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Diving for Answers

Students Go Deep With Research Opportunities

By Clint Kelly (

Diving for Answers

From the maternal behavior of mice to the group impact on walking speed, Seattle Pacific University students are captivated by scientific research.

They pursue answers to original research questions under the guidance and supervision of professors and professionals in the field. For instance, how does a starfish find its food?

"I want to determine if chemoreception is the primary means for starfish to locate prey," says student researcher and ecology major Elias Lunsford, "and if so, does the starfish detect the presence of paralytic shellfish poisons within the tissue of the mussels they eat?" Better understanding of that predator/prey relationship is important because starfish are keystone species in maintaining the biodiversity of local waters.

His quest for understanding requires Lunsford to free-dive repeatedly into frigid Puget Sound to study the behavior of starfish.

Jessica Sallstrom, a senior double majoring in biology and chemistry, studies the mechanics of efficient child carrying. How individuals expend energy, and the resulting impact on human populations, is a factor in biological anthropology. She and her research partner, senior Christopher Meade, have observed the baby-carrying habits of Seattleites.

They found that men tend to carry boy babies and concluded that it was for energy conservation. "It is reproductively beneficial for males to do the ‘heavy lifting,' " says Sallstrom. "On average, male infants tend to be heavier than females."

Abigail Daane is a graduate student working on a Ph.D. in education. She wants to help science teachers teach what Professor of Physics Stamatis Vokos calls, "one of the trickiest, and most misunderstood, subjects in science — entropy."

Daane examines teachers ideas around the usefulness of energy and how this relates to energy conservation in physics. "In particular, I am fascinated with the teachers views on thermal energy and its use in society."

Daane will present her findings in February at the national meeting of the American Association of Physics Teachers.