Read the current issue here!
Read the current issue here!
Erica Hayes recently joined Research Services and Scholarly Engagement (RSSE) as Digital Scholarship Librarian. RSSE works to support research, teaching, and learning at Villanova University; enabling the discovery of, access to, and stewardship of a vast array of scholarly resources.
Hayes earned a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from Chapman University in Orange, CA; a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, specializing in poetics from California State University, Long Beach; and a Master of Library Science and Master of Information Science from Indiana University, Bloomington.
She is passionate about scholarship and was an Adjunct Professor teaching English Literature and Composition courses when a colleague’s spouse, who was a Digital Humanities Librarian, introduced her to the world of digital scholarship. Encompassing a variety of subjects, digital scholarship lies at the intersection between technology and research. She is excited to collaborate with Villanova faculty and students to help bring their research to life.
“Integrating digital tools into research methods can extend traditional methods of scholarship, sharing knowledge and pedagogy beyond the page,” she says.
While at IU Bloomington, Hayes worked on several projects including the Petrarchive Project, an open access “rich-text” digital edition of Francesco Petrarca’s songbook Rerum Vulgarium Fragmenta. “The project proposes a new digital way of visualizing, studying, and investigating Petrarch’s work by offering a more ‘authentic’ text as well as multiple indices and tools to access the diverse strata of the work’s composition and cultural contextualization.”
Exhibit: Bird by Bird
She also worked at the Lilly Library, IU Bloomington’s Rare Books and Special Collections Library, as the Web Development Assistant, managing digital collections, Omeka online exhibits, and their website. Collaborating with faculty, Hayes assisted in developing touchscreen exhibits for the library’s special collection exhibits: One of which accompanied the permanent exhibition of John James Audubon’s double elephant folio, Birds of America. “The touchscreen exhibit featured 50 plates of North American bird species from the collection and was created to make the volumes more accessible to library visitors. The touchscreen helped make the collection more interactive while offering an opportunity for patrons to learn more about Audubon and his life,” she explains.
Before starting at Falvey Memorial Library, Hayes completed a two-year fellowship at the NC State University Libraries working in the Copyright and Digital Scholarship Center and the User Experience Department. She led a variety of Digital Scholarship workshops including storytelling with GIS, georeferencing historical maps, and text and data mining.
As the Project Manager on the Immersive Scholar Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant at the NC State University Libraries, Hayes also worked with a group of scholars to create large-scale visualizations and extensible models for the James B. Hunt Jr. Library’s visualization walls. She says, “managing the grant’s workflows, I worked closely with creative residents we hosted at the NC State University Libraries on developing open source visualization projects to be shared across institutions.”
Mapping African Coinage
In her free time, Hayes enjoys traveling, experiencing new cultures, and is looking forward to exploring Philadelphia. Currently, she is also collaborating with her friend, Dr. Kacie Wills, on a digital humanities project, entitled “Exploring the Collections of Sarah Sophia Banks,” which was recently awarded a research grant from the Keats-Shelley Association of America. Sarah Sophia Banks was the sister to Joseph Banks, President of the Royal Society and famed botanist on the Cook Voyages. “While her life has often been overshadowed by her brother, Sarah Sophia was an avid collector of coins, medals, and tokens from around the world. It was most unusual for a woman to study numismatics during the eighteenth century and some of her coins are incredibly rare. For our project, we are mapping the African coins detailed in her coin catalogues that are housed at the British Museum and the Royal Mint,” she says. “Our GIS map features coins from her catalogues, which connects the coin’s location of authority to their places of issue in order to display these unique coins, tokens, and medals while showing how money was being distributed during the growing British Empire.”
As she works to build a digital scholarship program at Villanova, Hayes invites the campus community to reach out and set up an appointment with her: “I can help students incorporate digital tools into their scholarship and assist faculty with developing digital pedagogy assignments in the classroom.”
Hayes’ office is in the Learning Commons of Falvey Memorial Library, room 229. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Each year, before the fall semester begins, the Villanova Institute for Teaching and Learning (VITAL) sponsors a new faculty orientation program that supports faculty new to Villanova University. Partnering with VITAL, Falvey Memorial Library co-sponsored a continental breakfast on Wednesday, Aug. 21, in Falvey’s Speakers’ Corner.
