Monday, January 8 – Linking CRP grassland management to plant, bird, and insect abundance and diversity

Speaker: Molly Reichenborn

Topic: Linking CRP grassland management to plant, bird, and insect abundance and diversity

Date/time/location: Monday, January 8th; 7:30 pm; The Donut Whole (1720 E. Douglas)



The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) is a national program that pays landowners to remove land from agricultural production and plant species that provide environmental benefits such as soil erosion control and wildlife habitat. In Kansas, over 1.7 million acres are enrolled in CRP, supporting extensive grassland restoration in a mostly cultivated landscape. Although CRP provides valuable habitat, these grasslands generally have lower plant diversity and uniform structure compared to grazed, native prairies. Grazing is currently limited or prohibited as CRP management, despite the historical role of large grazers (bison) on the landscape. Lack of grazing disturbance may help explain why CRP falls short in comparison to cattle-stocked native prairies. Collaborators at Emporia and Wichita State Universities are undertaking a 3-year study to examine the potential benefits of cattle grazing on bird, plant, and insect communities on CRP lands. Data were collected for the first year of the study in 2017 on CRP representing high and low diversity planting practices (CP25 and CP2, respectively) across the longitudinal precipitation gradient in Kansas. This presentation will address what the investigators have learned thus far.


Molly Reichenborn is a two-time alumna of Wichita State University, receiving her bachelor of science in 2013 and master of science in biological sciences in 2016. Though she originally intended to pursue a career in zookeeping, Molly was drawn to ecosystem restoration and research during her undergraduate studies, and instead pursued a graduate degree focused on plant community ecology. As a graduate student, she was involved with multiple projects dealing with the invasive plant species Sericea lespedeza (Lespedeza cuneata), including her thesis research examining the recovery of a Kansas plant community following the removal of this invader. Molly currently works as a project manager under the principle investigators heading up the CRP research project, Dr. Bill Jensen at Emporia State University and Drs. Greg Houseman and Mary Liz Jameson at Wichita State University.

Monday, December 11: Title: Space Biomedical Research and a Novel Wearable Smart Skin Sensor to Monitor Crew Health

Dr. Kim Cluff, Biomedical Engineering Department, Wichita State University
Monday, December 11, 2017, 7:30 pm at The Donut Whole (1720 E. Douglas, Wichita, KS)

Overview: Dr. Kim Cluff will present his research and progress towards developing a bio-monitoring sensor which is passive (does not require batteries), robust and lightweight (does not have electrical components), and able to wirelessly monitor multiple physiological parameters related to astronaut health and performance. This innovative wearable sensor may serve as a simple yet sophisticated method for monitoring multiple mission critical physiological parameters such as blood-flow, intracranial pressure, body temperature, blood gas concentration, and fitness of the space suit in a novel fashion. Our central hypothesis is that biological electrical and magnetic properties can be leveraged to detect physiological parameters using a skin patch sensor – applied like a small adhesive bandage or woven into garments. This research addresses NASA research interests in wearable health monitoring systems to address the gaps and risks that are critical to crew health and performance during long duration space missions.

Speaker Biography
Dr. Kim Cluff received his PhD from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in Bioengineering as well as two PhD minors in statistics and computer science. Dr. Cluff is a professor of Biomedical Engineering and has a research focus in biomedical sensors, bio-imaging, and computational modeling. Dr. Cluff is the director for the Biomedical Sensors, Imaging, and Modeling, Engineering (BIoME) Lab where students gain hands on experience with advanced medical imaging systems, sophisticated bioinstrumentation, and powerful biocomputational modeling software. In the BIoME Lab Dr. Cluff’s research team aims to develop novel quantitative approaches to improve medical diagnostics and treatment monitoring through application of mathematics, computational medicine, bioinstrumentation, and biosensor design. The laboratory contains nonionizing imaging modalities such as ultrasound, lasers, spectral imaging, and 3D scanning capabilities. The laboratory also contains electronics, biosensors, multi-physics modeling software, and powerful computers to model real world medical problems in a 3D virtual environment.

Monday, November 13: The Red Hills–Out of the Ashes

Monday, November 13; 7:30 pm; The Donut Whole (1720 E Douglas)
The Red Hills–Out of the Ashes
Ken Brunson

The past two springs witnessed two of the largest wildfires known for Kansas as well as for North America. 1.2 million acres burned out of control from these two fires killing people, livestock, shelterbelts and destroying thousands of miles of fence and many structures including homes. But for the rangeland affected, things were good. Invasive cedar trees were killed and rangeland recovered with the extra benefit of timely precipitation. So how has the land and people recovered?

Ken Brunson is the Red Hills Project Coordinator for the Nature Conservancy in Kansas. He will provide descriptions and visual images of the amazing recovery of the Red Hills from these huge wildfires. Ken’s background as a long time employee of the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks as well as his college education at Fort Hays State gives him a secure base of knowledge in order to expertly explain the conditions for these wildfires and the land’s recovery from them.

