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Central Wyoming College

The Central Wyoming College campus is located in Riverton and has off-campus sites in Jackson , Lander , Thermopolis , Dubois and the Wind River Indian Reservation. The college also delivers college coursework nationwide via a variety of distance delivery methods.  The college offers a wide variety of programs and services to students and businesses and community members of all ages. Programs include career-technical (applied) programs specifically for students looking to immediately enter the job market and academic transfer programs for students planning to continue on for bachelor and advanced degrees.  CWC's services reach far beyond providing educational programs. The college is the cultural center for the region. With one of the finest visual and performing arts centers in the region, CWC offers a full slate of cultural activities. Professional touring groups augments concerts, exhibits and theater productions by CWC visual and performing artists.  The college is also the home of Wyoming PBS, the state's only public broadcasting station.

Central Wyoming College Mission and Vision

The mission of Central Wyoming College is to enhance the quality of life through innovation and excellence in education.  The vision of Central Wyoming College is to provide lifelong learning opportunities beyond the boundaries of time and place.

About Our Community

The Central Wyoming College campus is located in Fremont County on the outskirts of Riverton, a city of about 10,000 on the banks of the Wind River. The campus and community lie in the Wind River Valley, a large lowland area bounded by mountains on three sides. The area has a wide range of environmental zones from cold desert to alpine. Lakes and streams are abundant. Gannett Peak, Wyoming's highest mountain, is in close proximity to where the Wind River Mountains adjoin the valley.  The valley has a rich cultural history. A large portion is occupied by the Wind River Indian Reservation, home of the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes. The rendezvous of the mountain men was held in the south portion in the early 1800s. Gold mining in the Wind River and Absaroka Mountains has now yielded to natural resource development. The abandoned Oregon, California and Mormon trails are nearby and even today can be traced for great distances.  Recreational opportunities are virtually unlimited. Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park, Hot Springs State Park and extensive forested lands are within easy driving distance. Outdoor activities include skiing, snowshoeing, ice-skating, hiking, backpacking, hunting, fishing, photography, horseback riding, golfing and swimming.

(The above information is taken from the CWC Website)

Project Objectives

    • Incorporate molecular biological research tools into first- and second-year science courses using case studies developed around faculty research topics. First offering, January, 2013.(PURE/CURE/SURE?)

    • Create and sustain three undergraduate research seminar courses to enhance the experience of undergraduate researchers beyond the collection and interpretation of data.  First offering, Fall 2013.

      • Introduction to Scientific Research

      • Research Methods: (variable topic)

      • Introduction to IRB/IACAC (Institutional Review Board/ Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee)(CURE/PURE)

    •  Pursue funding to make the Undergraduate Research culture at CWC sustainable.

Research Projects

Thermopolis Hot Spring Research

Astrobiology is an interdisciplinary field dedicated to understanding the biogeochemical processes that may reveal the origin and evolution of life on Earth.  Understanding these processes could lead to an understanding of how life may exist elsewhere in the universe.  This relatively new field, astrobiology focuses on the understanding of habitable environments for life on Earth.  One of the main focuses  of astrobiology is extremophiles, organisms that are able to survive in environments beyond the comfort level of human life (hot, cold, pressure, salinity, acidity, radiation, etc.).   

The Big Spring is located in Hot Springs State Park, approximately 60 miles north of the Central Wyoming College (CWC) campus in Riverton, WY. The hot springs themselves are erupting along an east-west fault line in the Mesozoic sedimentary rocks the flank north side the Owl Creek Mountains.  Rainfall on these mountains moves northward through the sedimentary layers until it reaches the fault zone and flows upward into the springs.  The proximity of these springs to the Yellowstone hotspot volcano is one of the reasons that these springs are hot (approx. 125 F) when they reach the surface.  Our current research reveals a relatively pH neutral, high total dissolved solids (TDS) water, with a variation of microbe morphology with depth and temperature.  Hydrogen sulfide gas, high at the source, is rapidly depleted away from the source.  SEM microscopy exposed intense carbonate crystallization within the microbial mats and filaments.  Preliminary DNA analysis compares the microbial species found in Thermopolis to saline environments around the world, rather than anything found in nearby Yellowstone springs. 

