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Trevor Masters ‘16

Trevor Masters ‘16 image

Student Research
Project Title 
Bringing Extinct Sponges to Life: A New Program for Modeling Stromatoporoid Growth
Denison University Research Foundation (DURF)
Faculty Advisor(s) 
Jessen Havill, Professor of Computer Science, and David Goodwin, Associate Professor of Geosciences

Trevor Masters ’16, like most computer science majors, had never heard of a stromatoporoid.

But, based on outstanding performance during his first year at Denison, he was asked whether he would be interested in joining an interdisciplinary project to write an application, for use in the geoscience classroom, that models these extinct sponge-like organisms.

Modeling Stromatoporoid GrowthMost geoscience students readily learn how organisms are shaped by their environment.  However, few actually have an opportunity to explore the direct relationship between environmental pressures and an organism's response to them.

For example, phototropic plants grow towards a bright light in order to have greater access to this vital resource.  But under what type and intensity of light does this occur? How far can the plant grow in any given direction?  How do other forces, such as wind and gravity, act in opposition to phototropic growth?  By exploring the direct relationship between an environmental pressure and an organism's response, answers to these kinds of questions can become evident more easily.

StromaGrowTrevor’s program, called StromaGrow, explores these types of direct relationships between a stromatoporoid and its environment, and therefore functions as both a teaching and a learning tool.  StromaGrow can generate a fully interactive three-dimensional model, and allow viewing of any arbitrary cross-section.  The program also includes several other possible growth conditions, such as introducing multiple, competitive seeds and a digitate mode that favors growth into open spaces, resulting in branched, “coral-like” shapes.

With Dr. Goodwin and Dr. Havill, Trevor presented his work at the national Geological Society of America conference, where it was warmly received by both educators and researchers.


Posted Date 
Monday, February 10, 2014
  • 11Trevor Masters ‘16 image