Student finds new species at monument

A Colorado Mesa University graduate discovered a new species at Colorado National Monument this summer.

But don’t go looking for it unless you bring along a microscope. It’s that small.

What student Kaitlynn Felipe found on the monument was a new species of tardigrade, which are also known as water bears or moss piglets.

Tardigrades are small invertebrate animals that look, well, weird. They have multiple legs with multiple claws, and a mouth, but not much else.

Felipe announced her findings Wednesday at the annual Saccomanno Internship Program in Biological Research. She was one of six students who spent their summers on various scientific projects, from breast cancer research to studying the effects elevation has on a local garden snake.

Felipe found four other species of tardigrades on the monument at levels not seen before.

“We were able to find five species of tardigrade in the Colorado National Monument,” Felipe said. “Because this area had never been surveyed before for tardigrades, four represent new records and the fifth is a new species.”

Felipe’s research also took her to northern Iceland because she wanted to study two extreme climates, Colorado’s high desert and Iceland’s cold temperatures.

In Iceland, Felipe said she searched in seven different locations, expecting to find them in certain sand formations.

Instead, she found them in barnacles on both the east and west coasts of the tiny island. It could be the first time marine tardigrades had been discovered on the island, she said.

The project was a collaboration between Colorado Mesa University and the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia in Modena, Italy.

Other students and their research projects included:

■ Adriana Ramos, who focused her research on breast cancer.

■ Marcus Maurer, who compared western Colorado snakes on the Grand Valley floor with their counterparts on the Grand Mesa.

■ Leah Temple, who examined the impact temperatures have on the life cycle of herbivorous insects.

■ Kevin Wernke, who studied what effect bioactive natural products would have on healthy and cancerous cells.

■ Mariah Weinke, who looked for new molecular markers in plants.


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