Our project at the Big Spring in Thermopolis, WY, seeks to add to the knowledge base and understanding of the evolution of organisms in a hot springs environment.  Our study began in 2006 and has included water chemistry, DNA analysis, and microscopy. The basic mapping and distribution of microbial communities has led to new questions about the existence of life in this environment.  For the Spring semester of 2013, this project will be used as the main lab activities in our Earth System Science course (GEOL 2000).  Students will begin by learning what has already been done, by doing so themselves, and will take the project beyond this initial phase by pursuing individual research questions.  Students will gain experience in biological, geological and chemical field work, lab work consisting of water chemistry, DNA extraction and amplification of the 16S rRNA gene for bacteria, interpretation of sequencing data, scientific writing and oral presentaion in a public venue.  The final lab activity will be for these students to present their results at the Wyoming Undergraduate Research Day in April.  Those taking this project to a deeper level will be given the opportunity to present their results at a national scientific society meeting later in the year. 

Research at Thermopolis has been support by the Wyoming NASA Space Grant Consortium, the Wyoming INBRE network (see below) and the Wyoming NSF EPSCoR (Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research).

Infectious Disease Study

West Nile Virus (WNV) is an RNA arbovirus in the family Flaviviridae.  While birds are the primary reservoir for the virus, humans can be a dead end host.  In Wyoming, the Culex tarsalis mosquito acts as the primary vector.  Most human infections are asymptomatic.  In less than 1% of infections, however, severe symptoms including paralysis, menengitis, encephalitis, and death may occur.  Fremont County was a hot spot of WNV with 64% of all cases in Wyoming reported in 2007.  Our study proposes the testing of a percentage of the human population of Fremont County to determine the number of people exposed to WNV.  Sera is tested using commercially available IgG and IgM antibody kits. 

At this point in the serosurvey, the methods and materials have been proven to work successfully.  Additionally, the protocols for conducting the ELISA have been refined and reproduced.  The direction of this study has now turned to the broader population of Fremont County.  Blood samples from a broader population have been solicited for serum separation, storage and study.  It is estimated that a minimum of 200 unique samples are needed to adequately study the Fremont County population (approximately 35,000).  The study is conducting ELISA studies on all samples.  Individuals volunteering samples of their blood will answer a questionairre that will determine if the individual has been positively diagnosed for WNV, been vaccinated against other flaviviruses, and if the indivudal has traveled in regions where other flaviviruses are endemic.  Results of this study will help inform public policy decisions about continued mosquito erradication efforts, provide comparison data for Wyoming Game and Fish population studies of mosquitos in Fremont County, and provide data to help Wyoming Department of Health better predict the future of WNV human cases.

The CWC WNV program is support by a grant from the University of Wyoming INBRE (IDeAS Network for BioMedical Research Excellence).

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Vision and Change Implementation


Integrate Core Concepts and Competencies throughout the Curriculum

  • Introduce the scientific process to students early, and integrate it into all undergraduate biology courses

  • Relate abstract concepts in biology to real ­world examples on a regular basis, and make biology content relevant by presenting problems in a real ­life context 

  • Stimulate the curiosity students have for learning about the natural world

  • Demonstrate both the passion scientists have for their discipline and their delight in sharing their understanding of the world with students


Focus on Student ­Centered Learning

  • Engage students as active participants, not passive recipients, in all undergraduate biology courses

  • Use multiple modes of instruction in addition to the traditional lecture

  • Introduce research experiences as an integral component of biology education for all students, regardless of their major

  • Integrate multiple forms of assessment to track student learning


Promote a Campus wide Commitment to Change

  • Mobilize all stakeholders, from students to administrators, to commit to improving the quality of undergraduate biology education

  • Support the development of a true community of scholars dedicated to advancing the life sciences and the science of teaching

  • Advocate for increased status, recognition, and rewards for innovation in teaching, student success, and other educational outcome


Engage the Biology Community in the Implementation of Change

  • Promote more concept­ oriented undergraduate biology courses, and help all students learn how to integrate facts into larger conceptual contexts 

  • Provide all biology faculty with access to the teaching and learning research referenced throughout this report, and encourage its application when developing courses 

  • Create active ­learning environments for all students, even those in first ­year biology courses

High Impact Practices Implementation

Collaborative Assignments and Projects

Undergraduate Research

Diversity/Global Learning

Service Learning

Community-Based Learning


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