Monday, October 9: The importance of disease model development for emerging and neglected infectious diseases


Topic: The importance of disease model development for emerging and neglected infectious diseases.

Speaker: Dr. Thomas Shelite

Date/Time/Location: Monday, October 9, 7:30pm, The Donut Whole (1720 E. Douglas)


The emergence of new infectious diseases and the continued persistence of neglected diseases continue to be global threats. Development of models that resemble human disease is an important step in understanding the damage induced by these pathogens. This allows for research into better diagnostics, treatments, as well as preventive measures such as vaccines. The accuracy of these models are imperative to the advancement of infectious disease research.


Dr. Shelite is WSU alumni, receiving his BS and MSc for the department of Biological Sciences. He was awarded his PhD May of 2014 from the Experimental Pathology program at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, TX. His field of research has been focused on rickettsial pathogenesis and host immunity to these pathogens. As such, Dr. Shelite as extensive training (10 years) at Biosafety level 3 (BSL3) and Animal Biosafety 3 (ABSL3), making him uniquely qualified for work in higher level containment.  His dissertation research established a hematogenously disseminated murine model of scrub typhus that closely parallels the pathology of human disease. This model provides a powerful new tool to study the host’s immune response to an important neglected tropical disease.  Dr. Shelite has a unique understanding of tissue pathology and will be able to use this knowledge to produce a novel understanding of the immunopathology observed in scrub typhus.  His career interests are understanding the immune mechanisms that contribute to disease pathogenesis. He is currently a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Bruno Travi’s laboratory working on the development of rapid point-of-care diagnostics for emerging and neglected tropical pathogens to be used in resource limited countries

The Climate Emergency: The Case for Immediate Action

Topic: The Climate Emergency: The Case for Immediate Action

Speaker: Craig Wolfe

Date/time/location: Monday, September 11; 7:30pm; The Donut Whole 1720 E. Douglas


The climate crisis is real. But what are the facts? What are the threats that we face? Where are the opportunities going forward? If the climate emergency is an existential threat to life on the planet, does our response reflect that of an emergency? What can and must individuals do to avert the worst consequences of the climate crisis?
     As part of Craig Wolfe’s role in Al Gore’s Climate Reality Leadership Corps, he uses slides prepared by the Climate Reality Project along with his own to demonstrate the seriousness of the climate emergency and to provide actions we must take before the clock runs out on our window of opportunity to fight the climate crisis.
     Live original music accompanied by video can be used as an introduction to the topic.
About the Speaker:
Craig Wolfe was trained by Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project to make presentations regarding the Climate Emergency. He is President of the Heartland Renewable Energy Society; co-founder for the KC Climate Coalition; a long-time activist with Kansas Sierra Club; and
singer/songwriter in the group Soular, writing songs about climate and Mother Earth.
Ahead of his time, Mr. Wolfe in the 1980’s built 60 passive solar/super insulated houses under Craig Wolfe Solar Design & Construction before interest in the energy crisis fell off the public’s radar. He has worked as a consultant in Kansas City, Missouri and Kansas City, Kansas urban cores on housing projects, and has always been most interested in energy related activities.

Monday April 10: Darkness at Mid-Day – A TOTAL ECLIPSE of the Sun!

Darkness at Mid-Day – A TOTAL ECLIPSE of the Sun!

Date/Time/Location: Monday, April 10; 7:30pm at The Donut Whole (1720 E Douglas)

Speaker: Jackie Beuchner


Jackie Beucher, an Eclipse-Chaser, will be the presenter of the program on this summer’s total eclipse, which occurs on August 21st, just after 1:00 in the afternoon. Jackie saw her first eclipse on a beach in Hawaii in 1991 and was totally awe-struck. Since then, she has traveled the world to see a total of 11 total eclipses, and the experience has not dimmed. She says that a total eclipse is the most awesome natural phenomenon that you will ever see.

Jackie has been an astronomy enthusiast her whole life due to her father, a TWA pilot, showing the young Jackie the night sky from their driveway in rural Overland Park. She joined the Astronomical Society of Kansas City in 1984, and has been the Treasurer, Secretary, and President. Currently, she is the Vice-President. For 13 years, she was a national officer of the Astronomical League, an international group of astronomical societies. She is currently the Mid-States Regional Sec-Treasurer of the League. The Astronomical Society of KC owns Powell Observatory, built in 1985 in Louisburg, Kansas – a place where the skies are dark. Jackie has been a team leader there for more than 20 years, having developed many of the programs for the public. She has given countless presentations there, and all over the area to schools, libraries, civic groups, etc.

Jackie is also on the national Eclipse Committee of the American Astronomical Society, and will have all the current information regarding the eclipse, from a meeting in S. Carolina on March 31-April 2nd.

In the late 90’s, she began leading tours all over the world to see total eclipses in locations like Greece, Aruba, Australia, Tahiti, China, and Siberia. She says that there is no possible way to make you understand how glorious and exhilarating it is to witness a total eclipse, but she sure is going to try!