Library Director Millicent Gaskell welcomed new faculty, highlighted library services, and discussed library initiatives, including the Affordable Materials Project (AMP) and the Scholarship Open Access Reserve (SOAR) Fund. The assemblage provided new faculty members the opportunity to gather according to discipline for informal discussions with liaison librarians.
This is not just any cart filled with books. These are the newest print titles that the Library has added to its collection of over a million print and electronic books.
Each was selected due to its ability to support the teaching, learning, and research needs of the entire Villanova University community, including undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, and staff. It is part of the Library’s effort to advance knowledge on campus, promote information discovery and access, encourage intellectual curiosity, and empower users by providing timely and critical information resources.
The Library understands the impact of evolving information technologies, changing scholarly communication practices, new forms of information seeking behaviors, and learning styles in a networked world.
The library also acknowledges the interdisciplinary nature of academic resources and firmly believe in free and open access to knowledge, freedom of expression, diversity, interculturality, and inclusion in all its collections. As such, it promotes open access educational resources, zero-cost classroom texts, and DRM free e-resources whenever possible when making collection building decisions.
Learn more about the Library’s process of developing its collection here: https://library.villanova.edu/collections/development/collection-development-statements
But we also rely on faculty and students to help guide the selection process.
If you discover a resource that should be added to the collection, the Library staff welcomes you to visit the website and suggest the purchase of a title. It may be just the thing students will need for their next groundbreaking research project!
Shawn Proctor, MFA, is Communications and Marketing Program Manager at Falvey Memorial Library. He most recently read Dar Williams’ book What I Found in a Thousand Towns.
Sarah Hughes recently joined Research Services and Scholarly Engagement as the Nursing and Life Sciences Librarian. Research Services and Scholarly Engagement works to support research, teaching, and learning at Villanova University; enabling the discovery of, access to, and stewardship of a vast array of scholarly resources.
A native of New Jersey, Hughes has a passion for research, earning a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from Rutgers University and a Master of Science in Library and Information Science from the Pratt Institute. She is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Professional Communication from William Paterson University.
“I enjoyed spending time in the library as an undergrad and eventually discovered that I wanted to pursue a career that was both research oriented, but also personal, where I helped people,” she says.
Her interest in the field began when she enrolled in a medical librarianship course taught onsite at Weil Cornell Medicine in Manhattan. “I was in the same building that was being used by the doctors, residents, and nurses. It was exciting. I liked the idea that the research I was assisting the community in could be used for making advances in medicine,” Hughes says.
Furthering her knowledge of the profession, Hughes worked several internships in various hospitals and institutions, including the New York Academy of Medicine, the Manhattan VA Medical Center, and the University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro. The experience she gained helped make for a smooth transition from medical librarian to academic librarian.
Hughes is familiar with academic libraries due to her work with nursing students at Dominican College and teaching library instruction courses to undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral students at William Paterson University before transitioning to Falvey Memorial Library. Hughes knew Falvey Library was right for her when she saw that the scholarly librarian position focused exclusively on nursing and life sciences. “I have a deep respect for nurses. Working in the emergency department at Princeton, I was amazed by all of the tasks the nurses dealt with during their shifts.”
Hughes says she is excited to meet the students and faculty in the fall and encourages the Villanova community to reach out and set up an appointment. “I can assist nursing students with finding and using databases, utilizing citation management tools, and pointing them towards great evidence-based practice resources.” Faculty in the Fitzpatrick College of Nursing can also contact Hughes about research consultations. “Research is a big undertaking and takes a great amount of time—months, sometimes years. We’re exploring what tools the library can offer to help scholars in the sciences and other disciplines. Given that Villanova is R2: doctoral university, the stakes and the expectations are higher, and we need to support them.”
In her free time, Hughes enjoys going to see live music, watching foreign and documentary films, exploring new restaurants, traveling, and spending time outdoors kayaking. An avid tennis fan, she likes watching her favorite players Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
“My door is always open to students and faculty. The Fitzpatrick College of Nursing is very prestigious, so I’m thrilled to have a great group of students with which to work. There’s so many different avenues they can take once they finish their degree. I’m excited to help prepare students for their time at Villanova and beyond.”
