North Adams, MA, United States
North Adams, MA, United States

The Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts is a public, residential, liberal arts college that offers both undergraduate and graduate programs. Located in North Adams, Massachusetts, it is part of the state university system of Massachusetts. It is a member of the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges. Originally established as part of the state's normal school system for training teachers, it now offers a wide variety of programs leading to Bachelor of Science and Arts degrees, as well as a Master of Education track. Wikipedia.

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Wund M.A.,The College of New Jersey | Baker J.A.,Clark University | Golub J.L.,Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts | Foster S.A.,Clark University
Animal Behaviour | Year: 2015

Changing environments, whether through natural or anthropogenic causes, can lead to the loss of some selective pressures ('relaxed selection') and possibly even the reinstatement of selective agents not encountered for many generations ('reversed selection'). We examined the outcome of relaxed and reversed selection in the adaptive radiation of the threespine stickleback fish, Gasterostues aculeatus L., in which isolated populations encounter a variety of predation regimes. Oceanic sticklebacks, which represent the ancestral founders of the freshwater radiation, encounter many piscivorous fish. Derived, freshwater populations, on the other hand, vary with respect to the presence of predators. Some populations encounter native salmonids, whereas others have not experienced predation by large fish in thousands of generations (relax-selected populations). Some relax-selected populations have had sport fish, including rainbow trout, Oncorhynchus mykiss, introduced within the past several decades (reverse-selected). We examined the behavioural responses of sticklebacks from three populations of each type to simulated attacks by trout and birds to determine whether relaxed and reversed selection has led to divergence in behaviour, and whether this divergence was predator specific. Fish from trout-free populations showed weak responses to trout, as predicted, but these responses were similar to those of oceanic (ancestral) populations. Fish from populations that co-occur with trout, whether native or introduced, showed elevated antipredator responses, indicating that in freshwater, trout predation selects for enhanced antipredator responses, which can evolve extremely rapidly. Comparison of laboratory-reared and wild-caught individuals suggests a combination of learned and genetic components to this variation. Responses to a model bird flyover were weakly linked to predation environment, indicating that the loss of predation by trout may partially influence the evolution of responses to birds. Our results reject the hypothesis that the consistent presence of predatory birds has been sufficient to maintain responses to piscivorous fish under periods of relaxed selection. © 2015 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Hartung E.J.,Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts
Journal of Mathematical Chemistry | Year: 2014

A fullerene is a 3-regular plane graph with only pentagonal and hexagonal faces. The Fries and Clar number of a fullerene are two related parameters, and the Clar number is less understood. We introduce the Clar Structure of a fullerene, a decomposition designed to compute the Clar number for classes of fullerenes. We also settle an open question with a counterexample: we prove that the Clar and Fries number of a fullerene cannot always be obtained with the same Kekulé structure. © 2014 Springer International Publishing Switzerland.

Rodewald A.D.,Ohio State University | Kearns L.J.,Ohio State University | Shustack D.P.,Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts
Biological Conservation | Year: 2013

In contrast to the well-documented changes in avian community structure in urbanizing areas, the demographic consequences of urbanization remain less understood. As such, we examined the extent to which an urbanizing landscape matrix affected avian reproductive performance in forests. From 2001 to 2011, we studied five songbird species in 19 forested sites in Ohio, USA and monitored 4264 natural nests to determine rates of daily nest survival and brood parasitism by brown-headed cowbirds (Molothrus ater). We also tracked the annual number of fledglings produced by color-banded pairs of two focal species, the synanthropic northern cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis, n= 974 breeding pairs between 2003 and 2011) and the urban-avoiding Acadian flycatcher (Empidonax virescens, n= 350 breeding pairs between 2001 and 2011). Over the 10-year period, neither daily nest survival nor brood parasitism rates in remnant forests were consistently related to the amount of urbanization in the surrounding landscape matrix for focal species, with the sole exception of Acadian flycatcher for which the percentage of nests with brood parasitism increased with urbanization. Annual reproductive output of cardinals was comparable across the rural-urban gradient, but Acadian flycatchers produced fewer fledglings as urbanization increased. These findings demonstrate that urban-associated patterns of annual reproduction cannot necessarily be inferred from nest survival data alone. Moreover, we show that avian community changes are not the simple consequence of nest predation. Understanding ecological processes that operate within metropolitan areas is critical if we are to conserve biological diversity on our urbanizing planet. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.

Spezeski W.J.,Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts
Technological Developments in Networking, Education and Automation | Year: 2010

A polyalphabetic cipher is one in which multiple alphabets (monoalphabets) are used to encode a plaintext message. Each letter of plaintext is encoded by selecting one of the alphabets with which to determine a substitution. A key word or phrase is often used to select different alphabets to encrypt the plaintext. This paper considers three concepts that, when combined, lead to a keyless polyalphabetic cipher. © Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010.

