HARROGATE, Tennessee, July 25, 2019— Lincoln Memorial University (LMU) senior conservation biology student Hana Hess conducted slime mold research in the lush tropical forests of Costa Rica this summer. Her goal was to increase scientists’ understanding of microbial ecology in tropical ecosystems.
For her project, Hess developed an experimental approach using litter bags to bait slime molds across different ecological settings. Ultimately, analysis of the patterns of species recovered will provide information about the processes these organisms are driving in nature.
LMU works with researchers at the University of Costa Rica as part of a collaborative research partnership.,. Hess developed her project, which also is being replicated in the United States, under the mentorship of Dr. Adam Rollins, dean of the LMU-School of Mathematics and Sciences.
“You probably do not realize that the most abundant organisms in soils, besides bacteria, are slime molds and that slime molds eat bacteria,” Rollins said. “In fact, a growing body of evidence indicates that slime molds are responsible for keeping nature’s bacterial populations in check and, in doing so, they play an underappreciated role in nutrient cycling for terrestrial ecosystems. Hess’ work is exciting because if all goes as planned, her project will pave the way for novel experimental approaches to study the impact and ultimate importance microorganisms in nature.”
In June, Hess worked alongside Dr. Carlos Rojas, a research biologist at the University of Costa Rica, to set up the project at the University of Costa Rica’s Finca Experimental Interdisciplinaria de Modelos Agroecológicos (FEIMA). FEIMA is a heavily studied experimental forest where scientists conduct interdisciplinary ecological projects with the ultimate goal of improving the nation’s agricultural practices and the use of natural resources.
In addition to working with slime molds, Hess contributed to an educational service project developed by Rojas that seeks to increase Costa Rican preschool children’s knowledge about food and natural resources. As part of this project, Hess planted edible plants alongside preschool children across Costa Rica´s Central Valley. The preschool students will continue to care for the gardens and receive continuing educational guidance about agriculture and natural resources.
“I take this opportunity very seriously and know that I could never have made it this far without a lot of support from my family,” Hess said. “I hope I can use this experience to further my career and eventually be able to give back to those who gave to me to allow me to do this.”
Hess, of Rich Valley, Virginia, will graduate in 2020 and seek a graduate degree.
Lincoln Memorial University is a values-based learning community dedicated to providing educational experiences in the liberal arts and professional studies. The main campus is located in Harrogate, Tennessee. For more information about the undergraduate and graduate programs available at LMU, contact the Office of Admissions at 423.869.6280 or email at [email protected].