A Truett McConnell University (TMU) biology major recently received grant funding from the Creation Research Society to assist with her capstone research project on the carnivorous Northern purple pitcher plant (Sarracenia purpurea).

Brynna Humphrey, a senior in the Pilgram Marpeck School of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) began the research as part of her senior capstone project. “I have loved science my entire life but hit my stride when I took a Botany class with Mr. [Tom] Hennigan,” said the Fort Oglethorpe native.

The pitcher plant, which is the focus of the research, develops leaves that act as containers filled by rainwater where a lot of bacteria live. When insects fall in, they drown and sink to the bottom where bacteria digest them into protein food for the plant.

“The goal of this research,” explained Tom Hennigan, Associate Professor of Organism Biology and Ecology, “will allow Brynna to understand whether the kinds of bacteria living in the plant change from season to season. She also wants to know which bacteria can supply the protein recipe requirements for the plant.”

“From a Genesis perspective,” added Hennigan, “if sin brought death to animals and humans, these questions could give insight regarding how these plants obtained food without killing first.”

Pictured: Brynna Humphrey and Professor Tom Hennigan researching different foliage on the campus of TMU.

With the addition of grant funding, Humphrey will be able to genetically sequence the fluids in pitcher plants so that the microorganisms– especially bacteria– can be identified. She explains the particular interest for this research is “comparing bacteria that can make nitrogen usable for the plant, with other types of bacteria.”

“I am excited about Brynna getting grant funding from the Creation Research Society for a couple of reasons,” said Hennigan. “First, it will give her an opportunity to professionally publish her findings in a creation science journal and possibly present the data for our biology conference at Cedarville University this July. Secondly, because of Brynna’s interest in carnivorous plants, she desires to pursue graduate school in botany and this research may provide baseline data for further research, since so much is still unknown about pitcher microorganism symbioses.”

The grant committee, which is made up of several scientists from around the country, are members of the Creation Research Society (CRS), and chaired by Dr. Eugene Chaffin. The CRS has been working over the years to raise money for research endowment. The interest earned on this endowment provides money to fund small projects in support of creation research. The committee voted unanimously to fund Humphrey’s research.

“Through this research, I hope to be able to continue to expand the creationist model,” said Humphrey. “I also hope to leave behind an area of research for future TMU students to study and expand on once I graduate. For myself, I hope to use this grant, and the research that comes from it, to help me pursue further schooling.”

Humphrey credits Dr. Robert Bowen, Dean and Associate Professor of Physiology, Dr. Andrew Fabich, Associate Professor of Microbiology, Dr. Kurt Wise, Professor of Biology, and Mr. Tom Hennigan, Associate Professor of Organism Biology, for allocating their time and resources to help with this project.

“Though this is just the start,” Humphrey says, “I hope to get my PhD in botany and continue with field and lab research to further the creationist model.”


Jenny Gregory is the Digital Content Specialist for TMU.

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