Research mentors and projects for the 2017 UNF REU Program 

Check back regularly.  More REU mentors will be added shortly!


Comparative Physiology

  Dr. Greg Ahearn, Comparative Physiology, Crustacean, Teleost, and Elasmobranch Digestive Physiology


Dr. Ahearn is a physiologist that currently studies the synergistic absorption of essential amino acids and metals (e.g., zinc, copper and manganese) in the digestive tracks of marine invertebrates and sharks.  Students working with Dr. Ahearn have been/will be involved in researching: 1) nutritional physiology of marine organisms, 2) short-term grow-out experiments of juvenile penaeid shrimp, 3) molecular biology of transport proteins, or 4) physiological synergistic effects of ocean acidification, salinity, and temperature on crustacean ion and osmotic regulation. 


Environmental Microbiology

Dr. Dale Casamatta, Environmental microbiology

 Dr. Casamatta is an aquatic ecologist that focuses primarily on describing novel microbial biodiversity and aquatic microbial ecology, and recently mentored his first REU student, an underrepresented minority, in our program in 2014.  Students working with Dr. Casamatta have been/will be involved in:  1) the investigation of microbe-microbe interactions in lichens, 2) the description of symbioses involving cyanobacteria or other microbial taxa, or 3) describing how changes in abiotic conditions lead to changes in the cyanobacterial community.  


Biological Monitoring 
   Dr. Nikki Dix, Guana-Tolomato-Matanzas Research Reserve, Biological Monitoring

Dr. Dix is the research coordinator for the GTMNERR, a 73,000-acre reserve located approximately 20 miles from UNF that includes diverse coastal, estuarine, and upland habitats (e.g., salt marsh, mangroves, oyster beds, tidal lagoons, coastal strands and dunes) and serves as essential habitat for a number of ecologically and economically important coastal species.  REU students that work with Dr. Dix will contribute toward the NERR System-Wide Monitoring Program, a nationwide effort to measure change in estuaries. Students have the opportunity to be involved in field sampling and data analysis related to monitoring either salt marshes or oysters. The salt marsh monitoring project is designed to investigate how changes in vegetation and sediment elevation relate to various environmental parameters such as climate and water quality.  Oyster research will involve relating metrics of population structure to driving forces such as predation, harvesting pressure, or environmental factors.




Ecology and Biology of Sharks and Rays in north Florida waters



Dr. Jim Gelsleichter, Shark Biology, Physiology, and Ecotoxicology


Dr. Gelsleichter’s research program focuses on population ecology, reproductive biology, and ecotoxicology of fish, particularly sharks and their relatives.  REU students working with Dr. Gelsleichter will conduct research projects focused on a diverse number of topics such as shark abundance in northeast Florida waters, the roles of gonadal steroids in shark sexual differentiation, stress responses in sharks, reproductive effects of methylmercury, and the effects of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill on Gulf of Mexico fishes.


Behavioral Ecology of Dolphins
  Dr. Quincy Gibson, Behavioral Ecology

Dr. Gibson is a behavioral ecologist that studies reproductive and feeding behaviors of bottlenose dolphins, Tursiops truncatus.  REU students working with Dr. Gibson have been/will be involved in: 1) elucidating the patterns and function of alliance formation in local populations of T. truncatus, or 2) comparing behaviors among three genetically distinct subpopulations of T. truncatus in the Jacksonville area.  Dr. Gibson has mentored 2 REU students in the past 3 years, one of which received the "Best Oral Presentation by an Undergraduate Student" award for her presentation at the 2014 Southeast and Mid-Atlantic Marine Mammal (SEAMAMMS) Symposium.


 Evolutionary Genetics, Speciation, Invasive Species Biology



Dr. Matt Gilg, Evolutionary Genetics, Speciation, Invasive Species Biology 


Dr. Gilg is an evolutionary ecologist interested in speciation, hybrid zone evolution, establishment and expansion of invasive species and adaptation to environmental changes.  Students working with Dr. Gilg will be involved in one of three research areas: 1) the genetic structure of a hybrid zone between closely related species of Killifish, Fundulus heteroclitus and F. grandis, and how this structure is changing with habitat shifts due to climate change, 2) determining the effects of increased international shipping through the Jacksonville Port in the St. Johns River on propagule pressure of introduced species of marine invertebrates, or 3) heritability of temperature tolerance in Caribbean corals.




Reproductive Ecology and Impact of Invasive Species



Dr. Eric Johnson, Population dynamics and quantitative fisheries ecology 


Dr.Johnson is a fisheries biologist that integrates basic ecology with fisheries science to address important research questions related to commercial and recreational fisheries, predominantly along the Atlantic coast of the U.S.  Students working with Dr. Johnson will potentially investigate:  1) ecology of the invasive lionfish in Florida, or 2) population dynamics of blue crabs in the St. Johns River.


Identification of

Natural Products Marine Microorganisms



Dr. Amy Lane, Biochemical identification of natural products from marine microorganisms.


Dr. Lane utilizes marine microorganisms to isolate organic molecules known as natural products. Natural products are promising lead compounds for the development of new antibiotics and act as the “words” of chemical languages “spoken” by microorganisms. These chemical communication signals drive interactions between organisms, including symbiosis, competition, and host-pathogen interactions. Deciphering the meaning of chemical signals enables understanding of marine microbial biodiversity and opens doors for improving marine ecosystem health. NSF REU fellows in the Lane group will select from the following projects: (1) evaluating natural products as chemical weapons utilized by marine microorganisms to thwart their competitors; or, (2) identifying genes and enzymes employed by marine microorganisms to assemble natural products that act as chemical weapons and as potential human antibiotics. 


Developmental and regenerative biology 
  Dr. Vladimir Mashanov, Developmental and regenerative biology

Dr. Mashanov studies cellular and molecular aspects of development and post-traumatic organ regeneration in echinoderms. REU students interested in joining the lab will be involved in: (1) studying arm regeneration in a brittle star; (2) investigating regeneration of the anterior body region in a sea cucumber; (3) computational three-dimensional modeling of microscopic anatomy of regenerating organs.