Ecology Faculty Research
Donald E. Axinn Distinguished Professor in Ecology and Conservation
I am interested in the ecology, evolution, and conservation biology of vertebrates, mostly reptiles and mammals. 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, you could call it Urban Ecology. Currently, my major research projects involve diamondback terrapins at Jamaica Bay, wood turtles in northern New Jersey, the coyote invasion of Long Island and its community ecology implications, the ecology of Lyme Disease, and interesting new ways to census vertebrates.
Professor and Chair
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.
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. With the establishment of a coyote population on Long Island imminent, Dr. Filippi looks forward to carrying out future studies on parental care behaviors on these ‘coywolves', which should be a blend of coyote and wolf behaviors. Dr. Filippi and her students will engage in pre-establishment education/advocacy on Long Island.
Research in my lab focuses on exploring the metabolic diversity of microbial processes and the applications we can derive from them. We utilize cross-disciplinary approaches incorporating microbiological, ecological, evolutionary, molecular and genomic techniques to 1) understand the contributions of plant microbiomes to the health of their plant host and 2) discover novel microbial processes for the sustainable production of biofuels and bioproducts from agricultural wastes.
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.
I am a neuroscientist whose research is exceptionally integrative and encompasses many disciplines, including microgenomics, molecular neurophysiology, endocrinology and behavior. I have investigated gene networks, neural networks, neurogenesis, and hormonal mechanisms associated with mate preference behavior in three popular model systems; songbirds, fish and frogs. I am particularly interested in measuring activity-dependent gene expression to examine neurophysiological responses. I have used these genes to answer questions on a variety of levels: from simply marking a neuron’s response to a stimulus, to co-localizing these genes with markers that identify cell phenotype, to employing catFISH (compartmental analysis of temporal florescent in situ hybridization) to increase the power of the immediate early gene approach to assess neural activity.
I study the interactions between plants, soils, and ecosystem processes in context of urbanization and global environmental change. The goal of this work is to increase our understanding of how human activities influence ecosystems, while simultaneously driving the development of tools that can inform policy and management decisions. One branch of this work examines the role of plants and soils in mediating air and water quality. Another branch explores how urbanization drives changes to ecosystem processes (such as carbon and nitrogen cycling) and the consequences at local-to-global scales. And yet another branch focuses on the fate of natural and semi-natural ecosystems embedded within urban and suburban areas.
Assistant Professor and Graduate Director
My research goals are to understand the ecological and physiological constraints that underlie animal behavior. From an ecological perspective, I explore behavioral paradigms to provide functional explanations for behavior to reveal evolutionary patterns across taxa. From a physiological perspective, I manipulate and quantify hormones underlying these behaviors to explore hormone function in the context of adaptive behavior. I utilize both laboratory and field studies to explore the ecological context of behavior in fish and other aquatic systems. My field and ecology work has also included local systems like horseshoe crabs including their spawning habits and habitat, and effects of local toxicity. My integrative approach in behavior, neurophysiology, and ecology and the use of taxa with various mating systems, both in the lab and field, provides research opportunities for students with a wide variety of interests and career goals.
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.
Research in my lab is focused on exploring the biology of marine invertebrates. I am particularly interested in symbioses between crustacean hosts and their associates (including parasitic isopods, barnacles, and polychaete worms). In addition, my students and I investigate parasitic flatworms (trematodes) and their impacts on marine hosts. My research spans field work and taxonomic studies in order to expand our knowledge of the biodiversity and natural history of these parasite groups.
Faculty Research: All Biology Faculty