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Biology professor, students researching amphibian population decline

 

GREENVILLE, Pa.—Thiel College Assistant Professor of Biology Christopher Fonner, Ph.D., is investigating the effects of sex hormones on susceptibility to a deadly fungal pathogen in amphibian species.

The project is part of the Greenville Neuromodulation Center (GNC) Faculty/Student Research Institute. Fonner is assisted by biology majors Alana Callahan ’17 and Amber Martin ’17.

The team is investigating how mating behavior and conditions might affect the susceptibility of red-backed salamanders to a certain chytrid fungus. The fungus can lead to a disease which has been implicated as a cause of population declines of numerous amphibians. Studies have not yet examined the effects of sex hormones on this issue.

“This project will provide students an opportunity to apply their biological knowledge from the classroom to a hands-on, real-life scientific problem,” Fonner said. “Students will be able to improve their scientific writing skills, as well as their application of critical thinking skills, to troubleshooting different issues during experiments. This project will increase undergraduate research visibility for Thiel College via publication and presentation, and make a suitable project for continued research for future undergraduates.”

Callahan, a 2013 graduate of Austintown-Fitch High School and resident of Austintown, Ohio, plans to pursue a career as a physician’s assistant. Martin, a 2013 graduate of Shaler Area High School and resident of Allison Park, Pa., plans to attend graduate school for biology.

Fonner received his doctorate in biology from Duquesne University in 2015. He won first place for his poster presentation at Duquesne University’s Graduate Student Research Symposium in 2014. Fonner also won a travel award from the North American Society for Comparative Endocrinology in 2011. He began teaching at Thiel College in fall 2015.

In 2015, Thiel College alumni Fred Haer ’65 and his wife, Jill (Shackett) ’66, pledged more than $400,000 to fund the GNC Faculty/Student Research Institute from 2015-2017. It is open to all Thiel College faculty members and focuses on connecting science and the liberal arts. In its second year, six other research projects are a part of the institute.


About Thiel College

Thiel College is an independent college founded in the Lutheran tradition. Located in Greenville, Pa., the College offers 60 majors and minors, 24 varsity sports, and an 11:1 student-faculty ratio. The College is also home to a Master of Science in speech-language pathology, a Leadership Master of Business Administration and a Management Master of Business Administration. Both master’s degree programs offer innovative and accelerated five-year paths which allow students to earn a bachelor’s and master’s degree in five years. The speech-language pathology program also has an accelerated 15-month graduate-level program. The M.B.A. program also has a 12-month post-graduate program. A dedicated faculty paired with dynamic research and internship opportunities produce numerous graduate school and job placements. Coeducational from its beginnings, the College remains committed to combining tradition with innovation.


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