Hughes’ office is located in the Learning Commons on the second floor of Falvey Memorial Library. Room 220. 610-519-8129. Email: email@example.com. She will also be at Driscoll Hall from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thursdays this fall.
Kallie Stahl MA ’17 is Communication and Marketing Specialist at Falvey Memorial Library.
BY SHAWN PROCTOR
This is part 6 of a 6-part series featuring the 2019 Falvey Scholars. Read more about them every Tuesday and in the upcoming issue of Mosaic: the library’s bi-annual publication.
Ritesh Karsalia ’19 CLAS (Biology major; Latin American Studies, Spanish Language & Literature minors)
Hometown: Colonia, New Jersey
Faculty Mentor: Anil Bamezai, PhD, Professor, Director Graduate Program
Research: “Investigating the role of ordered (Io) and disordered (Id) phases within the plasma membrane of primary CD4+ helper T lymphocytes in their antigen-specific responses”
In his own words:
My research process is founded on the scientific method, which has allowed me to conduct empirical experiments to test various immunological hypotheses. The subset of my laboratory group that I’ve focused on has been the spatiotemporal regulation of CD4+ helper T cells in response to foreign antigens.
While my principal investigator has been conducting research in this field for much of his professional career, not much information is known about the dynamic orchestration of cellular membrane-proximal signaling events and how they specifically affect the immune cell’s ability to respond. Therefore, I first began compiling the current scientific literature related to lipid-raft signaling and membrane-proximal CD4+ T cell signaling in order to locate the gaps in the current knowledge base.
My research project ultimately builds upon a series of previous studies that investigates how the order of cellular membranes, regulated by lipids, proteins, and cholesterol situated within regions called lipid-rafts, affects the ability of CD4+ T cells to respond appropriately. There are a few studies that have previously discovered that the order of CD4+ T cell membranes can be disrupted with a cholesterol-derivative, 7-ketocholesterol, leading to a decreased CD4+ response in the presence of a foreign antigen.
“CD4+ T cells are the major regulators of our immune system, and with so much disease history and technological developments in our modern world, I did not think that there were still so many question marks related to CD4+ T cell responses.” –Ritesh Karsalia, 2019 Falvey Scholar
Analyzing these studies allowed me to understand that increased membrane disorder leads to decreased CD4+ T cell response, if the disorder is induced relatively early (within 24 hours of antigen presentation). I then asked the broader questions of 1) whether this process is reversible and 2) how this process mechanistically occurs. Previous investigations had been unable to determine these aspects of this phenomenon, and the answers to these questions would allow scientists to better modulate CD4+ T cell responses though membrane order/disorder.
After asking these questions, I again went through the published scientific literature and looked at previous studies conducted by previous members in my laboratory to look for different biological mechanisms that could be affecting this process. I learned what mechanisms had already been unsuccessfully shown to affect this process and looked at some of the other promising events governing T-cell activation as areas of inquiry.
By reading previous literature that explained how 7-ketocholesterol specifically disrupts the order of lipid-rafts, I was able to hypothesize a potential way to reconstitute the disordered membrane and assess CD4+ T cell response, afterwards.
I started physically performing cell-culture experiments to test my hypotheses. I worked with DO11 BALB/c transgenic mice that were bred in the vivarium in the Mendel Science Center. Since I was primarily focused on analyzing the cellular responses of CD4+ T cells, I harvested the lymph nodes from these cells and appropriately treated these cells to test my hypotheses.
These treatment groups included solutions containing 7-ketocholesterol (to induce disorder) and cholesterol (to reconstitute order). Multiple concentration ranges were used for each treatment group to understand relevant dosage-effects. To gain a better understanding of the biological mechanism(s) affecting membrane-order-based responses, western blots were used to analyze ubiquitination patterns after the T-cells were appropriately treated with 7-ketocholesterol and/or cholesterol and stimulated with a monoclonal antibody.
The expression of CD69, an early activation marker of cell activation that is implicated with CD4+ T cell proliferation, was also analyzed using flow cytometry to understand if the processes governing the expression of this protein were affected by increased membrane disorder. For all the experiments I performed, MTT assays, which measure the metabolic activity of cells, were used to quantify how much proliferation and activation occurred in each treatment group.
