College of Charleston
Journal of Undergraduate Biological Investigations (JUBI)
An web-based journal of biological investigations conducted in general education
introductory biology at the College of Charleston


This on-line journal provides a forum for students to present the results of biological investigations and projects conducted in Introductory Biology lab at the College of Charleston.  The laboratory allows students to explore important biological concepts and processes in the context of how science is done.  The lab curriculum is structured to gradually give students practice doing various aspects of science, and culminates in a team project in which students propose, design, conduct, write, and present a scientific research project.  Moreover, peer-review of research proposals and articles allows students to experience how the scientific community establishes and agrees upon the validity of scientific knowledge.  In this way students experience the power that science has to reveal the workings of the natural world, and also the limitations, and tentativeness of this knowledge.  These aspects of science literacy are essential if citizens are to use and evaluate scientific knowledge in order to make informed decisions about science-related issues. 

For more information about this project visit Problem-Based Learning & Scientific Inquiry in Introductory Biology (NSF DUE 0410720) and Undergraduate Science Programs at the College of Charleston (HHMI Grant Supported Project)


Journal Submissions:

Each semester, exemplary articles or project papers are nominated by the lab instructors for publication.  All articles submitted for publication in JUBI have been reviewed/edited by a team of the author's peers, the author's lab instructor, and at least one CofC Biology Department faculty member. The planning, design and implementation of each investigation was completed by a team of students; however, each article is in large measure written by a single author (the first author on the paper).  Subsequent authors are the first author's teammates who participated in the planning and execution of the project.  


Resources for students:


Articles from Concepts & Applications of Biology (BIOL 101L) & Introduction to Cell & Molecular Biology (BIOL 111L)

McCuen, William,
Effects of Leaf Angle on Net Primary Productivity in Cycas revoluta (Sago palm), College of Charleston, SC
The cycad, Cycas revoluta, has considerable variations in leaf angle within a single individual plant, and even along a single frond.  The goal of this study was to ascertain whether leaf angle has an effect on the photosynthetic activity of the cycad, specifically measured in gross primary production (GPP) per gram of leaf mass.  It was hypothesized that a lower leaf angle would have a higher rate of GPP because geometry would dictate that a tilted leaf intercepts less vertical light than a leaf in a horizontal position.  The hypothesis was tested by isolating C. revoluta leaves in biochambers with vertical light for 10 minutes while tracking their NPP (net primary productivity) and R (respiration) with carbon dioxide sensors. A one-tailed t-test was performed and found a statistically significant (p-value of 0.017) difference between the GPP in leaves left flat and leaves propped up at a 60° angle.  There was no significant difference in respiratory rates, but the lower GPP of angled leaves resulted in significantly lower overall NPP. 

Freeman, Ric. 
An Investigation into the Effect on Leaves’ Photosynthetic Rate When Removed From Their Source of Nutrients, College of Charleston, SC

Photosynthesis is an important biological process that occurs in plants that removes harmful toxins from the atmosphere while at the same time providing vital, life-sustaining nutrients for it as well as many other organisms. Unfortunately, the worldwide population of photosynthesizing organisms is on the decline as a result of humans and deforestation. The purpose of this experiment is to determine how the photosynthetic rate of a plant is affected as the amount of time it has been removed from its source of nutrients increases. A Vernier CO2 gas sensor was used to measure the photosynthetic rate of four samples of Chokecherry leaves that were recently removed from the plant and compared their photosynthetic rate against four samples of Chokecherry leaves that were removed three hours prior. The photosynthetic rate of the recently removed leaves was nearly 300% higher than the photosynthetic rate of the leaves removed three hours prior. This suggests that as photosynthetic organisms are removed from their source of nutrients, they will cease to continue photosynthesis and the amount of CO2 removed from the atmosphere and the amount of O2 released into the atmosphere decreases.


