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WVHS students to present research at junior science competition

on January 26, 2018

Five WVHS seniors will present the results of their original scientific research before hundreds of fellow students, teachers, mentors and judges at the Eastern New York Eleventh Annual Subregional Junior Science and Humanities Symposium, on Saturday, Feb. 3.

Warwick’s Jacob Gaydos, Alyssa Schaechinger, Jack Schenkman, and Garret Van Gelder, were selected to enter the competition with an oral presentation based on the findings of their three-year science research program. Jacqueline Grundfast chose a poster format to present her research.

This is the first year Warwick students will participate in this competition. Place winners will advance to the Upstate NY JSHS at the University of Albany, the following month.

Student Science Research Abstracts

Student holding research paperJacob Gaydos

Beamwidth Alterations of Pipistrellus kuhlii Directly Following the Acquisition of Mealworm Prey (Post-Feeding Buzz)

Teacher: Lisa Reece
Mentor: Dr. Yossi Yovel, Tel Aviv University

“Beamwidth, or the width of echolocation beams emitted by bats, has gained increasing interest in the field of chiropterology. This study examines the possible alteration of beamwidth when prey is present in the mouth of bats. In this study, four Pipistrellus kuhlii were recorded using ultrasonic microphones and motion-tracking sensors in order to capture the intensity and position of each call. The audio and position files were merged and processed by an in-house MATLAB program, yielding beamwidth values.

“A paired t-test was conducted between the degree values of the calls with food present in the mouth (n=55) and the calls without food present in the mouth (n=55). The grouping with food present in the mouth had a mean beam width value of 86.728924°, while the grouping without food present in the mouth had a mean beam width value of 60.690116°, showing a significant difference between the degree values of the two groups (p < 0.0001). This supports the notion that bats actively modulate their calls throughout the echolocation process to fit their sensory needs. This also provides a model for biological-based sonar in situations where an obstruction at the point of emittance needs to be compensated for, such as a geological structure blocking the sonar of a submarine.

“Overall, the bats supported the notion that the width of a sonar beam can be increased to gain the necessary sensory information in a case of obstruction of the emittance point.”

Student holding research paperGarret Van Gelder

Black-capped Chickadee Responses to Alarm Calls of Non-Flocking Heterospecifics

Teacher: Lisa Reece
Mentors: Dr. David Cimprich, US Army; Dr. Andrew Dolby, University of Mary Washington

“Recent literature has been replete with studies examining alarm and mobbing calls as they relate to interspecific reactions. Black-capped chickadees in Warwick and Goshen, NY were exposed to the alarm calls of northern cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis), their own mobbing calls, and the song of the common yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas) as a control to determine if they would respond to the cardinal alarm. While chickadees responded to their own calls with mobbing behavior, they apparently did not in any way respond to the calls of cardinals or yellowthroats.

“This ran contrary to the expected response of mobbing when exposed to the cardinal calls, and the lack of said response may indicate that a separate, evasive one was not recorded, or that northern cardinal “alarms” are too contextually varied among cardinals (and thus not paid any attention to by other birds), or are perhaps misinterpreted by human observers as alarms. Studying alarm and mobbing calls, as well as other animal communications, is important, as they may have certain conservation implications (especially habitat management).”

Student holding research paperJacqueline Grundfast

Confirmation of an Extrasolar Planet Based on its Light Curve Created to Ascertain its Existence as a Transit

Teacher: Lisa Reece
Mentors: Robert Moore; Dr. Mary Lou West, Montclair State University Emerita; Dennis Conti

“This study examines exoplanets and their orbital habits as gaged by a light curve, either confirming or denying their existence. Planets found in solar systems other than ours, otherwise known as exoplanets, are becoming a topic of growing interest as the habitability of planets is studied. In order to ascertain the level of inhabitability, it is crucial to confirm the existence of the earth-like body. In the experiment, a transit search will commence to acquire a new, undocumented anomaly which will have photometric methods applied to it.

“After data collection and imaging of this potential host star, image calibration and plate solving occurred to update FITS headers of the images. Darks, bias, and flat images were applied to the science images and differential photometry was induced. A meridian flip had occurred which interfered with the calibration of the images. Plate solving had to occur on each image, so the virtual stack was split into two separate analysis processes. Following differential photometry, a model fit occurred as well as a plotting of the light curve. The light curve derived for this potential planet allowed for analysis of the stability and cyclic nature of its curve, which led to the conclusion that the planet remains unconfirmed due to factors including the extremely low depth of the target star, .00036 V-mag, and the lack of a cyclical curve obtaining a positive concavity.”

Student holding research paperAlyssa Schaechinger

The Effectiveness of Carotid Endarterectomy at Preventing Stroke with Different Anesthetics: A Meta-Analysis.

Teacher: Lisa Reece
Mentors: Dr. Fred Ivey, University of Maryland; Dr. John Sorkin, University of Maryland

“Carotid endarterectomy is a procedure that can be used to prevent stroke. During this procedure, local or general anesthesia can be used. The goal of this meta-analysis, which is a statistical compilation of data, is to determine which type of anesthesia is more effective at preventing stroke.

“It is predicted that local anesthesia will be more effective at preventing stroke than general anesthesia. Meta-analysis software was used to compile data from articles that have information pertaining to the hypothesis. Based on the articles used, it has been shown that stroke occurs 13% less often following carotid endarterectomy with local anesthesia than following the procedure with general anesthesia.”

Student holding research paperJack Schenkman

An Approach to Compression of DNA Sequences Based on Conditional Indexing of Codons

Teacher: Lisa Reece
Mentor: Bryn Dole, IBM

“Data compression reduces the size of files. The decreasing cost of DNA sequencing has led to an increased need for efficient storage of genomic files. Each DNA base can be represented by 2 bits (a small amount of information), so conventional text compression methods often expand genomic files instead of compressing them. Compression performance, especially for variable-length compression methods such as Huffman coding, often improves as the frequency discrepancy among symbols increases. DNA codons, groups of three bases, often have much greater frequency discrepancies than the four bases analyzed individually. A lossless preprocessing method for compression of DNA text sequences is introduced in this research.

This method conditionally indexes codons depending on which pairs of codons occur most frequently together. In trials on 30 different bacterial DNA text sequences the indices of the original codons had significantly lower standard deviations than the indices outputted by the conditional indexing algorithm. This demonstrates the ability of the conditional indexing algorithm to increase the frequency discrepancy between indices. The preprocessing algorithm with Huffman coding represented the DNA text sequences using less memory than Huffman coding alone. The dramatic increase in the standard deviation of the indices due to the proposed preprocessing algorithm demonstrates the potential of the preprocessing algorithm to improve compression performance.

“Although the conditional indexing algorithm had a large run time, this research focused on proving the viability of the conditional indexing algorithm as a means of increasing the frequency discrepancy between indices.”

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