Ritesh’s “Falvey Experience”:
The Falvey Memorial Library staff and the resources were crucial to the success of my research project. I am extremely grateful for the subscriptions that the Falvey Library provided to a diverse array of online scientific journals.
As my research project was founded upon related previous studies, and a lot of my work focused on filling in the gaps between these works, I was only able to access the hundreds of publications that I have read along the course of my project due to the library’s subscriptions.
These resources were also valuable when I was performing my experimental procedures. For example, I needed to isolate macrophages (which present the foreign antigens to the CD4+ cells) as part of my procedure when setting up my cell cultures to test for the effect of the different treatment groups. My laboratory did not have the kit that would allow me to isolate these macrophages from the lymph nodes of our mice, and the cost of the kit (over $1000) exceeded my budget. Thanks to the subscriptions that Falvey Library provided, I was able to find an alternate procedure which involved harvesting the macrophages from the bone marrow of the mice. This procedure was one which was unfamiliar to my laboratory group, but using the resources that the library provided, I was able to successfully implement the procedure into my experiment.
Additionally, I attended numerous presentations by Robin Bowles, then Falvey’s Nursing and Biology Librarian, when I was participating in the Villanova Undergraduate Research Fellowship for my research project. Robin helped me tremendously when it came to performing targeted searches for publications relevant to my project.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of information known about the spatiotemporal regulation of the cell membrane in the context of CD4+ T cell responses. Early in the summer, I visited Robin in the library – thanks to her help, I was able to gain access to a relatively recent international publication about CD69’s implication in tumor immunity. Through the interlibrary loan system and the help of Robin, I was able to access this publication. This was a very helpful document in persuading me to investigate CD69 expression as a part of my research project. Robin’s presentations also introduced me to Zotero and proper reference management. I have not had much exposure to writing scientific literature before this project, so the resources that the library provided to introduce me to documentation management, in-text citations, and creating an appropriate works cited section were invaluable.
The Impact on Him:
This project taught me the importance of using past research and inquiry as a guide to understanding the current state of our knowledge base and as a building block to expand upon. After completing my research project, I’ve really come to understand how the work that we, as critical thinkers and investigators, perform is really part of a larger academic collective.
When asking new questions and expanding upon the questions that our colleagues have previously asked, we’re ultimately creating a more comprehensive knowledge base for the future. It was extremely humbling to realize how the work that I performed is directly connected to the work that other international investigators have performed for tens of years.
This experience has influenced my academic goals because it has also taught me how much more information is still out there to be uncovered, and how crucial investigation is towards the advancement of science.
As an aspiring healthcare professional, I was shocked to learn that so many of the processes related to CD4+ T cell signaling are still unknown. CD4+ T cells are the major regulators of our immune system, and with so much disease history and technological developments in our modern world, I did not think that there were still so many question marks related to CD4+ T cell responses.
This experience has made me more cognizant of the importance of scholarly inquiry and has persuaded me to continue performing research as I advance in medical school and become a physician. The work I will one day be able to perform as a physician will only be possible due to past research, so I hope to continue to contribute to the field and aid in its advancements through further scholarly investigations.
Shawn Proctor, MFA, is communications and marketing program manager at Falvey Memorial Library.
BY SHAWN PROCTOR
This is part 5 of a 6-part series featuring the 2019 Falvey Scholars. Read more about them every Tuesday and in the upcoming issue of Mosaic: the library’s bi-annual publication.
Erica Ferrara ’19 CLAS (Psychology and Honors major with a Political Science minor)
Hometown: New Rochelle, N.Y.
Faculty Mentor: Deena Weisberg, PhD, Assistant Professor Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences
Research: Test Anxiety in Elementary School Students in Relation to Standardized Testing
In her own words:
I began my research process in the Honors Program Senior Thesis course by committing to the topic of test anxiety in grade school students and enlisting mentors for the project—Dr. Deena Weisberg and Dr. Steven Krauss.
