These are some of our current graduate students and their research interests.
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.
B.S. Biology, University of Northern Colorado,
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
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.
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 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
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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