Research mentors and projects for the 2016 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. 


Biological Monitoring
  Dr. Nikki Dix, Guana-Tolomata-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.



 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.


 Competition Among Marine Microorganisms



Dr. Amy Lane, Competition as an activator of natural product production among marine microorganisms


Dr. Lane is a biochemist that studies the biosynthetic pathways be which natural products are made by marine microorganisms.  REU students working with Dr. Lane shall: 1) explore the central hypothesis that actual and/or simulated competitive interactions between marine microorganisms activate the production of natural products, or 2) investigate the hypothesis that these metabolites mediate interspecies interactions and ultimately impact the diversity of marine microbial communities.


Estuarine Policy and Management
  Dr. Gary Raulerson, Guana-Tolomata-Matanzas Research Reserve, Estuarine Policy and Management

Dr. Raulerson is an assistant research manager of GTMNERR, a 73,000-acre reserve located approximately 20 miles from UNF that includes diverse coastal, estuarine, and upland habitats.  Students working with Dr. Raulerson will focus on either estuarine policy and management issues or ecology of northeast Florida (focused on habitat restoration and/or interactions within the mangrove/marsh ecotone). Current questions include: 1) values of ecosystem services of estuarine habitats and how observed changes may influence those services over the next several decades; 2) understanding how stormwater best management practices (BMP’s) are being implemented in new developments within the GTMNERR watershed; 3) implications for nutrient cycling as the region transitions from a marsh dominated to a mixed marsh-mangrove system; and 4) monitoring intertidal habitat restoration and living shoreline projects to understand delivery of ecosystem services within this dynamic ecosystem.
Impact of Stress on Marine Algae, Seagrasses and Corals    Dr. Cliff Ross, Stress Responses in Algae, Seagrasses, and Corals

Dr. Ross is a molecular biologist interested in developing methods to examine cellular mechanisms governing stress responses in micro/macro algae, sea grasses and corals.  REU participants working with Dr. Ross may be involved in studying: 1) the impacts of Red Tide (Karenia brevis) on the health of varying life history stages of selected corals, or 2) the examination of immune characteristics of seagrasses in response to wasting disease and how they are influenced by pollutants or environmental characteristics.


Fish Ecology
  Dr. Kelly Smith, Fish Ecology
Dr. Smith is a fish ecologist that focuses on how environmental factors influenced by changes in human land use affect fish behavior and survival.  Currently, her lab focuses on: 1) the role oyster restoration, and associated salt marsh conservation, can play as a potential refuge for juvenile fishes, and 2) measuring predator mediated competition between benthic species when given limited habitat availability.