My overall goal was to conduct a comprehensive literature review about the topic, and then to use the information to design my own ideal intervention for combating test anxiety experienced by elementary school students, as well as lay out a proposed study for evaluating this intervention’s efficacy. For the fall, I decided to focus on the literature review, and for the spring I planned to work on my novel intervention proposal.
Falvey Memorial Library’s website provided me with all of the background research articles I needed to download and begin writing as the core basis of my project. My full rough draft for the Fall semester included three main sections: anxiety in general and test anxiety specifically, standardized testing, and previously attempted prevention and intervention methods for test anxiety.
For the spring semester, I utilized this literature review as a basis in designing my own original novel intervention to assist elementary school students struggling with symptoms of test anxiety in relation to standardized testing.
My final written draft of my literature review and my own proposal for an intervention combined spans over 80 pages!
Erica’s “Falvey Experience”:
Through Falvey Memorial Library I had access to many research articles concerning my selected topic. With such a large online selection, I was able to find all of the information that I needed to become informed about my topic, write a comprehensive literature review, and then form my own thoughts into a novel intervention combining the effective aspects of prior ones I read of in empirical articles.
Many of the articles I included require outside subscriptions if I did not have the Falvey website to work through. In a few cases, I utilized the Interlibrary Loan system set up through our library as well. I genuinely do not know how I would have gathered the sources I needed without the Library’s online system.
In addition, the Library consistently provided a conducive environment in which I was able to complete my work. The 24-hour section of Old Falvey was especially convenient for later nights. Knowing that I always had a quiet place to go to where everyone around me was working hard as well was quite comforting and motivating.
The Impact on Her:
This Honors Thesis was the first time I have committed to such a comprehensive task that was largely my own independent research. From this experience, I have learned many valuable research skills that I know I will carry into my future academic work.
I gained the independence and confidence to make my own decisions to truly make this project my own from this freedom and support.
Next year, I will enroll in a psychology clinical research methods master’s program with the ultimate goal of continuing my schooling to eventually earn a doctorate in child clinical psychology.
I aim to become a practitioner as well as to conduct research concerning the etiology, diagnosis, and treatment of anxiety and related disorders in young children, in a sense continuing the work that I have started through this thesis project. I aim to contribute to addressing this important problem that is currently growing even more in prevalence in society today.
Shawn Proctor, MFA, is communications and marketing program manager at Falvey Memorial Library.
BY SHAWN PROCTOR
This is part 4 of a 6-part series featuring the 2019 Falvey Scholars. Read more about them every Tuesday and in the upcoming issue of Mosaic: the library’s bi-annual publication.
Hometown: Hershey, Pa.
Faculty Mentor: Michael Curran, PhD, Assistant Professor, Economics
Research: The Financial Industry in the Era of Fiat Currency: An Empirical Approach
Other Honors: Villanova Undergraduate Research Fellows Summer Program Grant
My research project involved curating a literature review covering developments in the measurement of financial regulation, monetary policy, and the growth of the financial industry.
Following understanding the literature surrounding these topics, I conducted a Vector Autoregression (VAR) and Structural Vector Autoregression analysis using data on financial compensation, monetary policy, financial deregulation, and unionization.
Through my research I found that as the money supply in the economy increases that wages in the financial industry rose faster than wages in the rest of the economy. Between 1973 and 2015 employees in the financial industry saw their wages grow from 80 percent of averages wages to 150 percent.
Today, we assume that money is neutral. This study suggests significant non-neutralities of money due to the persistent relationship between the monetary base and financial variables. Banks need to be aware of how their policies will impact the distribution of jobs and production, and plan monetary interventions accordingly.
Matthew’s “Falvey Experience”:
The library was of immeasurable value, especially in writing the literature review. Writing the literature review involved reading and compiling sources from the cutting edge of the economics discipline, as the topic I researched has not been researched by many other scholars. I accessed almost every journal through the library, as they were restricted by “paywalls,” which made my research efficient.
Moreover, the private study spaces that populate Falvey Memorial Library were oases where my productivity could flourish.
In previous, but related research, Linda Hauck, Academic Librarian for Business and Human Resource Development, assisted me with finding data sources that I carried over into this project.
