of guide RNA (gRNA), are able to be used as tools for editing genomes with exquisite precision across all domains of life. Here, we created tools designed to employ CRISPR-Cas technology to target genes that code for STAT1 and STAT5A/B proteins and hypothesize that the resulting STAT knockout cells will be unable to adequately respond to transgenic leishmanial parasites expressing recombinant human IFNγ and GM-CSF, respectively. STAT1 and STAT5A oligonucleotide duplexes were successfully cloned into the pSpCas9(BB)-2A-EGFP plasmid at the tandem BbsI restriction sites. HEK293 cells were successfully transfected with the pSpCas9(STAT1)-2A-EGFP and pSpCas9(STAT5A)-2A-EGFP plasmids as demonstrated by EGFP expression in these cells. Monoclonal strains of HEK293 cells are being screened for unresponsiveness to STAT pathway-activating stimuli. Upon confirmation of successful gRNA-directed Cas9 mutations in STAT genes, lentiviral vectors containing these gRNA-encoding sequences will be used to similarly mutate human monocytic cell lines as an important tool for characterizing human IFNγ- and GM-CSF-expressing leishmanial parasite-mediated monocytic cell activation.
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    Generation of Human Monocytic-Activating Leishmanial Parasites
    (Montana State Univeristy, 2017-04) Kempainnen, Winter; Taylor, Teal
    Macrophages and other monocyte-derived cells are used by the immune system in response to environmental stimuli and the polarized effect of the response can have beneficial or detrimental outcomes in different settings. This project evaluates the efficiency of the specific transgenic Leishmania tarentolae to activate human macrophages and, if successful, the parasites could be used for macrophage-activating therapeutics for infected hosts. We hypothesize that nonpathogenic L. tarentolae expressing human cytokines from transgenes, will activate human macrophages in a consistent and controllable manner. DNA recombination methods were used to clone hIFNG and hGM-CSF into plasmid vectors capable of recombining with the highly repetitive ribosomal RNA locus of leishmanial parasites. In addition, fluorescent protein-coding genes were cloned into the plasmid vectors as a marker of successful genomic integration. Current efforts are focused on optimizing the efficiency of generating transgenic L. tarentolae. In addition to the potential of these transgenic parasites for use as macrophage-activating therapeutics, it is possible through cross protection for these parasites to be used as vaccines against the pathogenic forms of this neglected tropical disease.
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    Analysis of Correlations Between Low Resting Heart Rate, Personality Tendencies, and Decision Making
    (Montana State Univeristy, 2017-04) Pancost, Angie
    Low resting heart rate has been found as a prevalent biological marker for personality tendencies along the antisocial spectrum. Additional characteristics that emerge along the antisocial spectrum include superficial charm, grandiose sense of self-worth, stimulation seeking, and a lack of empathy for others. Studies suggest that this lack of empathy could play a role in jury decisions. This research examines possible correlations between people’s resting heart rates, personality tendencies, and decisions made on court cases. We hypothesize that low resting heart rate will correlate to high prevalence of the three researched personality traits as well as less empathetic decision making in the court case analysis. In order to test the hypothesis, we ran a social survey that collected data on low-resting heart rates, personality traits, and evaluations of court cases. We focused on three main personality tendencies seen in the antisocial personality disorder spectrum: callousness, deceitfulness, and thrill seeking. The court cases selected were particularly difficult scenarios that hinged on perspective. Our goal was to examine the degree to which low resting heart rates, personality traits, and extreme sentencing showed a statistical relationship. Understanding the ways in which biomarkers affect decision making could benefit the legal system tremendously.
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    TRIMmunity and MAGE Interactions
    (Montana State Univeristy, 2017-04) Crane, Brittnee
    Interferon (IFN)-β is involved in immune responses against viral infections. Some TRIM proteins, such as TRIM5 and TRIM22, are IFN-stimulated genes (ISGs) since their expression levels increases in response to IFNβ-intitiated signaling and, interestingly, have been shown to have direct and indirect antiviral activities, respectively. In a recent transciptomic analysis of polarized macrophages, we found that TRIM31 was specifically upregulated in response to INFβ treatment relative to the 32 additional activation conditions tested. We hypothesize that TRIM31 has antiviral activity, a role that may be dependent on formation of active E3 ubiquitin ligase complexes containing melanoma antigen gene (MAGE) proteins. We have initiated yeast-two hybrid-based experiments to confirm interactions between TRIM31 and three members of the MAGE family as well as to identify TRIM31 interaction partners. Co-localization studies will follow. The overall aim of our research program will be to characterize TRIM31 and other TRIM proteins to shed light on this family of proteins that has been subjected to strong, positive evolutionary pressure.