Shustack D.P.,Ohio State University | Shustack D.P.,Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts | Rodewald A.D.,Ohio State University
Journal of Avian Biology | Year: 2011

Life history theory and empirical studies suggest that early breeding confers higher reproductive success, but the extent to which this advantage can be generalized to human-dominated systems and across species is less well understood. We studied the fitness consequences of clutch initiation for 181 female northern cardinals Cardinalis cardinalis and 1228 nests in forests within urban and rural landscapes of Ohio, USA between 2004-2007. Cardinals that bred earlier made significantly more nesting attempts, but cumulative number of young fledged was similar to that of later-breeding individuals. The expected number of fledglings produced per successful nest was unrelated to date and remained ~1.8 fledglings across the season, despite the fact that nest survival rates improved dramatically as the season progressed. Because the probability of resighting breeding individuals in subsequent years was unrelated to first clutch initiation date, we have no evidence that clutch initiation affected adult survival. The absence of a clear benefit to early breeding appears to be a consequence of high rates of nest predation early in the breeding season. © 2011 The Authors.

Rodewald A.D.,Ohio State University | Kearns L.J.,Ohio State University | Shustack D.P.,Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts
Ecological Applications | Year: 2011

The extent to which resource subsidies affect food web dynamics is poorly understood in anthropogenic landscapes. To better understand how species interactions are influenced by subsidies, we studied breeding birds and nest predators along a rural-to-urban landscape gradient that varied in subsidies provided to generalist predators. We hypothesized that resource subsidies in urban landscapes would decouple predator-prey relationships, as predators switch from natural to anthropogenic foods. From 2004 to 2009, we surveyed nest predators and monitored 2942 nests of five songbird species breeding in 19 mature forest stands in Ohio, USA. Eighteen species were video-recorded depredating nests. Numbers of avian and mammalian nest predators were positively associated with the amount of urban development surrounding forests, with the exception of Brown-headed Cowbirds (Molothrus ater). Although nest survival strongly declined with detections of nest predators in rural landscapes, nest survival and predator numbers were unrelated in urban landscapes. Thus, the strength of interaction between breeding birds and nest predators diminished as landscapes surrounding forested parks became more urbanized. Our work suggests that decoupling of predator-prey relationships can arise when synanthropic predators are heavily subsidized by anthropogenic resources. In this way, human drivers can alter, and completely disarticulate, relationships among species that are well established in more natural systems. © 2011 by the Ecological Society of America.

Mooney E.H.,Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts | Niesenbaum R.A.,Muhlenberg College
Ecology | Year: 2012

Plants display photosynthetic plasticity in response to variation in light environment, and the extent of this plasticity often varies with genotype, i.e., genotype × environment interaction. Herbivory may also covary with light environment as a result of light-induced changes in photosynthetic traits. For example, greater levels of photoprotective phenolic compounds in high-light environments may reduce host quality to herbivores. We investigated intraspecific variation in photosynthetic responses to light and its consequences for herbivory in the understory shrub, Lindera benzoin (Lauraceae). We transplanted five plants from eight populations (N = 240) into three replicate sun and shade common gardens. Two years after transplantation, we tested for population × light environment interactions in six photosynthesis-related responses: specific leaf area, water content, chlorophyll content, chlorophyll fluorescence (F0), maximum quantum yield (Fv/Fm), and total phenolics. We assessed seasonal herbivory and consumption by a specialist lepidopteran herbivore (Epimecis hortaria). This allowed us to test for (1) population-specific patterns of photosynthetic acclimation and photoinhibition, (2) population-specific production of phenolics in response to photoinhibition, and (3) population-specific photosynthetic responses that contribute to population × light environment interactions in herbivory. Population × light environment interactions were insignificant in leaf variables but statistically significant for herbivory measured as consumption by E. hortaria. We found similar trends for population × light environment interactions in seasonal herbivory. Total phenolics and minimum chlorophyll fluorescence (F0) were significant covariates with herbivory, but their effects depended on light environment and population of origin. High-light environments eliminated differences among populations in how these leaf variables affected herbivory, while population-specific relationships were apparent in the shade. Analysis of total phenolics revealed that they were likely induced by photoinhibition, but that this response varied among the populations we assessed. However, phenolics increased herbivory in L. benzoin, which would limit the fitness value of this protective response to light-induced photoinhibition. Our results suggest that herbivores could affect evolution of photosynthetic plasticity in L. benzoin. © 2012 by the Ecological Society of America.

Rodewald A.D.,Ohio State University | Shustack D.P.,Ohio State University | Shustack D.P.,Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts | Jones T.M.,Ohio State University
Ecology | Year: 2011