The Impact on Him:
I learned a great deal about writing literature reviews from this process, and I also learned applications of matrix algebra in the VAR setting. This experience has made me more confident about becoming an academic economist and has given me the confidence to write literature for my graduate-level political science classes.
I am continuing my Villanova education next year in order to earn a master’s in political science and Government. Beyond that, I plan to pursue a pre-doctoral fellowship then a PhD.
Shawn Proctor, MFA, is communications and marketing program manager at Falvey Memorial Library.
John Banionis recently joined the Resource Management and Description Department as the Metrics and Assessment Librarian. Part of Collections and Stewardship, the Resource Management and Description Department assists in building healthy and robust library collections through active conversations with campus communities and strong collaborations with internal and external partners.
“My role relates to the business end of the library. I look at the usage of library materials and develop a comprehensive cost-per-use methodology to support data-driven decision making about Falvey’s resources. I gather data and analyze specific interest points in order to help showcase the value of Falvey and its initiatives to the larger community.”
A native of Philadelphia, Banionis earned a Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies from Penn State University, a Certificate in Copyright Leadership and Management from the University of Maryland, and a Master of Science in Library and Information Science from Drexel University. Working in sales for numerous journal publishers before transitioning to Falvey Memorial Library, Banionis always had an interest in scholarly publishing.
“I’m excited to move to the library side of the equation, to develop customized solutions for Falvey and integrate data analysis into the library’s workflow.”
Though Banionis typically works with Falvey Library staff, he encourages Villanova faculty and students to reach out to him if they have any specific questions about resource usage levels (using actual data numbers) for determining what resources might be of most interest to students and faculty in a specific department/college.
He also encourages faculty to converse with him about publishing options: “I can provide metrics for academic journals, including alternate venues in which faculty might want to seek publication.”
Another resource he suggests faculty and students utilize is the Affordable Materials Project (AMP). AMP is a university-wide collaboration between the bookstore, Falvey Library, the Center for Access, Success and Achievement, and the Office of the Provost to provide faculty with resources and options for selecting high quality course materials while reducing the cost for students.
“The data I’ve seen already from AMP shows real value. Some of Falvey’s most highly used resources are coming from AMP,” he says. “The overall cost benefit is great because these resources are continually being used by multiple students year after year.”
In his free time, Banionis enjoys tailgating at Penn State football games, playing strategy board games, and spending time with his black cat, Millie. An avid singer (tenor), he is a member of multiple choirs including the Chester County Choral Society, Daylesford Abbey, and a small ad hoc eight-person choir titled Sine Nomine, which translates from Latin as “without a name.”
As Villanova is an R2: doctoral university, Banionis recognizes the opportunity to continue to globally expand research output.
“There are so many great plans and proposals happening at Villanova and at Falvey Library. There’s a lot more research output and an increased need for research support that the library can assist with. Falvey is the university’s steward of scholarly information–fuel for the academic engine.”
Banionis’ office is located in Collections on the second floor of Falvey. 610-519-4282. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
BY SHAWN PROCTOR
This is part 2 of a 6-part series featuring the 2019 Falvey Scholars. Read more about them every Tuesday and in the upcoming issue of Mosaic: the library’s bi-annual publication.
Elizabeth “Libby” O’Brien ’19 CLAS
Hometown: Portland, Maine
Faculty Mentor: Samantha Chapman, PhD, associate professor of Biology
Research: Foliar water uptake in ecotonal mangroves which are expanding with climate change
Other Honors: Fulbright U.S. Student Program award winner, will continue her thesis work analyzing mangrove ecology and environmental ethics in the Philippines.
While working with Drs. Chapman and Matthew Hayes in a Florida saltmarsh on their research analyzing mangrove ecology in the face of climate change, I began to ponder about an idea that would become my thesis question: “What if mangroves supplement their water needs not from their roots, where they are competing with the marsh species, but through their leaves?”
At Villanova in the fall, the three of us sat down and revisited that question. In our preliminary literature review, we found evidence that a number of plant species use foliar water uptake across ecosystems, particularly where water availability can be limited such as high, mountainous elevations and dry, arid environments.
