Russell Burke, Professor, Urban ecology, vertebrate (mostly reptile) ecology, evolution & conservation, disease ecology I am interested in the ecology, evolution, and conservation biology of turtles and lizards. Most of the species I study are either introduced species or rare species, thus population control (either up or down) is important to me. And because a lot of my field work takes place in the urban and suburban habitats of New York City and Long Island, much of it is also Urban Ecology. Currently, my major research projects involve diamondback terrapins at Jamaica Bay, wood turtles in northern New Jersey, wall lizards on Long Island, and the interplay between Lyme disease, ticks, and their hosts.
Beverly Clendening, Associate Professor, Molecular mechanisms in development
My scientific research projects focus on the molecular mechanism underlying temperature-dependent sex determination in reptiles. The goal of the work underway in my laboratory is to identify regulatory proteins that are selectively activated by temperature during the temperature-sensitive period for sexual development in the snapping turtle, Chelydra serpentina. The general hypothesis is that one of the transcription factors involved in the gene transcription cascade that leads to the determination of sex in turtles is particularly temperature sensitive and therefore is functional at one temperature, either male-producing or female-producing, and not at the other temperature. The mechanism underlying temperature regulation of sex determination in reptiles is a fascinating biological problem by itself but is may also have broader importance. The mechanism driving this phenomenon may represent a novel mechanism for gene regulation in animals, which might also operate in the control of other developmental or physiological processes. Work in my laboratory also has major implications for animal conservation in the face of global climate change.
Peter Daniel, Professor, Behavior and ecology of aquatic animals
For much of my academic career I have researched how chemosensory stimuli drives behaviors in decapod crustaceans including crabs and lobsters. More recently my lab has been researching how animals without a central nervous system (starfish) are capable of performing directed behaviors such as righting behavior. We have also been studying the distribution of native and invasive crayfish on Long Island with a goal of understanding behavioral and ecological interactions between invasive and native species. Finally I am interested in the behavioral and ecology of brook trout on Long Island. This species were the only native salmonids on Long Island until they virtually disappeared from the area in the last century. In recent years there have been efforts to reintroduce the species. I have received a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to study the movements of juvenile brook trout in a habitat that hosts one of the few spawning populations on Long Island.
Justin DiAngelo, Assistant Professor, Regulation of fat metabolism
The ability of an organism to recognize and store available nutrients as fat is essential for survival. However, excess fat storage leads to pathophysiological states such as obesity and Type 2 Diabetes, which are some of the leading causes of death currently in the United States. Thus, a thorough understanding of how lipid storage is regulated is necessary to understand the pathogenesis of these diseases. The research in my lab focuses on understanding the genes and pathways responsible for increasing fat storage in response to high nutrients. To accomplish this objective, we use a combination of cellular, molecular, biochemical and genetic approaches in the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster. Fruit flies store triglycerides in a liver and adipose-like organ known as the fat body using mechanisms highly conserved from flies to humans, providing a simple and ideal system to study lipid metabolism. The long-term goal of my research program is to work side by side with students to enhance our understanding of the mechanisms controlling proper lipid storage in response to nutrient abundance.
Lisa Filippi, Associate Professor, Behavioral ecology, parental care, insect diversity
I am interested in elucidating the ecological constraints that favor the evolution of complex parental-care behaviors. My model organisms include several subsocial heteropteran insects. Parental care beyond laying eggs in an appropriate substrate is very rare in insects outside the two truly social orders that include bees, wasps, ants, and termites. The species I work with display extended parental care that includes a variety of complex behaviors, ranging from guarding of the egg mass in a burrow to producing trophic eggs (unfertilized eggs that newly hatched offspring can feed on) and repeatedly transporting food from the host-tree area to the nest for the young. Manipulation studies in the field and the laboratory are used to evaluate the impact of a variety of ecological conditions on the manifestation of these behaviors.
Maureen Krause, Associate Professor and Graduate Director, Molecular biology and evolution
I'm interested in the link between genetic variation and protein function from an evolutionary perspective. My research focuses on molecular and biochemical adaptations of marine invertebrates to environmental stress, including hypoxia and immune challenge. Our studies of bay scallops are focused on determining how genetic variation relates to biochemical and ultimately physiological differences in energy metabolism, including whether certain genetic variants confer greater survival during hypoxia or during burst swimming. In addition, we are interested in discovering mechanisms of innate immune defense in bivalve molluscs which are susceptible numerous diseases. Finally, my lab collaborates with other Biology faculty on conservation and ecological genetics projects that use molecular markers to characterize genetic variation.
