Penn State University hosts The Undergraduate Exhibition annually to provide undergraduate students of all PSU campuses the opportunity to showcase their engagement experiences, research projects and performance arts with a variety of media and poster presentations for the university and for the public.
Renner Lab’s Undergraduate Researcher, Arthi Bala, who is a sophomore in the Biology Department of the Eberly College of Science, presented her first research poster Wednesday evening, which outlined her research completed over the last two semesters with Mentor Adam Rork. The research titled “Multiple Losses of Folate Cycle Genes in Archaea” focuses on bioinformatic analysis in the conservation and loss of genes involved in the folate cycle related to purine biosynthesis, resulting in maximum-likelihood Archaean phylogenies. The proposed phylogenies suggest evolutionary pathways in 18 Archaen orders for two purine biosynthesis genes, FTHFS and FOLD.
The Renner Lab is very excited for the great work being done by our undergraduate researchers and their mentors, and are equally excited to have Arthi Bala joining us during Summer 2019 for additional bioinformatics research, fieldwork, laboratory science!
Doctoral candidate Adam Rork was interviewed by CBS affiliate WTAJ about our research recently published in Arthropod Structure & Development. We found rubber-like resilin inside a beetle defensive system, which could be protecting the insects from the toxic chemicals they produce.
This September, the Renner Lab participated in The Great Insect Fair, hosted by the Department of Entomology at Penn State. The fair celebrates insect (and some arthropod!) biodiversity and showcases pollinators, morphological and physiological adaptations, parasite manipulation of host behavior (Zombie ants!), vector-born disease, among other areas (see faculty pages and interests here). This year, we developed a new booth named ‘Centre County Carnivores!’, which introduced the public to carnivorous plants (and their relatives) that grow natively in bog ecosystems surrounding State College, PA. Participants learned about these amazing plants’ unique morphologies for trapping prey (concepts: adaption, convergent evolution, homology, are traps leaves or flowers – why or why not?) and how these amazing plants digest their insect prey (concepts: pH, enzymes, microbial communities). We also demonstrated the activity of cysteine protease, an enzyme used by independent lineages of carnivorous plants to digest prey. It was a great day and our new booth was even featured in a PennLive article!
Image of our Centre County Carnivore! booth. Marcus Schneck, email@example.com
Cysteine protease experiment using pineapple juice (contains bromelain) and gummi worms (contains gelatin protein). Results after 12 hours, L to R: worms, worms + H2O, worms + pineapple juice (worms are almost completely degraded!).
We explore evolutionary patterns and processes that drive functional diversification. We are particularly interested in how multi-species interactions shape diversity on a genome-wide scale and influence form and function. Our research combines applied molecular biology with next-generation sequencing, bioinformatics, and phylogenetics. We use plants and insects as models to study adaptation and current projects focus on the evolution of chemical and structural defenses.
Tanya visits with Wendy Moore’s lab at the University of Arizona for some ‘beetling’ in the eastern foothills of the Santa Catalina mountain range for our collaborative NSF project. Our goal was to find some quinone-producing Chlaenius and the bombardier beetle Brachinus. Pictured: Reilly McManus (Moore Lab, U. Arizona) holds up a vial of Chlaenius near the edge of a stream, rimmed with loose rocks. The perfect habitat for these beetles.
The Renner Lab provided content related to carnivorous plants and their digestive fluid for Atlas Obscura‘s article featuring man-eating plant myths: “Once the idea of a giant, flesh-eating plant enters the imagination, it can be hard to dislodge. Imagine this: you’re in the jungle, and you discover a plant with surprisingly large, tentacle-like leaves. The clearing is full of a heavy, sweet smell. Maybe there’s an animal skeleton under the plant. Did the leaves move? Was that just the wind? You move closer, and the plant seems to yearn towards you….” Read the full article on Atlas Obscura’s webpage.
“Insects invade Student Union for annual festival… Buzz, buzz, buzzzzzz. Most people run at the slightest detection of a buzzing bug, but people will be flocking to them this Sunday at the Student Union Memorial Center Grand Ballroom to attend the fourth annual Arizona Insect Festival.” – By Patrick O’Connor / The Daily Wildcat. Read more about it here.