Research Conducted by Medical Biology Student Aims to Protect Threatened Turtle Species
Selenium is an element that can be found on South Dakota’s topsoil, and although it is relatively harmless, it is easily mobilized into aquatic environments through irrigation practices and natural events, such as high water and flooding, where it becomes more bioavailable to species. The bioactive selenium is then often consumed by false map turtles’ food sources, leading to the bioaccumulation of selenium in the turtle’s bloodstream which can cause decrease reproductive success, acute toxicity or even death.
The goal of Budden’s research is to test the turtle’s blood to determine if they are bioaccumulating selenium in large enough amounts to cause these negative effects.
“I hope my research allows me to come to a conclusion as to whether or not the selenium levels in the turtles are at a toxic level,” said Budden. “If the selenium levels are found to be at a toxic level, I hope to focus my efforts on preventing the agricultural runoff that pushes selenium into our rivers.”
Budden, a native of Pipestone, Minnesota, learned about this research opportunity through Jake Kerby, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Biology. Budden received funding from the UDiscover Scholar program last summer as well as from the NASA South Dakota Space Grant Consortium to help make this research project possible.
“I have been fortunate enough to use the university’s facilities and equipment for the duration of my research in addition to receiving funding from the UDiscover Scholar program in 2022,” said Budden. "Without the facilities, equipment and funding provided by USD, my research would not be possible."
On campus, Budden is involved in a wide variety of student organizations, including Alternative Week of Learning, Special Olympics Club and Pre-Dental Club. Budden, who chose USD because of its proximity to his family, said his time at the state’s flagship university has left him well equipped to take on this research opportunity.
“Going to school at USD has helped me tremendously with this project,” Budden said. “A lot of the courses within my major have taught me a lot about the concepts involved in my research. Without them, my research would be much more difficult.”
After completing his undergraduate degree, the medical biology student plans to earn a degree in dentistry and specialize in oral and maxillofacial surgery. While his research does not necessarily coincide with his future ambitions, Budden said this experience is invaluable nonetheless.
“Though my research is not directly tied to dentistry, it has taught me many problem-solving and hands-on skills that are applicable to my future career,” said Budden.
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