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    Injury Patterns among Skiers and Snowboarders at a Mid-Size Ski Resort
    (Montana State Univeristy, 2017-04) Amtmann, Aiden
    The purpose of this research project is to determine the injuries, injury rates and injury patterns of skiers and snowboarders at a mid-size Montana ski resort. This research may help gather information vital to developing policies and equipment that may help improve safety and injury rates among snow sports enthusiasts. For this project, 161 incident reports from the Ski Patrol Department at Discovery Ski Area were obtained. Each incident report was sorted through to gather information such as; skier/snowboarder, ability, gender, trail difficulty, probable injury, anatomical location of injury, etc. The data concluded that males were more commonly injured than females. Snowboarder injuries were predominantly male (76%), also these males were younger (ages 13-18) and of beginner level. Snowboarders were more likely to have injuries to their shoulders, wrists, and head. On the other hand, skiers had a sweeping majority of knee injuries. Skiers aged 6-12 and 46 and over had the most injuries. Both skiers and snowboarders obtained a majority of possible sprain/strains, with possible fractures following. Also, most incidents occurred during morning hours and on beginner level trails. Replication of this research could provide more information for safety guidelines and protocols for Ski Patrol personnel.
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    Generating Antimicrobial Surfaces with Electrospinning Methods
    (Montana State Univeristy, 2017-04) Sudhakar, Sowmya
    The health care industry is constantly working to improve methods for maintaining environmental hygiene in our everyday lives. In school cafeterias, for example, plastic trays are decontaminated on a daily basis with sanitizing spray. This sanitation method is ineffective for complete removal of all bacterial contaminants. As one alternative to current methods, the use of specific polymer surfaces equipped with integrated patterns has proved to be a highly effective deterrent for bacterial adherence and growth compared to controls. Patterned polymer surfaces were fabricated using a highly efficient and relatively simple nanoimprint lithography method. Staphylococcus aureus is one type of bacteria commonly found in the nose, respiratory tract, and skin. Mycobacterium tuberculosis is another prime example of potentially hazardous bacterium that can thrive actively inside the human body. The alarming aspect of both Staphylococcus aureus and Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacterium species is their rapid increase in resistance to modern pharmaceuticals over the last 50 years (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2013). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated that increased drug resistance has cost the public billions of dollars and taken millions of lives. It is therefore imperative that alternatives to traditional antibacterial methods be explored. Electrospinning is a highly-recognized fabrication method utilized for its cost-efficient production of ultrafine fibers that can be produced with ease. The ultrafine fibers produced from electrospinning range in size from the nano to micro-scale and have beneficial qualities such as flexible structural morphology characteristics, high surface area, and the ability to manipulate mechanical properties. Antimicrobial polymer surfaces were made with a combination of electrospinning, electroplating, and nanoimprint lithography. The fabrication process and results from bacterial plaque counts will be presented.
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    Analyzing the Effects of Treating Human Lung Cell Tissue with a Low-Level Chronic Metal Mixture
    (Montana State Univeristy, 2017-04) Paolini, Morgan
    In 1983, Butte, Montana was designated a Superfund site due to the impact of over a century of mining activity. A recent study was conducted analyzing the accumulation of 36 elements in the hair and 11 elements in the blood of Butte residents as opposed to a control population, as well as an analysis of the soil and air of the Butte area. Elevated levels of several metals, including Cu, Mn, and As, were found in the hair, blood, soil, and air. The focus of this study was on the elevated metals in the air, arsenic and manganese. Previous studies have shown that elevated levels of metals, such as Pb, As, and Mn, can evoke serious health effects such as neurodegenerative diseases and cancers. In order to investigate the toxicity of airborne metal ions on Butte residents, this study replicated the environmental exposure of the airborne metals found in the human study, and evaluated the biological response of normal lung cells. To do this, human lung cell tissue (BEAS-2B) was treated with a low-level chronic metal mixture of either NaAsO2, MnCl2·4H2O, or a mixture of the two metals. Following metal exposure, the cell cultures were assessed with XTT cell viability assays measuring cell viability based on mitochondrial respiration and gene array plates measuring genetic changes. The results of these tests are expected to provide preliminary knowledge regarding the health impacts of low-level chronic metal exposure effects on human lung cells.
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    How can the Gallatin Valley Lactation Program utilize Department of Family Services home-visit data to analyze breastfeeding rates for at-risk families?