Monday, March 13- The Hills are alive … with plants, reptiles, and amphibians: Biodiversity of plants, reptiles and amphibians in our own Flint Hills

Topic: The Hills are alive … with plants, reptiles, and amphibians: Biodiversity of plants, reptiles and amphibians in our own Flint Hills

Speaker: Dexter Mardis – Biological Field Station Manager; Wichita State University KHS President; Kansas Herpetological Society

Date/Time/Location: Monday, March 13; 7:30 pm; The Donut Whole (1720 E Douglas)


We will be discussing the diversity of plants, amphibians, and reptiles at four reserves spread in a North/South line throughout the total spread of the Flint Hills. Looking at the lists, (and diversity gradient maps) they seem to support the idea of latitudinal diversity gradients. Essentially, as you travel from the equator towards the poles, the biodiversity decreases. We’ll look at the geology of the region and examine what makes it unique among North American prairies. We’ll delve a little deeper into the biological residents of the sites, and see what factors play the largest roles in effective surveys for the organisms. And, if there’s time, we’ll discuss some conservation threats, and strengths, of the region and where the future may take the ecosystems of the Flint Hills.


Dexter grew up in the Ozarks near Branson, and has been fascinated with frogs and snakes, turtles, lizards, trees, and flowers for as long as he can remember. He moved to Wichita in 2008 to attend Friends University, and started working at the Sedgwick County Zoo as a part-time groundskeeper in October of that year. Through a coworker there, He was introduced into the Kansas Herpetological Society, and the late Joe Collins (coauthor of the Peterson Field Guide of Amphibians and Reptiles of Eastern North America, and Kansas Wildlife Author Laureate). Fast forward 8.5 years, He is still working to finish his undergraduate work, now at Wichita State University. He is the current president of KHS, and the Biological Field Station Manager for WSU.He has herped across the country, and led field courses for more traditional undergraduates in both KS and the Florida panhandle.

Monday, February 13: Life on Pluto? Life on Mars? Don’t Drink the Water!

Speaker: Dr. Mark Schneegurt

Topic: Life on Pluto?  Life on Mars?  Don’t Drink the Water!

Date/Time/Location: Monday February 13, 7:30 pm, The Donut Whole (1720 E. Douglas)


Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink?  Follow the water for the best chances of finding of life on other celestial bodies.  Now we know that there is liquid water on Mars, Europa Enceladus, and other icy satellites appear to have oceans.  The water may be very salty, cold, and acidic.  What makes a location habitable on another world?  What are the challenges?  Could organisms from Earth grow in these exotic environments?   We will discuss current and past robotic missions to potential habitats across the solar system.


Dr. Mark A. Schneegurt is a Professor of Biological Sciences at Wichita State University and maintains joint appointments in Curriculum and Instruction and Biomedical Engineering.  Dr. Schneegurt holds degrees from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a Ph.D. from Brown University.  He was a postdoctoral fellow at Eli Lilly and has taught and researched at Purdue University and University of Notre Dame. His research focuses on applied and environmental microbiology, resulting in 70+ scientific publications and 150+ presentations.

Monday, January 10 – No Science Cafe

Due to a scheduling conflict, there will not be a Science Cafe for the month of January. The next one is scheduled for Monday February 13 2017.

Monday, December 12: Ghost Crab Ecology and Predation of Oyster Drills on the Gulf Coast of Texas

Speakers: Dr. Patrick Mathews and Serena Randolph, Friends University

Topic: Ghost Crab Ecology and Predation of Oyster Drills on the Gulf Coast of Texas

Date/Time/Location: Monday December 12; 7:30pm; The Donut Whole (1720 E Douglas)


Dr Matthews will be presenting the most recent information on our ongoing field study of Ghost Crab ecology and distribution. This study takes place along the Bolivar Peninsula in Texas, just East of Galveston.

Ms. Randolph will be presenting the results of a field study on predation by Oyster Drills, a type of gastropod. This study was also along the Bolivar Peninsula.

Dr. Mathews has spent the last 19 academic years as a biology professor, including 14 years at Friends University here in Wichita.  He has taught a wide diversity of biological courses, including organismal and field biology, ecology, and invertebrate zoology.  He has conducted externally and internally funded research involving undergraduate students that focuses mostly on the impact of environmental management strategies on invertebrates, including investigations of insect parasites of pine beetles, a long study on pulmonate snails living in a marsh at a state park in Missouri, the community structure of Comanche harvester ants, and this project focused on ghost crabs in Texas.

Dr. Mathews completed his Ph.D. in Entomology at the University of Arkansas.  He completed his Master’s degree in Biology at Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri.  His research there focused on the natural history of a millipede and its ecological interactions with a fungus.  He also completed his Bachelor’s degree in Biology at Truman State University.

Serena is a student at Friends University from New Richmond, Wisconsin. She has spent the last three years at Friends, working to double major in zoo science and field biology, along with a minor in psychology. While in school, Serena also works for the admission’s office, giving tours to potential students, and is the biology lab assistant. After completing her undergraduate degrees, she hopes to move on to graduate school where she can continue completing research like the material she is presenting today.