Bishop, Jessica.  A comparison of the photosynthetic rates of wetland plants vs. non-wetland plants based on the uptake of CO2, College of Charleston, SC
There are several varying soil types in the Low country of South Carolina.  Each of these soil types has different nutrients to offer many different species of plants.  This experiment investigated the difference between the photosynthetic rates of non-wetland plants and wetland plants.  In this experiment, samples from a common non-wetland plant, Liriope muscari, and samples from a common wetland plant, Spartina alterniflora, were taken.  Then, the photosynthetic rates of the non-wetland plant and the wetland plant were determined.  The results of the statistical analysis determined that there was not a significant difference between the photosynthetic rates of the non-wetland plant and the wetland plant (P(T<=t) one tail was 0.42).  This suggests that the soil type of the common location for a plant does not significantly affect the overall photosynthetic rate of the plant.  However, upon subsequent analysis of the data, we did discover a significantly greater cell respiratory rate in Spartina (p<0.01).  This difference may be due to the energy costs of salt extrusion salt marsh plants.


Fuenfstueck, Laura, The Effect of Color on Gross Primary Productivity in Palmetto Tree Leaves, College of Charleston, SC
Chlorophylls are the main pigments in photosynthesis; thus, color might be an indicator of photosynthetic productivity and possibly a helpful tool for decision-making in horticulture. This study investigated the effect of color on gross primary productivity (GPP) in palmetto tree leaves.  Leaves were collected, categorized into two groups (yellow and green) and gross primary productivity was determined using the CO2 uptake method.  There was no significant relationship between the GPP rates and leaf color in palmetto trees (p = 0.66). This suggests that leaf color has no effect on photosynthetic productivity, and that palmetto leaves must have mechanisms for maintaining high photosynthetic rates even when leaves change color.

Hammond, Ellery,  Comparing Metabolic Rates of Invasive Species versus Native Species of Plants, College of Charleston, SC.

There are a variety of native and invasive plants in the downtown Charleston area. Our study examined why invasive/nonnative species of plants flourish in a different environment than the natural ecosystem in which they are meant to thrive? This investigation examined the differences in productivity between native and invasive species. Our hypothesis was that nonnative/invasive plant species thrive in a non-native environment because they have higher GPP then native plants. In this study we examined one native species; palmetto trees, and one invasive species; bamboo trees. GPP rates were calculated using the CO2 uptake method by measuring the rate of CO2 uptake and release in light and dark environments. The results from the study revealed that the invasive bamboo species had significantly higher GPP levels then the native palmetto plants. Further exploration of the metabolism of these species showed that bamboo had higher respiratory rates and rates of NPP compared to palmetto. Research has suggested that because invasive species metabolize more quickly than native species in the same ecosystem, invasive species are able to thrive and flourish in regions that are considered atypical ecosystems for that plant.


Pirkkala, Rachel, Effect of Leaf Surface Area Color on Photosynthetic Rate of Solenostemon scutellarioides, College of Charleston, SC
The rate of photosynthesis (Gross Photosynthetic Productivity (GPP)) in plants can be affected by many factors. This experiment explores the effect of leaf surface area color in plants having more or less red pigment on the rate of photosynthesis of the Solenostemon scutellarioides. CO2 probes were used to measure the amount of CO2 given off and taken in by the plant in light and dark environments. This was used to calculate GPP occurring within the chloroplasts.  Plants with more anthocyanin or red pigment were found to undergo photosynthesis at a slower rate than plants with less of the pigment present. The mean rate of CO2 absorption for the leaves with a greater red surface area was found to be significantly greater than that of leaves with a greater surface area of green (t= 1.93; p = 0.0426). These values suggest that the color of the leaves of a plant can affect the way that it grows, and that leaves with a greater surface area of red undergo photosynthesis at a slower rate.


Jones, Emily,  Elle Rich, Esther Kim, Chris Philips, The Effect of Pigmentation on Photosynthetic Rate in Two Species of Caladium: C. candidum and C. bicolor, College of Charleston, SC
This study investigated the possible relationship between leaf pigmentation and photosynthetic rate in two varieties of Caladium. Since plants come in all different colors, can the survival of a plant be influenced by the amount of pigmentation (which is a reflection of the amount of chlorophyll)?  Along with other needs for survival, do plants also need a certain amount of pigmentation on its leaves to help it absorb light from the sun?  CO2 uptake for four trials of each species of Caladium was measured over a twenty-minute interval where the leaves were exposed to ten minutes of full-spectrum fluorescent light (simulating sunlight) and then ten minutes of darkness.  The total photosynthetic rate was calculated and then divided by the mass of the leaf being used.  We found that there was no statistical relationship between leaf pigmentation and total photosynthetic rate.  This suggested that in the case of Caladium, the two species contrasting colorings has no affect on their total photosynthetic rate.

