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.
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▼   Developmental Biology - Mary Kroetz

Her research explores the genetic pathways that promote sexual differentiation during an organism’s development. The nematode worm, C. elegans is ideally suited to address my research questions because of its simple anatomy and well-characterized cell division patterns, and because many of the genes that control C. elegans development are also conserved in other animals. During embryogenesis, the reproductive tract in C. elegans starts as two cells that are identical in the two sexes. Subsequently these cells divide and differentiate to form dramatically different organs: either a male or a hermaphrodite gonad. Using cell-specific RNA-seq, I have identified genes that are expressed predominantly in the developing gonad of one sex or the other. The two broad questions that my laboratory is investigating are: What are the functions of these genes in specifying development as one sex or the other? And how are these genes regulated so that they are expressed only in one sex?

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▼   Ecological Parasitology - Jack O'Brien

His research interests are ecological parasitology; biology of parasitic castrators especially rhizocephalan barnacles; diversity of parasites within the Mobile-Tensaw Delta of Alabama and Ubatuba Bay in Brazil; crustacean biology; and the construction of submarines such as the H.L. Hunley in Mobile during the Civil War.

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▼   Evolutionary Biology, Population Genomics & Herpetology - Ylenia Chiari
Dr. Ylenia Chiari's two main long-term research projects are:
  • Evolution of shell shape in Galápagos tortoises and Genetic and phenotypic responses to contaminant exposure
  • The giant tortoises inhabiting the Galápagos archipelago represent one of only two surviving lineages of once widespread giant tortoises. Galápagos tortoises have two very distinct shell shapes: either domed, with a typical rounded carapace, or saddleback, with a higher anterior opening of the carapace and a more compressed shape on the sides.
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▼   Evolutionary Physiology & Ecotoxicology - Scott Glaberman

His research interests are Physiology, Evolution, Ecotoxicology, Immunology/Disease, and Genetics. How organisms respond to their environment depends on external factors (ecology), internal factors (physiology), and the interaction between the two. In addition, responses to both natural and human-generated environmental changes vary within and between species and over time. Evolutionary theory helps us understand and potentially predict how and why these responses may differ across organisms. Our research focuses on the use of concepts in ecology, evolutionary biology, and physiology to study toxicology, disease, and adaption in organisms.

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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.
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▼   Herpetological Ecology - David Nelson

His research interests are rooted in the ecology and natural history of vertebrates. Specific projects focus on population ecology: geographic distribution, movements, reproduction, and conservation of reptiles and amphibians. Current research projects are as follow:

  • Population ecology and conservation of the Alabama Red-bellied Turtle
  • Herpetological survey of the Upper Mobile/Tensaw Delta
  • Status of the Mississippi Diamondback Terrapin along coastal Alabama
  • Vertebrate road-kill survey along the Mobile Bay Causeway (US90/98)
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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.

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▼   MicroRNAs, Transposable Elements & Genomics - Glen Borchert
Research in the Borchert laboratory explores the regulation of gene expression by small RNAs. Our main focus is on microRNAs (miRNAs), which are ~20 nucleotide RNAs that repress gene expression by base-pairing to messenger RNAs transcribed from specific protein-coding genes. Recent work indicates that more than half of human protein-coding genes are regulatory targets of miRNAs. My lab examines the roles that miRNAs play during growth and development, how miRNAs contribute to speciation, and how miRNA misregulation can lead to oncogenesis.

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▼   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
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▼   Paleobotany & Evolution - Brian Axsmith

Dr. Axsmith's interest in fossil plants (Paleobotany) is driven by his belief that many of the important questions in vascular plant evolution require paleobotanical answers. His research focus at this time involves fossil plants from the Pliocene (~3 million years ago) Citronelle Formation located in Mobile and Baldwin counties along coastal Alabama. Because the Pliocene record in North America is poor and this was a time of extreme global warmth, these local fossils are particularly significant.

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▼   Plant Ecology (Senior Instructor) - C. Smoot Major
Plant community structure and taxonomy, conservation ecology, invasive exotic biology, biodiversity, and bioindicators:
  • Examination of the temporal and spatial variations in physicochemical parameters and land use patterns of the Mobile-Tensaw Delta as they relate to macroalgal and aquatic plant community composition. (Collaborator: K. M. Major, University of South Alabama).
  • Assessment and development of a comprehensive treatment of the exotic and invasive plant and animal taxa occurring in Mobile and Baldwin Counties, Alabama, with specific emphasis on species known to have significant impacts on coastal ecology.
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▼   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.

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▼   Vertebrate biology and Ornithology - Joel Borden

His research interests involve amphibian/reptile (herpetofauna) and avian population/community structure within the northern Gulf Coastal Plain Ecosystem.  Research projects I have been involved in range from upland sandhills and slope wetlands to large, dynamic river delta systems and estuarine/barrier island herpetofaunal/avian community assessments in coastal Alabama, Florida, and Mississippi. These projects involve a myriad of different objectives from endangered/threatened species population status (Alabama Red-bellied Turtle, Mississippi Diamondback Terrapin, Gopher Tortoise) to species inventories of selected management properties (Mobile-Tensaw Delta, Lillian Swamp, Grand Bay and Weeks Bay NERR) to environmental impacts of anthropogenic disturbances (Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill). 

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