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CMN Students Do Soil Research As Part Of International ‘Tiny Earth’ Initiative

 

For two College of Menominee Nation (CMN) students, fall semester 2018 wrapped up with a statewide symposium highlighting Wisconsin’s participation in “Tiny Earth,” an international initiative involving nearly 10,000 students worldwide in antibiotics research.

 

The CMN men, Gavin Braun, a Natural Resources major from Keshena, and Tyrell Hesse, a Biological and Physical Sciences student from Shawano, were among collegians, faculty and staff from several Wisconsin colleges and universities taking part in the Dec. 7 event. Special recognition for Braun and Hesse included selection of their soil microbe research poster for fifth place honors among 57 entries and an invitation to Braun to address the symposium audience on behalf of all student participants.

 

At the College of Menominee Nation, “Tiny Earth” curriculum and protocols are used in the General Biology and Microbiology courses of Professor Lucy Fenzl. “We are excited to be the first tribal college invited to join the initiative and begin using the curriculum,” Fenzl says. “Having CMN as part of this international network of faculty members and college students is energizing and brings us really exciting resources. It is a wonderful opportunity for all students to join in finding solutions for the real-world health problem of antibiotic-resistant superbugs.”

 

CMN’s “Tiny Earth” participation also dovetails with ongoing applied science in CMN’s Sustainable Development Institute (SDI). In his address to the December symposium audience, Gavin Braun credited “Tiny Earth” with opening up opportunities for students in the College’s science labs to also collaborate on SDI’s campus-based Phenology Trail climate research. “Tiny Earth” lab work contributes “by adding data on soil bacteria found at each plant research site,” Braun said. “This will enhance the longitudinal data already being collected and serve to address added variables in the research.”

 

For students, Braun added, “Tiny Earth” research has given “a new experience in the labs that opened our eyes to new or different fields of interest. It also gave us a new opportunity to experience research by providing different research applications.”

 

CMN’s experience with “Tiny Earth” reflects the initiative’s mission of creating a network of instructors and students “focused on crowdsourcing antibiotic discovery from soil”; inspiring students to pursue careers in science though hands-on introductory courses and lab experiences with real-world applications; and addressing the diminishing supply of effective antibiotics “by tapping into the collective power of many student researchers concurrently tackling the same challenge, living up to its moto ‘studentsourcing antibiotic discovery’.”

 

The Wisconsin event, labeled “Tiny Earth in Titletown,” was held in Green Bay’s Lambeau Field facilities. The base for the international “Tiny Earth” initiative is the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery on the UW-Madison campus. Prof. Fenzl directs those interested in the origins of the initiative and its current activities are directed to tinyearth.wisc.edu/about us. Information on CMN’s “Tiny Earth” courses and research is available from lfenzl@menominee.edu.

 

College of Menominee Nation Professor Lucy Fenzl and CMN students Gavin Braun and Tyrell Hesse (L-R) pause at the students’ research poster on display at the 2018 Tiny Earth symposium held in Green Bay. Titled “Preferred Media for Microbial Growth of Northeast Wisconsin Soil Microbes,” the poster describes work done by Braun and Hesse on the College’s Keshena campus using Tiny Earth protocols to assess the most favorable media to use when growing microorganisms that are found in Wisconsin soil. CMN photo by DKakkak.