Human activities can alter selective environments in ways that can reduce the usefulness of certain ornamental traits as honest signals of individual quality and, in some cases, may create evolutionary traps, where rapid changes in selective environments result in maladaptive behavioral decisions. Using the sexually dichromatic, socially monogamous Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) as a model, we hypothesized that urbanization would erode the relationship between plumage coloration and reproductive success. Because the exotic Amur honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii) provides carotenoids, is a preferred habitat attribute, and increases vulnerability to nest predation, we predicted the presence of an evolutionary trap, whereby the brightest males would achieve the lowest reproductive success. Working at 14 forests in Ohio, USA, 2006-2008, we measured plumage color, monitored reproduction, and quantified habitat within territories. In rural landscapes, the brightest males bred earliest in the season and secured more preferred territories; however, annual reproduction declined with plumage brightness. Coloration of urban males was not associated with territory attributes or reproduction. Female redness across all landscapes was negatively related to reproduction. Poor reproductive performance of otherwise higher-quality males probably resulted from preferences for honeysuckle, which reduces annual reproduction when used as a nesting substrate early in the season. In this way, exotic shrubs prompted an evolutionary trap that was avoided in urban forests where anthropogenic resources disassociated male color and reproductive phenology and success. Our study illustrates how modified selective environments in human-dominated landscapes might shape microevolutionary processes in wild bird populations. © 2011 by the Ecological Society of America.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: S-STEM:SCHLR SCI TECH ENG&MATH | Award Amount: 639.83K | Year: 2014

The STEM Pathways Program at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) provides scholarships for academically talented students in financial need who are pursing bachelors degrees in STEM disciplines at MCLA. The scholarship program supports full-time students majoring in biology, physics, chemistry, environmental studies, computer science, or mathematics. The program awards annual scholarships to students who meet financial need and academic merit criteria. A total of 32 scholarships are planned over a five-year period in The STEM Pathways Program. The STEM Pathways Program allows MCLA to offer scholarships to directly address an area of national concern: the shortage of US graduates trained in STEM related fields. Scholarships for academically strong STEM students, who may not otherwise be able to afford college, have an impact on the number of STEM graduates prepared to help national, regional, and local companies. Talented STEM graduates help US industries to compete and innovate in a global economy.

The STEM Pathways Program builds on resources available at the Center for Science and Innovation at MCLA. The Center includes an incubator laboratory providing opportunities for students to achieve experience working with local life science companies. The STEM Pathways Program recruits applicants through open house events, activities for accepted students, partnerships with regional schools, and collaborations with admissions counselors. The STEM Pathways Program includes a range of program activities intended to insure that scholarship recipients complete their STEM degree programs and are able to succeed in joining the STEM workforce. Scholarship awardees are co-located within the dorms during their first year, allowing them to build a strong support network from the beginning of their college experience. STEM faculty host an introductory meeting at the start of each semester to welcome students back and announce program opportunities. Students meet monthly with a peer mentor to discuss program challenges, strategies, and opportunities. STEM departments host a social event on the last Friday of each month allowing STEM faculty to interact informally with students. STEM student support includes tutors and interaction with associates in the Writing Center trained to assist with technical writing assignments and reports. STEM students at MCLA have optional research opportunities supervised by MCLA faculty, and the possibility of internships with regional industries.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 810.88K | Year: 2014

The majority of research on undergraduate science education focuses on the impact of various instructional techniques on students learning of science. Less understood are the roles of undergraduates understanding of and attitude toward science in shaping science course-taking and persistence in science majors. This project aims to address this gap in research by investigating the impact of science teaching experiences on undergraduate students. The project will accomplish this by engaging science, education, and liberal arts students in a year-long experience to develop and teach science lessons in K-7 classrooms in a high-needs school district (North Adams Public Schools). This experience is expected to (1) deepen undergraduates understanding of the nature of science, (2) increase their ability to explain science concepts to non-specialists, (3) increase their confidence in their own ability in science, (4) create a community of science learners that can sustain pursuit of further science coursework, and ultimately (5) lead to more science course taking and higher retention in science majors. Undergraduates from the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (a small public liberal arts college) and Williams College (a small private liberal arts college) will work with K-7 teachers and college science professors to develop science units based on the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Pairs of undergraduate students will co-teach these units with K-7 classroom teachers and the support of college science education professors over the course of the school year. The undergraduates and K-7 teachers will also participate in joint professional development to deepen their understanding of both the nature of scientific inquiry and science teaching, and to reinforce their connection as a community of learners.

The project bridges two areas of research to investigate the impact of teaching science in elementary settings on the science learning and education outcomes for science, education, and liberal arts undergraduates. NSFs Graduate Teaching Fellows in K-12 Education (GK-12) program, which engaged STEM graduate students in K-12 teaching, found several positive impacts of teaching experiences on graduate students, including increased teaching skills, improved skills at communicating scientific concepts to non-specialist audiences, increased skill in collaboration, improved research skills, and an enhanced understanding of the relevance of their research to society. Studies of informal STEM education opportunities (including undergraduate research, internships, and mentoring) have found impacts on students understanding of the nature of science, science self-efficacy, communication skills, and retention in science majors. However, there has been little research to date on the impact of informal science teaching experiences on the science education and attitudes of undergraduates. This project is designed both to influence the likelihood that undergraduates will enter into and complete science majors and to improve science literacy in the general populace by improving key aspects of science literacy among liberal arts undergraduates and pre-service and in-service elementary school teachers. Project outcomes will be assessed through a variety of surveys completed by participating undergraduates and a matched comparison group, participant questionnaires to gather qualitative data on the Teaching to Learn experience, observations of teaching practice, and longitudinal transcript reviews of participants and comparison group students. In addition, the collaboration between multiple colleges and a school district will enable the assessment of the models feasibility and impact across institutional types and diverse undergraduate populations.

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