These are some of our current graduate students and their research interests.
"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."
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. David Waddell
My research interests lie in better elucidating the cellular pathway involved in the process of skeletal muscle atrophy. My research in particular focuses on the isolation and functional analysis of dihydrousidine synthase 2 (Dus2), a gene that is expressed in skeletal muscle cells. This gene’s expression has been shown to be transcriptionally regulated by MuRF1, an E3 ubiquitin ligase. Dus2 expression has already been seen to be upregulated by MuRF1 under conditions of neurogenic atrophy, and is hypothesized to be a regulator of translational machinery and involved in cell viability in pulmonary cells. However, its role has never been functionally analyzed in skeletal muscle, so better understanding its function within the atrophy pathway will help to better understand the underlying molecular mechanisms of neurogenic skeletal muscle atrophy.
B.S. Biology, Rollins College
Dr. Dave Waddell
B.S. in Marine Biology, Hawaii Pacific University
Dr. Doria Bowers
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.
My research interests include ecology, conservation, population dynamics, and the social complexity of marine and estuarine species, specifically marine mammals. My research will focus on the behavioral ecology of an estuarine population of common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus).
B.S. Biology, Western Illinois University
The focus of my research is identifying and classifying novel cyanobacteria, isolated from terrestrial habitats in Northeast Florida. A diverse and ubiquitous group of microbes, cyanobacteria are primary producers across much of the world, and are major contributors to global carbon and nitrogen cycles. However cyanobacterial taxonomy and ecology have been vastly understudied and they are still poorly understood organisms. The goal of my research is to provide data that will clarify cyanobacterial taxonomy and help to catalog the plethora of unknown cyanobacterial populations. The applications of my research benefit not only Biology but Anthropology as well. Microbial communities inhabiting stonework in culturally significant human landscapes must be biologically defined, before they can be individually addressed in terms of cultural preservation. Biocrusts inhabiting stone are complex microbial consortia and the results of my research will potentially guide preservation efforts often undertaken by anthropologists.
My research focuses on discovering tertiary biomarkers of stress in the blood of sharks. These biomarkers will be used to determine the impact of stress on the shark during capture and also to predict the threshold of stress that results in post-release mortality. This will be accomplished by testing for indicators of oxidative stress and lipid peroxidation in Blacktip sharks (Carcharhinus limbatus). By understanding the physiological consequences caused by capture on sharks, more accurate calculations can be made in regards to stock assessment, ultimately achieving more effective management of sharks in fisheries.
B.S. Biology, Coastal Biology, University of North Florida, 2016
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