Biology Graduate Faculty Research

▼   Algal Biology and Plant Physiological Ecology - Kelly Major
Under the broad umbrella of “physiological ecology”, research in her lab has focused on photosynthetic physiology, physiological compensation, and mechanisms of stress tolerance in algal and plant model systems. They are particularly interested in:
  • algal and plant responses to abiotic and/or biotic environmental pressures,
  • the underlying mechanisms associated with these responses (e.g., physiological compensation), and
  • how the ability to respond to environmental change [or the lack thereof] relates to the ecology of these organisms and long-term native plant community resilience.
Click here for more information on Kelly Major's Research
▼   Bird Physiology - Jonathan Pérez

My research group is broadly interested in understanding how organism detect, integrate and respond to environmental information. More specifically, we have been focusing on how animals use light and other environmental cues to time major seasonal transitions. We seek to understand the physiological mechanisms underlying these processes in order to be better able to predict how individuals, populations and ultimately species will or will not be able to respond to rapid global change.

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▼   Community Ecology & Evolution - Adam Chupp

His research is focused on how species interact with each other and with their environment to shape population structures and the evolution of communities. Communities of special interest include sandhills, wet pine flatwoods (e.g., long leaf pine savannas), pitcher plant bogs and those greatly affected by climate change and invasive species. Specific topics of ongoing work include gopher tortoise ecology, orchid pollination, host-plant selection by swallowtail butterflies, and the consequences of insect-vectored tree diseases.


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▼   Evolutionary Genetics - Jason Strickland

My lab group is interested in understanding how changes in the genome modify the phenotype and ultimately effect fitness. We use a combination of field work, lab work, and computation to identify changes in gene sequence and regulation to understand how selection shapes trait evolution. We use venom as our model system because of the near 1-to-1 match from gene to toxin, high intra- and inter-specific variation, and ecological importance in feeding and defense. Using genomic sequencing technologies and approaches, it is possible to examine the functionality of phenotypes
down to single mutations in the genome. We take these data and places them in a meaningful ecological and evolutionary framework by accounting for variability within species across the landscape and controlling for shared evolutionary history to understand how biodiversity is generated through adaptation. To accomplish our research goals, we draw from many fields including biogeography, bioinformatics, ecological modeling, molecular genetics, phylogenetics, phylogeography, and population genetics.

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▼   Freshwater Ecology & Entomology - John McCreadie

His research interests lie in all areas of insect ecology and biology. Current work includes studies in community structure, biodiversity, faunistics and symbiosis. My major current research projects are as follows

Community ecology of insects: This research focuses on establishing empirical and theoretical relationships between habitat parameters and species distributions. Of particular interest is the relationship between the determinants of distribution and scale (from habitat patch to continent).

Symbiotic interactions: Parasitism, mutualism and commensalism can be view as a continuum of effects that two species experience when living in close association with one another, i.e., symbiotic interactions are dynamic. Using a trichomycetes (fungus)-larval black fly (dipteran) model, He is investigating the dynamic nature of this symbiotic association in aquatic habitats. In collaboration with Audi Byrne (University of South Alabama), models are being developed to explain this dynamic. Research also focuses on the ecology, host specificity, and faunistics of other insect symbiotes including nematodes and microsporidians.

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▼   Fungal Biology - Juan Luis Mata
Three activities occupy most of my research:
  • His research interests are on taxonomy, systematics and ecology of the Agaricales (mushrooms and allies). Most of my work has focused on neotropical and subtropical fungi, particularly those from Costa Rica.
  • He is working with the American Shiitake (Lentinula raphanica). An edible species like the commercial strain, this mushroom in not well-known and there are no genetic or physiology studies.
  • Because of the proximity to mayor water bodies –the Mobile River Delta and the Gulf of Mexico- he is involved in a collaborative effort to document fungi associated to seagrasses.
Click here for more information on Juan Luis Mata's research
▼   Global Change & Microbiomes -Jeremiah Henning

Broadly, my group is interested in the biotic and abiotic contexts that shape the composition of ecological communities and the functioning of ecosystems. We use a combination of microcosm experiments, manipulative field experiments, and global-scale observational experiments to explore: 1) the drivers of biodiversity at local and global scales, 2) how fine-scale changes in plant-microbiomes scale to influence community interactions and ecosystem function, and 3) how global change will re-shape interactions among microbial communities, plant communities, plant microbiomes, and ecosystem function.

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▼   Marine Microbial Ecology - Sinead Ni Chadhain

Her research is focused on understanding how microbes (bacteria in particular), both individually and as communities, respond to various contaminants. She takes two different approaches to this problem. The first involves isolating pure cultures involved in the degradation of specific chemical compounds and characterising the genes and enzymes involved in the degradation pathway. The second approach uses molecular biology techniques to study microbial communities. Many studies have illustrated that greater than 99% of the bacteria found in nature have yet to be cultured in the laboratory. Our challenge is to figure out what these microorganisms are doing in the environment. Molecular tools such as PCR, gene probing, mRNA transcript analysis, and DNA sequencing can aid in this endeavour.

Click here for more information on Sinead Ni Chadhain 's research
▼   Muscle Structure and Function - Ryan Littlefield

His research interests include:

  • Hypothesis-driven research on self-organization and dynamics of  striated muscle and other contractile structures.
  • High-resolution microscopy and structural modeling
  • Visualization techniques using physical models
  • Bioengineering of muscle scaffolds
  • Nebulin does not specify actin lengths
Click here for more information on Ryan Littlefield's research
▼   Plant Physiology & Cell Biology - Tim Sherman

He is a broadly trained plant physiologist/cell biologist having worked with algal nitrogen metabolism, herbicide mode of action and acquired herbicide resistance, and developmental biology and physiology of parasitic plants.

Research in the involves the cell biology and physiology in marine systems, especially of freshwater and marine plants and algae. These organisms are the source of most carbon and nitrogen that is added to food chains in the coastal and freshwater areas. Macroalgae and higher plant representatives of these groups have the additional role of serving as sanctuary for the young of many animal species that share their habitat. In spite of their importance in these ecosystems, there are many gaps in our knowledge regarding their physiology and interaction between these and other organisms in these environments.

Click here for more information on Tim Sherman's research