Bishop, Jessica,  A comparison of the photosynthetic rates of wetland plants vs. non-wetland plants based on the uptake of CO2, College of Charleston, SC
There are several varying soil types in the Low country of South Carolina.  Each of these soil types has different nutrients to offer many different species of plants.  This experiment investigated the difference between the photosynthetic rates of non-wetland plants and wetland plants.  In this experiment, samples from a common non-wetland plant, Liriope muscari, and samples from a common wetland plant, Spartina alterniflora, were taken.  Then, the photosynthetic rates of the non-wetland plant and the wetland plant were determined.  The results of the statistical analysis determined that there was not a significant difference between the photosynthetic rates of the non-wetland plant and the wetland plant (P(T<=t) one tail was 0.42).  This suggests that the soil type of the common location for a plant does not significantly affect the overall photosynthetic rate of the plant.  However, upon subsequent analysis of the data, we did discover a significantly greater cell respiratory rate in Spartina (p<0.01).  This difference may be due to the energy costs of salt extrusion salt marsh plants.


Extended Abstracts from Concepts & Applications in Biology (BIOL 102L) & Evolution, Form & Function of Organisms (BIOL 112L)

Kazlauskaite, Karolina, The Effect of Butterfly Size on Thermoregulation, College of Charleston, SC.
Thermoregulation is the maintenance of an optimum temperature range by an organism.  The primary way butterflies regulate their body temperature is through basking, a behavioral mechanism (Kingsolver, 1985).  Butterflies bask in sunlight to warm up in order to prepare their muscles for flight (Masters et al., 1988). The faster a butterfly is able to warm up, the sooner it can fly, potentially away from predators or towards a food source, thus increasing its survival (Masters et al., 1988).  The relationship between butterfly size and thermoregulation has been investigated to some extent, but there is minimal evidence on how varying sizes of butterflies relate to how quickly they are able to absorb heat.  Kemp et al. (2004) discovered that small butterflies were able to absorb heat more quickly compared to larger butterflies but did not retain the heat as well as the larger butterflies.  In contrast, Gilchrist et al. (1990) examined a species of butterfly that are sexually dimorphic and found that the larger females required higher wing temperatures to initiate flight, thus a longer basking time, but were able to maintain the heat for a greater length of time compared to the smaller males. The focus of the present study was to test the effect that butterfly size has on its capacity to absorb heat. Medium-sized butterflies served as the control group, with small and large butterflies serving as the two experimental groups.  It was hypothesized that
when subjected to solar radiation body temperature and size would show a negative proportional relationship, with smaller butterflies gaining heat faster due to their smaller mass.

Brooks, Catherine, The Effects of Caffeine on Blood Pressure, College of Charleston, SC.
Caffeine is one of the most widely used drugs in the United States, an estimated eighty five percent of Americans consume it on a daily basis (Mitchell et al., 2014).  Because caffeine is such a prevalent substance and many of its effects are still unknown, it is a important topic in the fields of medicine and public health.  Previous studies have indicated caffeine can cause a short-term increase in blood pressure, though the reason for this is uncertain (Sheps, 2017).   It is also unclear whether caffeine can lead to long-term hypertension, a dangerous health condition that has been associated with a higher risk of a heart attack and stroke.  In an effort to gain a deeper understanding of the impact of caffeine on blood pressure, the current study investigated whether caffeine affects systolic pressure, diastolic pressure, or both.  By determining which pressure is impacted, it may be possible for scientists to learn more about the way caffeine works in the human body and thus develop a further comprehension of its health implications.  Based on evidence from studies, it was hypothesized that if subjects consume one cup of coffee, then their systolic and diastolic pressures will be higher than their blood pressure prior to caffeine consumption.