These are some of our current graduate students and their research interests.
Dr. Mathew Gilg
My research focuses on speciation and reproduction in fishes. I am currently investigating barriers to reproduction in the sympatric species Fundulus grandis and F. heteroclitus. The results of this study will shed light on the evolution of these fishes and may be used to support coastal resource management strategies using F. heteroclitus and F. grandis as indicators of overall ecosystem health in Northeastern Florida salt marshes.
A.S. in Aquaculture -Hillsborough Community College, 2003; B.S. in Marine Science and Biology, Minorin Chemistry - The University of Tampa, 2007
I am broadly interested in the innate immune response and how host-pathogen interactions occur. The goal of my thesis research is to characterize the interaction between the ubiquitous cell adhesion molecule Basigin and the pattern recognition receptor toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) to elucidate the role of Basigin in the innate immune response. TLR4 is a transmembrane receptor present on the surface of immune cells that recognizes the lipopolysaccharide component of Gram-negative bacterial cell walls. In response to this recognition, TLR4 induces intracellular signaling cascades through the MyD88 and TRIF signaling pathways that ultimately result in inflammation through the production of cytokine signaling molecules. Basigin is known to influence both of these intracellular signaling pathways, however, an interaction between Basigin and TLR4 has not been previously documented. My thesis project involves analyzing the Basigin protein to better understand what amino acid residues may be important for the interaction with TLR4 through molecular and biochemical techniques. This project could potentially identify a new role for Basigin.
My graduate research focuses on the pathogen, Klebsiella
pneumoniae, a gram negative, rod shaped bacteria prevalant in
nosocomial infections. This includes pneumonia and systemic infections. I am
interested in observing the relationship between the bacteria and immune cells,
particularly alveolar macrophages. I use confocal microscopy as a tool to
observe phagocytosis of different strains of K. pneumoniae by
macrophages. This allows me to analyze the different ways in which the strains
of K. pneumoniae are able to evade the immune system due to
characteristics such as porin loss, capsule production, and O antigen loss. I
hope to further explore this relationship through other molecular methods as my
research continues, here and UNF.
My interests are in the community ecology of coastal marine and estuarine systems with a closer look at sharks. My graduate research consists of surveying shark populations along the southeastern coast in order to provide information such as species richness, relative abundance, distribution and breeding populations of these top predators. More specifically, we are focusing on the scalloped hammerhead (Sphyrna lewini) and the Carolina hammerhead (Sphyrna gilberti), the two of which are morphologically indistinguishable. Until recently, they were both considered scalloped hammerheads, and endangered at that. This research will allow for a better understanding of all species involved and subsequently a greater ability to practice sustainable management of them.
I am interested in the ecology, population dynamics, and life history of marine and estuarine species. My current research focuses on spatial variation in fishing mortality of blue crab populations in subestuaries of the upper Chesapeake Bay, which have observed sustained declines over the last 25 years. This project, in coordination with other ongoing research efforts, will help to understand the relative impacts of recreational and commercial fishing on blue crab populations and help to quantify the contribution of individual subestuaries to the Chesapeake Bay spawning stock.
A.S. Biology, Santa Fe College
My research focuses on the social dynamics of captive western lowland gorillas. Specifically, I am assessing the effectiveness of training protocols which aim to strengthen group cohesion. This will be done through a comparative analysis examining the change in social interactions and the levels of fecal glucocorticoids (a biological stress marker) before and after training implementation. The study has the potential to determine a successful method that can give zoological intituations a means to improve the social stability of their primate populations.
B.S. Animal Behavior, Purdue University, 2012
M.S. Biology, Ball State University, Muncie, 2015
"In the broadest sense, I am
driven by the idea of finding an interface between awareness through scientific
inquiry and striving for a sustainable future for the marine environment
through the use of that knowledge. The foundation of my thesis work aligns with
this interest, as I seek to elucidate the dynamics of the host-pathogen
interaction that leads to seagrass wasting disease, whose periodic decimation
of regional seagrass species throughout history is so substantial that it
frequently triggers ecosystem wide collapses. The causative agent of the
epidemic is Labyrinthula, a group of
parasitic slime molds. I’ve chosen to focus on wasting disease prevalence in Thalassia testudinum (turtle grass), due
to its fundamental role as a primary producer in shallow tropics around the
world and whose populations have been historically plagued by Labyrinthula
infection. More specifically, the overarching goal of my research is to
define and draw correlations between host immune measures, site-specific
environmental variability, pathogen prevalence, and host genotype. This study
is especially meaningful when we place it within the context of anthropogenic
impact and the compounding associated stressors it imposes on coastal
ecosystems in particular. The expectation is that host susceptibility to Labyrinthula will be intimately linked
to the condition of its environment. Bleak projections concerning the health of
our coastal ecosystems the near future demand advances in our understanding of
this complex interaction to facilitate the development of more informed
conservation management techniques."