Mangroves are specialized plants that live in salty water. Due to the high salinity concentration of their soils, they are often under water stress as they need to extract, and filter water out of this salty environment to meet their physiological demands. In short, mangroves are living under pseudo-drought conditions. However, coastal mangroves sometimes encounter sea mist and fog, leading us to believe that they may utilize foliar water uptake in a similar way to other plants living under drought conditions.
Our second research question was “Do different mangrove species exhibit varying degrees of foliar water uptake?”
We aimed to answer this second question to provide evidence for existing geographic distributions of specific mangroves species and their projected future encroachment patterns.
To test our hypotheses, we built airtight chambers and placed the three different species of mangroves inside of them. We used humidifiers to mimic morning fog enriched with a tracer that could be detected by a machine in the lab after the experiment. Since we sealed off the soil from the rest of the plant, (meaning that the soil was not moistened by the fog), any tracer detected in the leaves of the mangroves would indicate foliar water uptake.
Using statistical analyses, we could identify trends in the data to answer both of our research questions. Once in the lab, we did detect the tracer in all of the species, pointing to some foliar water uptake, but we also discovered problems in our experimentation methods. This meant that while our results were promising, there were a few possibilities as to why they were what they were.
However, the three of us do not take this as a failure. If we had not done the experiment, we would not have known that mangroves exhibit some foliar water uptake; and even if it is impossible to parse out the differences in foliar water uptake across species at this time, we have a solid research process on which to build on moving forward.
Setbacks like this are not only common, they are inevitable. We are currently in the process of re-examining our methods to produce more reliable results. Moreover, I come away with a confidence in my ability as a woman in science moving on to answer the next questions.
In order to begin the development of my research questions, and throughout every subsequent step of my thesis, I needed to be a sponge for information. At first, it was overwhelming to experience a total information overload, but three things kept my project focused and achievable.
The access that Falvey’s online resources provided proved invaluable. The access that I was able to have to high profile academic journals and niche, often international journals, as well as published theses exposed me to the diverse and interdisciplinary research within the realm of mangrove ecology.
For the articles that were not immediately available to me, I used interlibrary loan. I was able to develop my experimental design from one article that I got through the interlibrary loan system, a resource that then-research librarian Robin Bowles (now the director of Libraries at Montgomery County Community College) pointed me towards—she was instrumental in my successful thesis completion.
Her knowledge and experience for sifting through endless articles and culling searches gave me papers that addressed my specific questions. I live-chatted with her in one instance which enabled me to get help from the library and keep working.
Finally, Falvey Memorial Library provided me with the space to work and collaborate with my mentors, a contribution that I cannot ignore. The 24-hour access to workspaces, printers, and online resources eliminated many of the obstacles a commuter student like myself might have faced in order to finish my thesis on a deadline.
Over this past year, at the back left square table of the library Holy Grounds, Dr. Chapman, Dr. Hayes, and myself drank endless cups of coffee and discussed how our mangrove foliar water uptake results fit into the larger conversation of coastal climate change.
From Florida saltmarshes to Mendel Science Center, climate change challenges our status quo. As a soon to be graduate from a rigorous Augustinian institution, I am equipped with the skills to analyze, engage with, and speak about the processes behind the issues that affect our everyday lives.
My thesis, an investigation into foliar water uptake as a potential water acquisition strategy in mangrove species, offers a contribution to the scientific community in the context of coastal ecosystem ecology, as well as to Villanova University as an example of what a student committed to conducting research can achieve.
From the completion of my thesis, I have learned that the hardest part about research is narrowing the focus of your questions because analyzing the implications in the larger scheme of things comes later. I have learned that I respond well to a mentorship style that gives me the space to try and fail and re-try lab techniques, and that it is essential to take advantage to the resources available.
Falvey Memorial Library facilitated so much of my research success; from that, I have grown to have a passion for asking and answering research questions.
After my Fulbright U.S. Student experience, I am planning to attend graduate school. I aim to continue this work but also integrate my research in philosophy in the coming years as I pursue a doctorate that blends ecological research with ethical considerations in a project that explores mangrove productivity and success through a lens of anthropogenic influence.
My mentors’ attention to both of these interests throughout this year motivated me to pursue a career that combines science and policy advocacy.
Shawn Proctor, MFA, is communications and marketing program manager at Falvey Memorial Library.