Historical Perspectives of Urban Environmental Education

The goal of this project is to archive and interpret historical records concerning the formation and evolution of an urban environmental education program in Springfield, MA, specifically the Environmental Center for Our Schools, or ECOS. UMass Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) holds 50 years of ECOS documents, including information about its beginnings under Title III through the Office for Civil Rights. Research assistants will process this collection and have the opportunity to develop and pursue independent research questions involving these documents.

Cell and Molecular Biology of Yeast Mitosis

You will learn to use a combination of genetics, biochemistry, cell biological assays, and fluorescence microscopy to try to understand the process of mitotic spindle stabilization and/or microtubule dynamics and/or dynein motor regulation. The project depends on your specific experience and interest. For example, it could involve analyzing movies of yeast cells labeled with GFP-tubulin, or constructing a brand new plasmid for gene tagging, or performing western blotting to confirm protein levels, or using the fluorescence microscopy to capture dynamic spindle behavior.

Testosterone synthesis induced by auditory stimuli in the zebra finch brain

I’m really interested in studying how hormones rapidly fluctuate in the brain to acutely regulate behaviors. In the Healey lab, we analyze how steroids influence vocal learning in a rapid and dynamic way. To study this question, we use a songbird species, zebra finches, and focus on an auditory region of the forebrain, the caudomedial nidopallium (NCM). Previous data have shown that hearing songs induced an increase of estradiol (E2) in this region in both males and females.

Creating a land cover map for fire analyses

Fire is a natural component of many of Earth’s ecosystems, and it has a profound effect on carbon storage. Humans have altered natural fire cycles in many places by providing ignition sources, and altering fuel loads (ie. from the introduction of invasive plants), and these changes are likely impacting our natural carbon sinks. In Dr. Bethany Bradley’s Spatial Ecology Lab, we look to address such issues at the regional level using GIS and remote sensing technology. By focusing on a large spatial scale, we are able to search for patterns and make inferences about spatial relationships.

Building a Global Plant Invaders Database

Invasive plant species transform ecosystems and significantly reduce biodiversity worldwide. A prominent issue of invasion biogeography is that invasive plant species are inconsistently defined. Oftentimes, studies use established plant species (i.e., non-native species that have established in a new area) as a proxy for invasive species (i.e., non-native species that have established in a new area and are spreading, often with adverse impacts). By failing to separate established and invasive plant species, it is difficult to fully understand the invasion process.

Wine quality of emerging grape varieties for New England

The cold climate wine industry has recently boomed in the Northeastern America after the successful breeding of cold-tolerant grape varieties. These cultivars are also of interest in a broader geographic area as they are the most resilient to climate change. Cultural practices can have tremendous effect on fruit juice quality (sugar, acidity,...) and might allow to control disease by sustainable means rather than the use of pesticides. This project will quantify the effect of cultural practices on grape varieties to optimize fruit juice quality and control diseases.

Pathogens, parasites, and predators of an invasive insect

The winter moth (Operophtera brumata), an invasive insect accidentally introduced to eastern Massachusetts from Europe, has been causing widespread damage to deciduous trees and crops. I am looking for a motivated student interested in ecology, evolution, pathology, or entomology to work with me, a Ph.D. candidate in Organismal and Evolutionary Biology, on various aspects of winter moth population ecology. Projects include microscopy of diseased samples, molecular work evaluating the parasites affecting winter moth, processing field samples, and more!

The genetics of alkaloid production in tomatoes

A for-credit position is available at Caicedo Lab, Biology Department.

Traits such as bitterness are linked to alkaloids in tomatoes. Through their anti-herbivory properties, some alkaloids are thought to increase resistance in tomatoes against pests. However, little is known about the genetic basis of alkaloid production in tomatoes. Thus, this project aims at finding the genetic basis of alkaloid production and changes in alkaloid content during domestication.

DNA Extraction, PCR and Sequence Alignment of a Gall Wasp

This project will be based in an invasive insect and biological control lab. The black oak gall wasp is a stem galling insect that causes extreme oak tree mortality on Cape Cod and Long Island. The student will assist a PhD student with DNA, PCR and sequence alignment of parasitoids of the black oak gall wasp. It is not expected that the student have experience with these methods prior to hire. If the student does have experience, that will just accelerate the process and increase their independence.

Genetics and molecular mechanisms of host-microbe mutualism

The Wang Lab, located in the Life Science Laboratories, is interested in the mechanisms of beneficial host-microbe interactions. Our experimental system is the symbiosis between legumes and nitrogen-fixing rhizobia, with important economic and environmental relevance, as well as similarities to pathogenic interactions. The BURA student will be engaged in dissecting the genetic basis of the nitrogen-fixing symbiosis, in particular characterizing the defects in host mutants unable to sustain a successful symbiotic relationship.


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