    (Montana State Univeristy, 2017-04) Evans, Laura
    Research was conducted by examining already-existing, deidentified data sets concerning breast feeding data from the Montana Department of Family Services and information from Home Visiting, which is part of Gallatin City County Health Department. The data contained the number of referrals to the Department of Family Services, and information from Home Services. This data was gathered and combined into one data set in order to evaluate the possible correlation between breastfeeding rates and at-risk families. For the purposes of this study at-risk is defined as tobacco users, parents with mental illness, and drug use. The data sets were not publicly available, but were given on request. There are no restrictions on the data sets. This research will provide the basis of a grant proposal needed by the Lactation Education Program. The main focus of this research is to examine the possible correlations between the rates of breastfeeding over six months and the number of children referred to the Department of Family Services. The reason the rates are examined over six months is because it has been shown that the benefits of breastfeeding only show up after this period of time with sustained breastfeeding. Although, the breastfeeding rates of Gallatin County are the highest in Montana, they are not sustained. A meta-literature review was also conducted to gather the major findings concerning breastfeeding rates and the behavior described above that can classify a family as at-risk. Once completed the Lactation Education Program hopes to use the findings to support their grant writing efforts. Their grant will be used to institute programs that will hopefully reduce the number of children referred to the Department of Family Services by increasing the rates of breastfeeding.
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    Gap junctions in the development of the nervous system
    (Montana State Univeristy, 2017-04) Warthen, Theodore
    Gap junctions are intercellular ion channels composed of two intermembrane protein complexes called connexons, which are bound together forming an intercellular pore. These pores then allow for passive transport of small molecules and ions. Calcium along with other ions that move through these gap junctions are known to be involved in intercellular communication. We hypothesize that intercellular signaling through gap junctions helps begin, direct, and end developmental processes such as convergent extension in the embryonic stages of gastrulation and neurulation. I have begun to determine at which stages gap junction proteins (connexins) are expressed. To do this cDNA (DNA reverse transcribed from RNA isolated from blastula, gastrula and neurula Xenopus laevis embryos) was used as a template for PCR with primers specific to each connexin. The PCR products were analyzed by gel electrophoresis (the primers had been tested previously and were known to be functional). By using this form of PCR we were able to determine what genes were expressed at what stages. The connexin 46 and connexin 43.4 genes were found to be expressed at stages 18 and 20 (late neurula and early tailbud), while connexin 30 was found to be expressed at stages 12-20 (late gastrula through early tailbud). There were several connexin genes, which were not expressed at the stages that were tested. The next step is to determine the expression patterns of the expressed genes through in situ hybridization of gastrula and neurula Xenopus embryos.
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    Vicarious Victimization: An Overview of Prevelance, Predictors, Symptoms and Outcomes
    (Montana State Univeristy, 2017-04) Wagner, Greer
    Conversations around vicarious trauma, secondary traumatic stress, burnout, compassion fatigue and/or vicarious victimization have taken place in victim service provider occupations since the 1990s. Overall, the focus has primarily been retroactive and hypothetical in nature, which fails to address how, why, and to what degree these phenomena affect individuals who regularly work with victimized people. Current literature in this area focuses on four key categories: 1) prevalence of the problem, 2) predictors, 3) symptoms and medicalization, and 4) outcomes/interventions. The purpose of examining hundreds of articles in each of these areas was to produce an Oxford bibliography. This document will serve as a comprehensive overview of the research and aid in future researcher’s exploration of where innovation is most needed.
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    Fossil record of the Rock Iguana genus Cyclura (Family: Iguanidae) in Cuba: implications for its systematics, paleoecology, and paleodistribution
    (Montana State Univeristy, 2017-04) Lopez, Lazaro Vinola
    The West Indies is one of the areas with highest biodiversity and number of endanger species in our planet. Circumscribed to this area is the genus of Rock Iguanas, Cyclura. For very long time, it has been study to understand dispersion and speciation models that take place on islands. New fossils remains from three Quaternary deposit in western Cuba have shown the presence of an unknown giant species of Cyclura that coexisted with the living specie Cyclura nubila. Morphological comparison with another eight species from the Antilles and histologic comparison between this C. sp. and fossils and modern remain of C. nubila is used to determinate the taxonomic status of the specie. Interspecific competition, extirpation, extinction and response to human modification of both taxa in Cuba, has further implication for the conservation of the other species, most of them under critical status of conservation.
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    Reconstructing suicide vs. elevation datasets and related analyses
    (Montana State Univeristy, 2017-04) Ulrich, Rachel
    Dr. Mark Greenwood has authored a locally published textbook for STAT 217 – an intermediate statistics course offered at MSU – and is interested in incorporating an exploration of data on county suicide rates and a possible connection to elevation. Both elevation and suicide rate information are publicly available, but researchers using these data sets have not published a holistic dataset incorporating the multiple sources from which this information stems. I plan to recreate a dataset focusing on the potential relationship between altitude and suicide rates in the contiguous United States based upon two well-publicized articles. In addition to providing a thought-provoking textbook example, this dataset and exact methods for reconstruction will be submitted to MSU’s Scholarworks and made available as a public geospatial dataset on ArcGIS Online, allowing other researchers interested in these data access to an easily analyzed version. A comparison of results will serve as a verification of methods, possibly allowing me to improve upon these methods in future research.
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