Dr. Jim Gelsleichter
The goal of my research is to determine if high levels of
mercury accumulation that have been observed in shark muscle also occurs in
their brain, the main target for mercury toxicity, and if these levels are
associated with damage to their nervous system. This study will focus on
mercury concentrations in the brain, and S-100, a protein marker of brain
damage, in the cerebrospinal fluid of the Atlantic sharpnose shark
(Rhizoprionodon terraenovae). Additional markers of oxidative stress and lipid
peroxidation will be tested as well.
B.S. Marine Biology with honors, University on North
Carolina Wilmington, 2011
My graduate thesis research is directed at the study of cell adhesion molecules in the brain, specifically Neuroplastins. The goal of my thesis research is to characterize the interactions between the transmembrane domain of Neuroplastins and monocarboxylate transporters (MCTs) in the brain. Neuroplastins are important cell adhesion molecules in synapses, allowing for neurite outgrowth, synaptic maturation and plasticity, and may be useful as a drug target for treatment of mental disorders. MCTs are used to transport pyruvate, lactate, and ketone by means of facilitated diffusion for use as an energy source by parts the brain, in addition to glucose which is also utilized by the rest of the body. The interactions of other members of the Immunoglobulin Superfamily (IgSF) of cell adhesion molecules (Basigin, and Embigin) with MCTs have been well characterized. However, the interactions between Neuroplastins and MCTs have not yet been characterized. This project will provide insight into the potential for the interactions between these molecules within the brain.
My research focuses on the isolation and functional analysis of Tetratricopeptide 39c (Ttc39c), a novel gene expressed during skeletal muscle. This gene's expression has been shown to be transcriptionally regulated by the E3 ubiquitin ligase MuRF1. While having virtually no expression in differentiated skeletal muscle, Ttc39c expression is upregulated by MuRF1 under neurogenic atrophy conditions. Understanding Ttc39c's function within this atrophy pathway will further elucidate the molecular mechanisms of neurogenic skeletal muscle atrophy.
Dr. Quincy Gibson
My interests lie in the socio-sexual behavior of marine mammals. My research will be focused on thebehavior of social alliances of the Atlantic bottlenose dolphins in the St.Johns River.
B.S. Biology & B.S. Interdisciplinary Studies(Marine Science), University of Georgia, 2012
B.S. Biology, University of Northern Colorado,
B.S. in Marine Biology, Hawaii Pacific University
My research interests focus on conservation biology and marine ecology. The aim of my graduate research is to identify the effects of the seasonal red tide producing dinoflagellate, Karenia brevis, on reef building coral in the Gulf of Mexico. By analyzing sub-lethal stress in coral at different life stages following exposure to K. brevis and their associated brevetoxins, I hope to determine if these algae blooms have the potential to cause recruitment failure and coral bleaching. The results of this research will help us understand the impact of a potential local stressor on coral in the Gulf of Mexico and allow us to more accurately project coral decline.
B.S Biology, University of North Florida
My research focuses on the reproductive endocrinology of the southern stingray, Dasyatis americana. I am examining associations between reproductive stage and circulating concentrations of reproductive hormones using non-lethal approaches, such as the measurement of plasma sex hormones and assessments of pregnancy via ultrasonography. This information is important because recent studies have shown that captive D. americana held in public aquaria appear to be exhibiting reproductive abnormalities associated with hormonal regularities, but virtually no information is available on how hormones regulate reproduction in this species.
Dr. Eric Johnson
I am broadly interested in negative pressures affecting ecologically andeconomically important fish species. My current research focuses on thelionfish, a predatory marine invader from the Indo-Pacific, which has invadedthe Caribbean, Western Atlantic, and Gulf of Mexico at an unprecedented rate.Previous studies on the species have been mainly focused in the Caribbean, buthave presented troubling evidence of declines in native species recruitment, competitionwith commercially important grouper and snapper species, rapid reproduction anddispersal, and the attainment of higher densities in their invaded range thanin their native range. I will be studying lionfish in a new ecosystem, NortheastFlorida, and specifically studying growth, population biology, and prey speciesconsumption in an effort to provide local fisheries managers with current andaccurate data from this biogeographical province.
B. S. Rutgers Unversity, Department of Ecology, Evolution, & Natural Resources
My research interests focus on the adverse effects of xenobiotics in the environment on biological organisms. The goal of my graduate research is to examine the potential health effects of pollutant exposure on Atlantic stingray (Dasyatis sabina) populations in the St. Johns River. Special emphasis is placed on identifying the effects of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) and polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) exposure on stingrays due to known contaminated sites in the lower St. Johns River basin. We use molecular and cellular biomarkers as quantifiable indicators that link environmental exposure to a specific health outcome. Exposure to PAHs can cause the formation of toxicopathic lesions, while exposure to PCBs can cause alterations in endocrine and immune function. The level of biomarkers in Atlantic stingrays can be used as a proxy for environmental health because stingrays interact with the sediment, where these contaminants settle and persist, allowing for continued exposure. It is critical to collect baseline data for stingrays in the St. Johns River, especially since there are eminent plans to dredge the shipping channel, which can resuspend and redistribute the contaminated sediments.
B.S. Zoology, B.S. Environmental Science with Honors, Miami University, 2013
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