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Local students honored for antibiotics research

Poster places fifth at statewide symposium

Photo by D. Kakkak, College of Menominee Nation College of Menominee Nation professor Lucy Fenzl, left, shows off the research poster created by students Gavin Braun, center, and Tyrell Hesse at the 2018 “Tiny Earth” symposium held Dec. 7 at Lambeau Field in Green Bay.

For two College of Menominee Nation 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 in antibiotics research.

The men — Gavin Braun, a natural resources major from Keshena, and Tyrell Hesse, a biological and physical sciences student from Shawano — were among students, 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.

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 said. “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.”

“Tiny Earth” participation also dovetails with ongoing applied science in CMN’s Sustainable Development Institute. In his address, Braun credited “Tiny Earth” with opening up opportunities for students in the college’s science labs to also collaborate on the institute’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: 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.”

The Wisconsin event, labeled “Tiny Earth in Titletown,” was held in Green Bay’s Lambeau Field facilities. For information on the initiative, visit tinyearth.wisc.edu/about-us or email lfenzl@menominee.edu.