Christopher Sanford, Professor, Functional morphology, biomechanics, hydrodynamics & anatomy
My lab is interested in functional morphology, biomechanics and hydrodynamics of feeding and locomotion in aquatic animals and the evolution of new behaviors. The interaction between organisms and their environment has been central to understanding why animals succeed or fail, and is responsible for shaping the vast diversity of nature that we see. My laboratory explores how animals perform ecologically relevant tasks in a truly integrative way by incorporating principles of engineering, physics and many biological disciplines to provide a comprehensive understanding of organismal systems and how they operate to overcome specific environmental challenges. My work provides important insights into such fundamental questions as how do new behaviors evolve? Some of the more practical applications of the work that my lab is involved in extends into such wide-ranging areas as aquaculture, autonomous underwater robotic vehicles (ARV's), and Biomimetics or Biologically Inspired Engineering Designs.
Ronald Sarno, Assistant Professor, Ecology, evolution, behavior, conservation
I consider myself to be an ecologist who integrates molecular ecology, behavioral ecology, evolution, and population biology to address fundamental questions at the interface of ecology and conservation of vertebrates. I combine field observations, field experiments, modeling techniques, and laboratory analyses to answer specific questions at the organismal, population, and species level. Much of my research has focused on the population ecology, evolution, and behavior of mammals, primarily ungulates, due to my interest in how genetic polymorphism is maintained in natural populations as influenced by mating system, social behavior, and population dynamics. Although much of my research has revolved around the wild South American camelids, I am not restricted to the study of any one taxon. Rather, I strive to ask interesting and relevant questions regarding conservation, ecology, and evolution.
Robert Seagull, Professor and Chair, Plant development, plant cell biology, plant physiology, cotton
For over 30 years, my research has focused on understanding the fundamental mechanisms that control plant cell growth and development. Within that context, my current research focuses on understanding the biological mechanisms that control cotton fiber growth and development. Most of the textile properties of cotton fiber are directly affected by the biological processes that control cell elongation and wall synthesis. My lab uses a multi-faceted approach, employing ultrastructural analysis (both light and electron microscopy), pharmacological studies and physiological investigations. Through these analyses we will identify pivotal developmental mechanisms and "windows of opportunity" that can be modified in ways that will improve the textile properties of cotton fiber and increase the economic value of US grown cotton.
Laura Vallier, Associate Professor, Developmental genetics, tissue-specific gene regulation
Currently my lab has research interests in two areas: (1) The genetic signals and mechanisms necessary for cells to differentiate into a specialized tissue or organ. We are using the gonadal sheath tissue of the free-living ground-dwelling nematode Caenorhabditis elegans as a model. This simple tissue composed of ten cells mostly surrounds each arm of the gonad and is indispensable for fertility. We have used RNA interference to identify the genes that are necessary for the development and maintenance of this tissue. (2) The second area of interest is the non-neuronal functions of LIM-homeodomain (LIM-HD) transcription factors. One reporter fusion that has been traditionally used to mark the thin gonadal sheath is lim-7, a LIM-HD transcription factor in the Islet subgroup of the LIM-HD family, fused to Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP). LIM-HD proteins are evolutionarily conserved, and while much is known about the role of LIM-HD proteins in motor neurons, much less is known about its function in non-neuronal tissues. The LIM-7 LIM-HD protein is expressed in the gonadal sheath and a small tissue-specific enhancer element has been identified in its intron 1, which is necessary and sufficient for the expression of a reporter in the gonadal sheath. We are trying to understand more about the function and regulation of this protein.
Jason Williams, Associate Professor, Biology of marine invertebrates
Research in my lab is focused on exploring the biology of marine invertebrates. I am particularly interested in the symbioses between hermit crabs and commensal polychaete worms, barnacles and parasitic isopods. Hermit crabs are important members of marine habitats where they typically use empty gastropod shells for protection. Through their use of shells, hermit crabs provide a substrate for diverse communities of symbionts. Although there are over 850 described species of hermit crabs, approximately less than 25% of these species have been examined for symbionts. My investigations involve taxonomic work to expand our knowledge of the biodiversity of these groups and research to fill in the wide gaps in our understanding of their natural history.
For questions about graduate study opportunities, please contact Maureen Krause or call 516 463-6178.